Pop. 1280

By Jim Thompson,

Book cover of Pop. 1280

Book description

A classic crime novel from 'the best suspense writer going, bar none' New York Times

Nick Corey likes being the high sheriff of Potts County. But Nick has a few problems that he needs to deal with: like his loveless marriage, the pimps who torment him, the honest man who…


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Why read it?

4 authors picked Pop. 1280 as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

I was introduced to this book through Tavernier’s brilliant adaptation, Clean Slate (Coup de Torchon, 1981). Set in Texas, Thompson’s novel was published in 1964, during the Civil Rights Movement, and it offers a portrait of petty-minded racism in the continuing aftermath of slavery. Tavernier’s adaptation transposes the story to 1930s French colonial West Africa. I remain haunted by the ways the two settings illuminate each other. Tavernier’s blending of a deadly serious historical crisis with touches of comedy—slapstick even—brings both eras and the novel itself to life in enjoyable and instructive ways.

Set in Potts County, Texas, around 1910, this is a down-and-dirty noir novel. It works for me a little better than his The Grifters, though, because it has more tonal variety, with moments of near farce rather than the continuous despairing sociopathy of his full-bore hard-boiled characters. It unapologetically shows the racism and bigotry of historic American back country. Its first-person narrator is a seemingly jovial small-town sheriff who plays dumb while he takes bribes and keeps several moment-to-moment cons running within his small community. One of the amusing things about this utterly hard-boiled character is that the reader…

From Speer's list on back country crime fiction.

A true American original and unheralded classic. The gold standard for nihilistic American crime fiction. This novel blew me away when I first read it in my 20s, and I wondered how anyone could write like this, burrow so deeply inside a psycho’s head, and still be so damn funny. It’s one of the bleakest American novels ever written, featuring yet another thoroughly amoral character. But not at all likable!

Psychopath sheriff Nick Corey knows nobody in tiny Potts County wants to follow the law so he does as little as possible, playing a dimwitted hick. He’s got problems with…

From Neal's list on psycho killers.

This violent, darkly comic novel describes the racism, injustice, hypocrisy, and meanness of small-town life in the mid-century American south. Narrator Nick Corey, a deranged homicidal sheriff, becomes increasingly unhinged as the story unfolds, spinning a tale that is bawdy, farcical, and harrowing all at the same time.

Thompson's psychopathic characters are always fascinating. His prose is lean and his fast-paced, impossible-to-put-down stories can be read in a single sitting. While the violence in Pop. 1280 can be disturbing, it's tempered with a good dose of humor. Rose's tirade about her lover, Lennie, has to be one of the funniest…

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