Re: RARA-AVIS: Jim Thompson stinkers

From: Greg Swan (
Date: 15 Apr 2000

You and I had different reactions to Recoil. I rather enjoyed it and thought it was particularly well-plotted and suspenseful. It does have an uncharacteristically happy ending. For that reason, I've used the novel a number of times to introduce folks to Jim Thompson, particularly people who might enjoy the atmosphere and or the way he turns his plots inside-out, but would initially be troubled by his nihilism.

For sub-par Thompson, I'd probably finger The Alcoholics -- but that may be undeserved. It's an atypical novel, an over-the-top farce. While Thompson's supporting characters are always a bit cartoony, Thompson takes that tendency to an extreme in this novel.

Haven't read Wild Town, but I'm considering moving it up on my list. I don't ask that critics agree with me, I only need for them to be consistent. Sometimes, reading books a good critic hates or avoiding the ones he loves can be the right thing to do. I remember doing that with Leonard Maltin years ago, when I was watching movies. He always liked 1950s science fiction films a lot more than I did. I could adjust his ratings accordingly.

- Greg Swan

> I just finished reading Thompson's Recoil and Wild Town. Both of these
> things go nowhere in terms of plot or action. Sloppy writing, sheesh... I
> heaven't seen many examples of other hb writers doing so poorly, but of
> course, I have to think that Thompson's rep allows for publication of even
> the bad stuff. So we don't see many examples of bad writing from the
> paperback people of the fifties.

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