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4.4 out of 5 stars28
4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 31 July 2004
A lazy and corrupt sheriff in a small town (population = 1280) is not getting any respect neither from the local farmers and hoodlums, his superiors nor his wife (who is cheating on him with his "brother in law"). Suddenly something snaps and he starts to clean house in a devious and vicious way.
The reason I picked up this book was because it is the basis for one of my all time favourite french movies "Coup de torchon" with Philippe Noiret in the leading role. The director (Bernard Tavernier) changed the surroundings from a sweltering southern US county to Algeria right before the outbreak of the second world war, but otherwise remains extremely close to the storyline of the novel. It was great fun to read the novel with the scenes of the movie in the back of my mind and to notice the smart adaptations that had to be made to make the story work in this different context.
The novel is great : ingenious, dark, brooding and with not a single likeable character in sight. Thompson's style is unique : cynical, twisted, tongue in cheek and dialogues that are just too good to be true. Take just this sample, it comes out of a speech the sheriff gives to an obsequious black man before he shoots him : "(...) people who go around sniffing crap with their mouth open, and acting surprised as hell when somebody kicks a turd in it."
When I had finished this novel, I went out to buy a stack of Thompson's books and I was not disappointed. Great stuff.
Be sure not too miss neither the novel nor the movie.
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I have read and savoured quite a few novels by Thompson, the master of hardboiled nastiness, but nothing, not even the readers' comments on this page prepared me for "Pop. 1280." Its funny! Outrageously so.

The author has decided to take the mickey out of his own genre, writing a novel that hilariously spoofs so much else that he has written (The Killer Inside Me is an obvious target). Thompson has consciously followed that tricky logic of theatrical farce, crafting a tighly plotted novel that seems like Philip Marlowe-meets-Jacobean murder drama. The zany narrative is driven by event after event creeping up on the sheriff as he is trying to clear away the last one: wild comedy mixed with brutal murder.

Its as if Thompson has read The Revenger's Tragedy, which pushed to crazy excess the Jacobean Revenge tragedy, with corpse after corpse mounting up, and decided to do the same within his own literary terms. Murder after murder takes place, all committed by the sheriff himself, as he is crazily running back and forth through the town to maintain a respectable veneer, while secretly trying to run rackets and also bedding the many women who desire him (shades of Jonson's The Alchemist here - or the 60s update Boeing-Boeing). And, of course, the wily sheriff is running rings around everyone, drawing them unwittingly into his bloody crimes.

A terrific, outrageously funny, murder story. DO DO DO read it.
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on 9 February 1999
Just when you think Thompson's characters have scraped absolute bottom, they find a way to go even lower. A splendid book about the very worst in human nature. Fast, funny, disturbing.
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on 25 September 2015
This is an odd fish. As the novel starts, it plays out like a comedy as we're invited to mock the narrator, Good Ol' Boy Sheriff Corey, as he floats around his small town basically avoiding any hard work and talking like a Deep South caricature. As the book continues, however, it appears that Sheriff Corey is smarter than the average bear and he begins to manipulate the people around him, acting as occasional executioner and general inciter of trouble and lies. He exists as a beatific siren, pulling the townsfolk to their messy ends, tweaking their greed, jealousy and general dunderheadedness. He never really lets the curtain drop though, appearing to be the same simple creature he was at the beginning. His justifications are little more than local aphorisms that obscure his true intent and nature.
It's pretty funny and it snaps along at a real pace. It also gives you a Sopranos style ending where you can take from it what you wish. What is Sheriff Corey? A man, or something much worse? Is this a comedy? I'm not entirely sure to be honest. What I do know is that it's occasionally hilarious, really clever and refreshing. Isn't it nice to be treated like an adult in the delivery of something interesting and funny? Yes. Yes it is. Buy this and drink it in.
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on 17 June 2015
Pop 1280 is noir farce, with Thompson taking the sheriff of The Killer Inside Me back in history 50 or so years. In the latter at least he knew he had a killer inside himself. This sheriff only realises, or descends into full blown mania, towards the end. Before that he 'didn't know what to do', so he improvised lethally.
Some of the humour in both books comes from him disguising his natural intelligence under a folksy cornpone dumb act to fool or wrongfoot the townspeople. As in all farce (though the comedy here is pitch black) the humour comes in the unravelling of complex and not entirely sane plans, in everything going wrong and then being cleverly brazened out.
Taking things back to 1900 or so allows Thompson to expose the murderous racism bigotry misogyny and hypocrisy of the white population of this 'arm-pit of civilization' Southern town even more explicitly than he does in the 1950s book.
This isn't pulp fiction; it's the real literary thing.
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VINE VOICEon 11 June 2016
After reading ten of Mr Thompson's novels, this ranks as the best. An astonishing mix of callous murder and comedy. Sheriff Nick Corey is up for re-election in the 47th smallest county of some south western state. His desire to keep his job reveal Nick as everything from idiot savant to Deputy Dawg.

He struggles to understand what the townsfolk want from their Sheriff and his attempts to oblige them oscillate between the comic and the horrific.
This is not pulp fiction, it is challenging and memorable.
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on 7 January 2004
This was the first novel I have read by Thompson, and I'm not sure if I should read another. I fear for my moral fibre.
Without giving too much away, here is a truely fascinating monster. Sheriff Nick Corey sidles up to you, with the air of the dumb hick, beguiling even the reader. This is a hard feeling to shake off even with what follows, it is so effectively done.
Surrounded by other unredeemables with only rare glimpses of a more worthy way of life, this is an uncompromisingly unsympathetic depiction of small town corruption.
The question is: will the author give his characters their just desserts?
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on 22 May 1999
While some of Jim Thompson's other work (The Grifters, The Killer Inside Me) hews more closely to the classic themes of noir fiction, Pop. 1280 is the most definitive example of his oeuvre. Thompson's bizarre mix of crude humor, biting wit and horrifying crime is perfectly balanced in this book. One of the few texts I've ever seen that manages to distill America in all it's fiendish glory into something that can be assimilated in a few hours. Almost Blakean in it's nightmarish vision of life, death and spirituality.
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on 15 May 2005
This book kept me awake all night the first time I read it. At first from wide-eyed amazement at the callousness and bleakness, though by the end I was chuckling away...
This is a hugely entertaining story - his last major work, it's my favourite. In a nutshell, it's a lot of fun.
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on 19 January 2001
After I read the interesting »The Killer Inside Me«, I had appetite for more Jim Thompson, and my choice fell on »Pop. 1280«. The story is pretty much the same in those two novels, only is the main character's complex and slightly psychopathic personality different. In a way, the sheriff in »Pop. 1280« has more sympathetic sides than the deputy in »The Killer Inside Me«
Once again, JimThompson successfully creates a thrilling environment in a tiny Texan county, and it is all experienced from inside the killer's mind. This way of telling a story works out very well, it glues your eyes to the book - and what's more is that Jim Thompson writes with a lot of humour and sarcasm. This gives the whole thing even more spice, and is maybe even the best feature of »Pop. 1280«.
I am very close to grant this novel 4 stars, but somehow, all in all, the book disappoints compared to »The Killer Inside Me«. If you want well-written, straight-forward, and very (black-)humourous suspense, Jim Thomson is your man, and »Pop. 1280« is not at all a bad choice!
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