Wednesday, December 6, 2017

On “The Man from Allston Electric” by Daphne Kalotay (4855 words) ***

"The Man from Allston Electric" deals with longing much like many of Kalotay's other stories do. This time, the longing is in the form of an electrician who comes to check on why an outlet isn't working. Rhea thinks of how much she misses her boyfriend--and has missed out on so many other chances for love. Read the story here at Agni.

On "The Killer inside Me" by Jim Thompson *****

This was the first work I read by Jim Thompson, around a decade ago now. I read it in conjunction with a number of other crime novels. I was impressed in part because, well, I'd known of Thompson for some time, but in the midst of other classic crime novels, it did not stick out perhaps as much as it would have in another type of list, such as this one. I still rated it my second-favorite on that list. Now, having reread my two favorites from that list, I can say that this one was actually better on a second read--and rightfully stands as perhaps Thompson's masterpiece.

It has much in common with Pop. 1280, which I'd recently read--both are about killer sheriffs. But where that one plays things much more for laughs, this one is a bit more serious. That sheriff is over-the-top in acting dumb, and he doesn't let readers in on it: we have to discover such for ourselves. But in this book, the sheriff, Lou Ford, pretty clearly to us readers reveals his cards early on: that he's putting on an act. In a way, I think that works better.

Ford suffers from, he says, "the sickness." There are, I suppose, some psychological dimensions going back to his childhood, not wholly interesting or convincing. What's more interesting is to watch how one action spirals into the set that follows, one murder becomes many more to cover it up.

The work proves suspenseful as one watches Ford attempt to cover each crime. Finally, as the murders mount up, one's feelings for the victims begin to come to the fore. It's not so much that one hates Ford--he becomes more and more pitiful--but one hates what he does to others.