Book Review - Wild Town by Jim Thompson

I love this cover

Wild Town is perhaps not top shelf Thompson, but fans of his will still find plenty to get drunk off of here in this much tamer-than-usual whodunit tale of murder and extortion set in and around The Hanlon hotel in a west Texas oil boom town.

Bugs McKenna, ex-cop and ex-con all rolled into one lug, is fresh out of jail and is given a hand-plucked opportunity to be the house dick at the Hanlon (that's house detective, you pervs... think a hands on type security guard). Things seem to be on the up and up for 'ol slow-witted, but not stupid, Mckenna... until a little bit of murder and a missing five thousand dollars threatens to unravel McKenna's relatively calm and quiet fresh start. 

Then, for good measure, mix in with a cast of a few femme-fatales, an eccentric wheelchair bound millionaire (is there any other kind?), a near virginal school teacher, a roster of roustabouts in the hotel's employ, and, not least of which, a county sheriff who just so happens to be Lou Ford, and suddenly Bugs is caught up in yet another no-win situation that he can't escape from. 

And yes. That Lou Ford. A man who can give even the hardest of Thompson fans shivers down their spines. But Wild Town doesn't appear to exist in the same universe as The Killer Inside Me, despite a few characters making appearances here. He may, or may not be, the same Ford as depicted in Thompson's most well-known novel, but anytime Ford's around (and he seems to damn near be omnipresent here), you know that sonofabitch is always up to something.

There's not nearly the level of sex and violence here as you'll find in other works of Thompson. Don't worry though, there's still some to have. The impending sense of doom isn't as heavy here. By and large the worst thing that could happen to you in Wild Town is that you catch a bum murder rap, or maybe someone offs you relatively painlessly. For Thompson, that's not too bad. It's not like a descent into a maddening hell insanity or anything like that. 

Wild Town by Jim Thompson - 3 out of 5 hotel graveyard shifts.


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