The Year of Jim Thompson continues…with my least favorite version of his novels: the semi-autobiographical one that describes a job in granular detail and tries to shoehorn a crime story in.
A great example of this is Nothing More Than Murder. I thought learning more about how the business of movie theater ownership worked in the 1940s would make for a compelling tale. I was wrong, very wrong. I don’t remember much about the crime story in that one but I do recall a lot about handling film and purchase prices from distributors.
This one does the same for the process of oil pipelining. If you read it, you’ll probably learn more about it than you want to. I certainly did. Thompson does a great job creating atmosphere; I could feel the Texas heat on my body and I definitely understood why this was a difficult and dangerous job. But I usually read his stuff for the plots.
And it’s a shame he chooses to go that route because the characters here are rather interesting. Tommy might be your typical Thompson-esque loser, caught up in the rigged game the big boys are playing, but he’s imbued with more perspective than one normally finds in these kinds of books. And I like the way the three leads interacted with each other. I was invested in their relationships even as the story dragged and dragged to its unsurprisingly explosive conclusion.
I think Thompson wrote that intentionally: the process of building a pipeline that includes dynamite is a meticulous one, requiring a lot of work and craft until you get to the finale. That’s fine. It’s just not the story for me. This one is for Thompson completists or if you want to learn more about pipe work in the 1920s.