Jim Thompson's 1952 novel The Killer Inside Me has been filmed a couple of times, though I haven't seen either movie. In fact, I've only just got round to reading the book. I was very taken with Thompson's The Getaway, but did wonder if The Killer Inside Me would suffer by comparison with an earlier novel, also told in the first person by a psychopathic serial killer, Dorothy B. Hughes' In a Lonely Place. In fact, it's very different, and also very powerful.
The premise is gripping. Lou Ford is a 29 year old deputy sheriff in a small town in Texas. Everyone likes him, he helps people out when the chance arises, and he's very attractive to women. The local newspapers extol his virtues. The only snag is that he's afflicted by "the sickness" - an urge to kill. He's kept things under control for a long time, but when he meets Joyce Lakeland, the old demons re-emerge.
Whereas Hughes wrote her novel in elegant prose, there's something visceral about Thompson's style that suits the material. Lou's habit of talking in endless cliches is an intriguing way of characterising an apparently easy-going guy who begins to lose control of his behaviour. As the body count rises, so suspicion starts to swirl around him. Can he get away with multiple murder?
There's a fascinating chapter towards the end of the story where Lou converses with a man named Walker. I don't want to give any spoilers, but it rather sums up why I admire this book - in a deceptively simple style, Thompson makes points that pack a punch. It took me a long time to get round to reading much Thompson, and I gather that his work is uneven, but at his best, he was very, very good.