The copy editor inside me
There's nothing wrong with Killer's narrator/protagonist, the notorious Deputy Sheriff Lou Ford, or the depravity and calculating intelligence that lie beneath his boring exterior—nothing, that is, except that he's no Nick Corey, the less-celebrated but greater protagonist of Pop. 1280.
I haven't finished reading The Killer Inside Me yet. But I do have a few thoughts:
1) Is the horrifying beating scene in the 2010 movie version of Killer too much? The very existence of the controversy may answer the question. The corresponding scene in the book is, indeed, horrifying, but it is nowhere near as graphic or as central to the novel as the discussion and promotion surrounding the scene are to the movie.
In Thompson's world, deadpan humor, intense self-examination on the protagonist's part, and criticism of all manner of social hypocrisy are more central to the story than sex is. The Killer Inside Me is the study of a psychotic man. It's not a sex book, despite its sexual frankness and gleeful profanity. All it takes is comparison of the three editions of the novel shown at the top of this post with the cover of a movie tie-in edition (left) and, especially, with a poster from the movie itself (right) to illustrate that the filmmakers, producers, and promoters had a vision different from Thompson's.
2) Back in January 2012, I jocosely pointed out a grammatical error in a Cole Porter song. "One of those bells that now and then rings," I wrote, should be "One of those bells that now and then ring." (Porter, of course, writing to the dictates of rhyme and music, was exempt from rules of formal prose. Besides, he was Cole Porter.)
Well, some readers didn't get it, expressing benign condescension or amused exasperation at what they imagined was my error.
Thompson, on the other hand, has Ford tell us at one point that
"It’s one of those things that are so plain and simple you don’t see ’em."This alcohol-sodden hack, banging out his novels on a manual typewriter in the bathroom, in other words, writing a book full of Southern dialect pronunciation, nonetheless recognized a plural subject ("those things") and knew that such a subject takes a plural verb ("are"). As I like to imagine the deceptively shambling but, in fact, highly intelligent, literate Lou Ford saying, "Just parsing through, ma'am."
I am pleased to enshrine Thompson alongside Dashiell Hammett as a copy editor's friend. Good grammar is nothing to be ashamed of. Even tough guys do it.
© Peter Rozovsky 2013