REVIEW - The Golden Gizmo by Jim Thompson - Three Stars
The Golden Gizmo is a weird one even for Jim Thompson. That said, it's still a fun read.
A lot gets packed into this quick novel. Similar to Nothing More Than Murder, much of the success of The Golden Gizmo depends on how much you know of a particular industry. In this case, it's the borderline legal gold trade in post World War II Los Angeles.
Toddy Kent is a door-to-door gold buyer, by way of being wanted in half of the country. With the exception of a violent, fall down drunk, alcoholic wife, life isn't too bad for Kent.
Until one day on his rounds when he knocks on the wrong door. A chinless man with a talking doberman (don't ask) answers and soon thereafter, Kent finds himself wrapped up in a messy sea of double crosses and betrayals. A murder gets thrown in for fun, some two-bit gangsters keep coming around, there's seedy Tijuana bar, a Nazi conspiracy, federal agents, and did I mention a killer talking dog?
The highlight of the novel is a chase scene that takes you through the edges of LA's underworld hidden in the slums and seemingly abandoned skid row buildings. I half-expected Charles Bukowski to pop up and tell everyone to keep the goddamn noise down.
Ultimately, while there's a lot of thrills to be had, The Golden Gizmo is a bit of a mess. Toddy Kent doesn't really compare to Thompson protagonists. He's sort of forgettable, but he does have his moments, especially as the last few pages ramp up.
The Golden Gizmo is worth it for Thompson completionists who know what to expect. If you're new to Thompson, start with The Grifters and double back to The Golden Gizmo.