Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Rip-Off (Jim Thompson, 1985)

Legendary Jim Thompson finally gets his debutant and long overdue entry on this blog. The Rip-Off was his last book, published posthumously eight years after his death. I did some googling but I'm still not sure whether it's supposed to be one of those luckily lost & found "masterpieces" or was it simply the case when author hasn't been satisfied enough with the finished product and had decided not to publish it at all. Unfortunately I'm inclined to think that latter was the case especially since he was "re-discovered" in the 80s and probably publishers just wanted to cash-in some of that new and fresh fame.

Story is a bit silly with more than just a single plot hole and some hard-to-swallow coincidences but still kind of okay. It's centered around this quasi intellectual guy Britt Rainstar whose life gets turned upside down when he accepts some pretty odd writing job from a mysterious and beautiful executive Manuela Aloe. A series of bizarre (and life threatening) events starts to unfold and Thompson skilfully mixes them with Britt's background story about his bitchy blackmailing wife and her greedy red neck father. There are some cool twists towards the end and final revelation is kind of surprising.

Writing is as good as one would expect from an old-school master with 20+ masterpieces under his belt. Characters are decent, believable just enough for the most of the times. Especially of our leading hero and maybe not so much about his two female companions. I liked the stuff about his condemned house which at the end becomes a character itself.

Big miss and major let down is style. Not at all gritty, dirty, dark and hard-boiled stuff I expected (see body count section of the facts). At times it's almost comical and these repetitive mood shifts really damage the pace and whole structure of the book. To be honest, towards the end I started to feel a bit ripped off and just wanted to finish it off.

Not sure about this one, it's not bad but certainly not very good. I guess it's okay for Thompson's die-hard fans and completists or academic researchers of his work. I'm neither of these so all I can say is that it reminded me that it's been too long since I've read his stuff. But the next one will be one of his oldies.



Britt Rainstar, age 40. A bit unusual intellectual: he writes in-depth monographs on various unreadable subjects like ecology, ethnology, ethology etc. Native American descendant, living in a condemned house near the garbage dump.

I don't think it's mentioned. But I'm pretty sure that growing pile of garbage in the backyard of his house symbolizes typical modern American town.

Body count
Surprisingly (and disappointingly!) - none. Although justice will be served as two bad guys will get 20 years of prison sentences and one even two life times.

Manuela Aloe: I looked at her - the silver blond hair, the startlingly black eyes and lashes, the flawlessly creamy complexion. I looked around and found it impossible to believe that such a delicious bon bon of a girl would do harm to anyone.

Plus cop/nurse Miss Kate "Kay" Nolson. Plus Connie, his greedy wife who refuses to become an ex-wife. Plus let us not forget his bitchy alcoholic housekeeper Mrs Olmstead.

He gets knocked out all the time. There are no less than four unconsciousness - he gets beat up twice, shot at and pushed down the stairs in a wheelchair.
Not sure. I see several possibilities:
  • Britt is being ripped off by his wife and her greedy father
  • Thompson titled is as a joke reference to his The Kill-Off
  • Titled by the publishers to indicate they ripped us off by selling the book whose author had passed away almost ten years ago.
Pretty standard stuff

Cool lines:  
"Just what happened here, miss? Why was that door locked?"
Manny grinned at her impudently. "A broken-down bed and a locked door, and you ask me what happened? How long have you been a woman, dear?"

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