Because of my keen and lifelong enthusiasm for Golden Age detective fiction, people sometimes express surprise when I mention the American hardboiled books that I admire. But there's nothing inconsistent about liking both types of writing, far from it. I like good crime fiction of all kinds, and today's Forgotten Book is an example. It's The Getaway, by Jim Thompson.
Thompson was an interesting character, and not long ago I read his biography, Savage Art, by Robert Polito, which is informative and very well-written. Although he died in obscurity, Thompson predicted that he'd become famous, and there was a great revival of interest in his work a few years after his death. Several of his novels have been filmed, and indeed The Getaway was filmed by Sam Peckinpah while Thompson was still alive.
It's a book that I find quite remarkable. The central story concerns a bank robber, Carter "Doc" McCoy, who is married to a former librarian called Carol, who takes to the criminal life with gusto. Doc is unwise enough to collaborate with a villain called Rudy Torrento, and inevitably "the perfect job" goes wrong. Doc and Carol end up fleeing for their lives, with the forces of law and order after them, as well as Rudy.
The story of their fugitive experience is gripping, but Thompson has up his sleeve a final chapter that is, by any standards, quite stunning. I can't think of anything quite like it in the crime genre. Not even Sam Peckinpah, incidentally, was up to the task of trying to film it (rather like Hitchcock's failure to master the dark finale of Francis Iles' Before the Fact - you knew I'd get a Golden Age reference in somewhere, didn't you?!) I really enjoyed this book.
Recently, by the way, I've also read Thompson's After Dark, My Sweet. This is another good and highly readable book, narrated by a strangely sympathetic psychopath, though I wouldn't rate it as highly as The Getaway.