Wednesday, February 15, 2012

In which I compare Lou Ford to Patrick Bateman, even though they're nothing alike

This noir classic is narrated in the easy Southern drawl of Lou Ford, deputy sheriff of a small Texas town. The people in town know him as gentle-mannered and a little dumb, but he is hiding a dark secret, something he calls "the sickness." He has kept it at bay for 15 years, but it's about to make a comeback . . . because this would be a pretty boring story if it didn't.

In my head, I've been comparing this book to American Psycho, which is a problem because they're not much alike . . . aside from the killing, of course. The Killer Inside Me came first, by a lot, and must have been quite shocking for its time, but it looks so tame next to Easton Ellis's bloodbath of a book. And Patrick Bateman is an unapologetic sociopath, but Lou Ford falls more on the side of psychopath, because he does have a conscience . . . even if he chooses to ignore it most of the time.

I think what keeps bringing me back to Bateman is the hint of humor, twisted though it may be. In this book, the inappropriate giggles are caused by the way Lou Ford suppresses "the sickness" while keeping up his doddering deputy sheriff routine. He wants to hurt people, but he knows he can't HURT them hurt them, so he inflicts pain by the most benign means imaginable: He bores them to tears. Seriously. He tortures them with corny cliches. You know the kind I mean: "Every cloud has its silver lining." "Haste makes waste." "Look before you leap." He's a MONSTER.

Oh! I thought of another Bateman/Ford similarity: They both hate women. And can we talk about the women in Lou's life? Behind Door No.1, we have Joyce, a prostitute who likes to be beaten and doesn't care about anything but getting out of town with Lou. Behind Door No. 2, we have Amy, the town sweetheart who ALSO likes to be beaten and doesn't care about anything but getting Lou to marry her. I know . . . so many layers to explore. I'm sure some people would argue that these women are strong but just can't flex their muscles within the restrictions of their time and place. I think these women are idiots. Would you care for a more concrete example? Happy to oblige.

The setting: Amy is mad at Lou because he kept her waiting at his house. Amy is nagging him, as we pesky women are known to do.
"All she had to say would take her the rest of her life to finish; and I wasn't even halfway in the mood for it. I reached out and grabbed her by the crotch. . . . I lay down beside her with my clothes on. I had to do it, because there was just one way of shutting Amy up." (p. 59)

What Lou is saying doesn't offend me, because Lou doesn't like women. That's the character. What bothers me is that his tactic totally works on her. On numerous occasions, when Amy gets indignant about something (often rightfully so), Lou just waves something shiny in front of her face until she loses her train of thought.

But do you know what I LOVE about this book? (A) The Southern-isms: "You know I've just been busy as a chigger at a picnic" (p. 30). (B) The noir-isms: "Baby didn't know it, but baby was dead" (p. 14). Good enough for me.

SOURCE: Thompson, Jim. (1991). The Killer Inside Me. New York: Vintage Books.


  1. YOU POSTED A FAR SIDE COMIC. *renews vows with your blog*

    So, I've pretty much convinced myself I can't read Bret Easton Ellis because of Ze Darkness, for I like bright, happy things and anything at all dark makes my brain sad. At the same time, though, I really like reading about serial killers. But REAL LIFE serial killers.


    Also -- women. Amiright?

  2. I've yet to read American Pyscho because I've been warned of how graphic it is.  With movies, you can close your eyes, cover your ears and skip over all the scary parts, but books... ahhh, you just can't put them down!  *braces self*

  3. I had seen the movie numerous times before I read the book, so I thought it wouldn't be that shocking. But that was the most difficult book I've ever read...ever.

  4. I *almost* didn't use that comic because I didn't know if it was quite relevant...then I decided that Far Side is always relevant.

    I haven't read anything else by Easton Ellis since American Psycho...probably because of American Psycho. It definitely made my brain sad. But I have a morbid interest in serial killers...and it's written REALLY well and is an excellent social commentary on the materialism of the '80s, specifically. And there's a whole chapter on Whitney Houston.

  5. WHITNEYYYYYY! (which would have been my response if this had been written a year ago, tyvm)

    Also, I realized post-posting (hah!) that I did not clarify that my women remark was meant as 'Those ridiculous women with their feebleness and such.' 

    My friend Katie reads true crime and for Christmas, our co-worker Doug and I bought her three serial killer books. She was really happy.

  6. Great review. The comparison is holding up because they are both psychopath protagonists.  Thompson was ruthless with his characters, wasn't he?

  7. I would never doubt your love for Whitney. Never.

    I *thought* that's what you were getting at with that women remark...but then I thought maybe you were talking about how you like to read about women, which I know is also true. But I agree with you either way. So YES.

    I like your friend Katie.

  8. Thanks, Ben. The comparison started falling apart for me as I tried to put it into words...but I went with it anyway. Glad it made some sense. ; )