The Killer Inside Me

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 01 August, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 08 May, 2015, 4:38pm

The Killer Inside Me
by Jim Thompson
Orion, HK$104

The Killer Inside Me was first published in 1952 slap bang in Jim Thompson's prime. Now published as a movie tie-in, it is a tricksy, claustrophobic tale told by a serial killer that has spawned a million imitations, but few peers in terms of intensity or suspense. Lou Ford is a deputy sheriff in Central City, a town on the American periphery that flourished thanks to the oil boom. On the surface, he is good-looking and rather courteous: 'Out here you say yes ma'am and no ma'am to anything with skirts on.' Tragically for anything with skirts on, Ford hardly ever takes no to mean no, and his down-home politeness is frequently replaced by bouts of sadistic fury. Called to investigate a prostitute (Joyce Lakeland), Ford finds his dark moon rising and a red mist descending: 'I wouldn't think of hurting you. I'm just going to beat the ass plumb off you,' he says brutally to Lakeland. Since childhood, Ford has been afflicted by a violent 'sickness' that he only just manages to hide in public. Having killed for pleasure and for alibis, Ford's unassuming mask slowly begins to slip. This is bleak, often disturbing material, but told by a master.