1280 by Jim Thompson. Fiction, 1964 (Gold Medal)/1990 Reissue (Vintage
Crime). 217 Pages. Well, sir, I just re-read this Ďun, and even though
it ainít new, I figured I just had to let you know about it.
Pop. 1280 and its
protagonist, Sheriff Nick Corey, are among the best books and most
favorite characters Iíve ever read.
Itís the darkly hilarious, savagely painful, twisted-as-fuck tale
of one manís psychotic journey into self-absorption and murder, and I
Corey is the sheriff of tiny Potts County
in the Texas of the early 1900s. Heís diabolically clever but comes
across to most folks as a monumentally lazy, spineless fool, and thatís
just how he likes it. From
the outset heís in quite a gol-dern fix (pretty much of his own making,
of course!). Stuck in a
contentious sham of a marriage with the very unpleasant Myra, Corey also
has to deal with her live-in ďbrotherĒ Lennie, a semi-retarded,
conniving Peeping Tom, and this makes olí Nick purdy uncomfortable in
his own home. To complicate
things, Coreyís having an adulterous relationship with Myraís supposed
best friend Rose, an unhappily married little hellcat herself.
And then thereís Nickís ex-fiancťe Amy, who he blew it with
and would like nothing more than to change that sad reality. Complicating this scenario is the unfortunate fact that
Amyís got the serious goods on him after witnessing him doing something
awful naughty, and this sure is a heck of a hurdle for poor Nick in this
Despite these complicated shenanigans, Nick still
finds plenty of time to subtly manipulate the hell out of all kinds of
people, usually with pretty disastrous results for those that happen to
cross his path. Sometimes,
like when he craftily and, well, evilly takes care of Roseís no-good,
abusive husband Tom, itís fun to watch.
And throughout Pop.1280,
Nickís exploitation of the hypocrisy of the Potts County population
produces several laugh-out-loud moments.
But other times he hurts people completely undeserving of his
wrath, and thatís definitely not so fun to see.
At one point, explaining a particular bout of terrible nastiness,
Corey says, ďWhat I loved was myself, and I was willing to do anything I
god-dang had to to go on lying and cheating and drinking whiskey and
screwing women and going to church on Sunday with all the other
respectable people.Ē Itís
this brutal self-knowledge without a hint of shame in the knowing that
makes Nick Corey such a fucked up force of nature.
And since some have theorized that Coreyís character is loosely
based on Jim Thompsonís own father, it makes this statement that much
As much as Nick Corey does such blatantly
bad things, heís also surprisingly liberal in his views on race
relations. Itís an aspect
of his personality that makes him so likeable at times, but then he turns
around and does something undeniably terrible, and you just canít root
for him the way you usually do for most storiesí main characters.
In fact, right up to the end, when he suddenly espouses a bizarre
Biblical vengeance rationale for his behavior, Coreyís as perplexing a
character as Iíve ever seen. Itís also what makes me love this book so
A French film called Coup de Torchon was based on this story, but Pop. 1280 needs to be done right by American moviemakers, and it
definitely has to take place in Texas.
You may be surprised by whom Iíd pick to play Sheriff Nick Corey,
but I think Matthew McConaughey would absolutely kick ass in this role.
Take the charismatic lawman he played in Lone
Star, combine that with the hilarious sleazoid he played in Dazed
and Confused, add in the fact that heís probably hungry for
something unusual since he hasnít done a helluva lot of note lately and
you have the makings for something pretty special.
Iíve already got half the soundtrack for this sucka thought up
(heavy emphasis on some Reverend Horton Heat instrumentals and a few
Johnny Cash numbers from his most badass days), so if you know Mr.
McConaughey, please send him this book and tell the muthafucka to get his
ass in gear and do something with this already. ĖBen Hunter