I liked this one better when it was Wild Town.
The Year of Jim Thompson continues and I’m reminded that an author’s lesser works are considered “lesser” for a reason. While you can occasionally find a diamond in the rough, for the most part, they probably deserve to stay in a lower tier of rankings.
This one isn’t nearly as bad as The Alcoholics, it’s just a recycled plot: ex-con leaves prison, finds work with shady folks, hijinks ensue. These hijinks are entertaining and, in true Thompson fashion, occasionally hilarious but nothing unfamiliar. It plays to the strengths of Thompson’s weltanschaung: lower class guys getting manipulated by powerful men. But again, there’s not much else to it.
The big problem with this one is Thompson, for whom plotting has never been a strong suit, tries to cram a 300 page noir-ish mystery/survival novel into 175 pages. It’s dense with plot and shifting character motives but it’s too packed to enjoy untangling. Granted, you don’t really read Thompson for his plots as much as you do his characters and the metaphysics. But this is a more streamlined crime tale than most, only the characterization isn’t. There were multiple times I got male and female characters confused and I read most of this in one sitting.
But it’s still Thompson so it entertains nonetheless. And the ending is one of his better ones, though I don’t want to spoil why. I liked this book well enough, I suppose but I’m already forgetting it. Such is life.