I’ve been hankering after a scary book. One which will make you look under the bed before you go to sleep, or will send shivers down your spine. My searches led me to the door of The Killer Inside Me, a 1952 novel by Jim Thompson. Stanley Kubrick described TKIM as ‘probably the most chilling and believable first-person story of a criminally warped mind I have ever encountered’. Stephen King described Thompson as his favourite crime novelist. High praise indeed.
Our protagonist, Lou, is a deputy sheriff in a small Texas town. He’s an unassuming guy whom the whole town knows and likes. Lou is also a sociopath and sexual sadist, whose real personality emerges as the book unfolds and as the bodies start to pile up. It’s noirish and classic pulp fiction.
So, what did I think? Did it live up to expectations? Regrettably, no. I think Kubrick summed it up nicely when he says it’s ‘believable’. There’s clearly a line between TKIM and American Psycho, which for my money is less believable but far more chilling (so much so that when I read it I had to put it down a number of times). And herein lies the rub. TKIM feels believable but Lou’s internal monologue is far too nuanced to send any shivers down the spine. It reminded me, in fact, of Albert Camus’s The Outsider (reviewed in these very pages, dear reader!).
TKIM didn’t deliver the chills that I was expecting. Perhaps I need to give it another read or perhaps we or I’ve become desensitised over the 60 plus years since it was first published. I suspect it’s a bit of both. Nevertheless, it’s a well written book and I’d suggest you make your own mind up.
The search for a chilling read continues.