Monthly Archives: June 2013

Jim Thompson – A Hell of a Woman


“I told her the world was full of nice people. I’d have hated to try to prove it to her, but I said it, anyway.”

Jim Thompson is not to be found in any bestseller list but he’s high on the list of all time noir fiction writers. His popularity has sustained because of this and, in my case, by word-of-mouth. My colleague and friend Joe Knobbs was the mouth that first mentioned Thompson while I was heavily into my blinkered stage of only reading science fiction, fantasy and horror. Crime was never a genre that appealed to me but times have changed and I’m finding myself trying to catch up and having an absolute blast doing it.

I was drawn to the title straight away. “A Hell of a Woman” leads the mind in a lot of different ways. I wanted to know who this woman was. To the few people I have talked to about this book, no one seems to know who she is. To me, it’s all the women that Frank encounters. All of them to him are hell.

Frank “Dolly” Dillion is a door-to- door salesman, whose wares are cheap in every way, and he’s down on his luck. Skimming money off from his job and living with his wife he describes as the same as all the other he’s been with in their dump of an apartment. Frank meets a girl named Mona who is practically sent to the street corner by her aunt or in Franks’ case for a set of plates. When he finds out the tight fisted old crow has over one hundred thousand dollars stored away he sees his way out.

This is an excellent book. It’s full of witty and interesting dialogue, in the style of the greats Thompson is labelled with. The reason why I singled this one out and Thompson in general is because his main protagonists have a chilling and sadistic edge. None more so than Dolly, who loses control on a few occasions with horrifying results. As the book is told from a first person perspective, his occasional rants with himself make him such an interesting character that I found it hard to pull myself away from a mind that slowly unravels. Towards the end, Frank’s narration splits into two, one in italics and one in standard text, each having an alternate line. You have to read one style to the end of the chapter and then go back and read through again to gain a different perspective. One is an insane ramble and the other is what really happened and I love that with all the disturbing events of the book, it could be either. Even though the women in this book are show in a negative light it gets away with it due to Dolly’s pure insanity, which jars his view towards them and proves that he is in fact his own worst enemy.

Savage Night, The Killer Inside Me and Pop 1280 are other titles I’ve read by Thompson, the latter I’ll review at a later date. They follow similar themes but they are all equally fantastic. Formulaic perhaps, but at least they’re far cry from Lee Child’s novels by numbers.


Black Lizards Vintage Crime covers sell themselves


Filed under Book Reviews

NOS4R2 by Joe Hill


Gingerbread will never taste the same again.

Even though I’m a huge fan of Joe Hill’s books, and the incredible Locke & Key Series, I was a little bit underwhelmed by the online hype from horror fans. The two main tag lines of “creepy” and “terrifying”, I always ignore. Books do not, unfortunately, scare me. It’s the same with films or TV shows. The reason why is probably oversaturation to horror books and films from an early age which leads me to never take any notice of lines such as “you will sleep with the light on”. I just need a little more than “scariest book of the year” and because ninety percent of horror published will use this, an author without Joe’s reputation will struggle to be seen by the general shelf browsing customer. I think I will write another post about how horror fiction is perceived in a chain bookstore. The other was “you will never look at a Rolls- Royce the same again”. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Rolls-Royce in person so I thought this a bit of a weird selling point to be afraid of something I will never see but after reading this now I hope I never see one.

NOS4R2 is Joe Hill’s third book and it’s definitely, for me, the one to break all doubts of whether he can become a mainstream hit. It follows the story of Victoria McQueen and vampire-like Charlie Manx. As a child, Vic discovers she has a knack for finding things by hopping on her Raleigh Bike and using the Shorter Way Bridge, made from her mind, to arrive exactly where she wants to be. This to me is a brilliant tool for a quick change of scenery and really helps drive the plot along at Triumph motorcycle-like speeds.

Charlie Manx, also capable of using his mind to reach where we humans cannot, uses a 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith to transport young children to Christmasland, where it’s always Christmas morning, whist draining them of all unhappiness and thus turning back his own body clock. The only problem for the unlucky child unable to escape the back seat is constant happiness meaning you love everything that is placed in front of you. Even murder.

NOS4R2 is full of edge-of-your-seat moments and also some pretty dark scenes but without going over the top. Charlie Manx’s little helper Bing is a pretty horrific character who wears a gas mask and likes to speak in rhymes. He also likes to use stolen aesthetic gas on the children’s mums, which smells like Gingerbread, and takes them back to his ‘House of Sleep’. This makes for an incredible evil and interesting double act. The whole cast are painfully memorable and it makes them extremely hard to leave as you finish this book.

I’m excited by the possibility of twenty years from now I’ll be picking up a copy of Joe’s latest book and thinking NOS4R2 was where  he started getting the recognition he deserves. Really tight and well thought out novels like this one, plus the film adaptation of Horns, should take his career to new heights, which is something the man really deserves. His dad should be proud.

Shortly after finishing this novel I was lucky enough to run an in-store signing with Joe at Waterstones Deansgate, Manchester and seeing the way he interacted with the queue and how he put a certain nervous bookseller completely at ease was fantastic and incredibly rare. He had an infinite amount of time for every single person and, which you can tell from his twitter feed, he seems completely in love with the industry, constantly referencing books and asking what titles are exciting people apart from his own.

NOS4R2 is a must read and not just for horror fans but to anyone interesting in genre fiction.  If that doesn’t sell this to you I think Dan Brown has a new one out.



Filed under Book Reviews