Recoil by Jim Thompson

The Corgi UK edition, uploaded by Flickr user severance_23.

Having read the bulk of Jim Thompson’s novels in a big rush over the course of a few months, I think I made it pretty fast into the C-list Thompson. This is C or C-minus-list Thompson. It’s a bit hard to follow, mostly uninteresting, and generally feels like a huge waste of time. Strikingly confused and mediocre, it’s just a big fat go-ahead-and-miss-it.

That said, Thompson as a writer is still fascinating on every level; even when he blows it completely (as he did here) I am fascinated by his psychology. Evaluating some of these books as novels, I just get bored and confused, but the pleasures of a completist are many. The class lements in his works are still always intriguing, for instance, and I think have been very influential on how pop culture thinks about noir — even if most of what Thompson believed about class, money, work and opportunity has been perverted or watered down in later works by lesser authors and downright fetishists.

It’s always sort of interesting to get another piece of Thompson’s damaged psyche to fit in like a puzzle-piece, even when the book completely blows. It’s never quite a waste of time reading a disappointing Thompson book — more like a shaggy dog story that tells you something about the teller.


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