Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Getaway (1958)

With The Getaway Jim Thompson struck on a strategy that served him very well, producing one of his best—one of my favorites by him certainly. A slight shift in point of view, and a couple of fiendishly conceived plot points, seem to clear away all the static and clutter of the previous few novels. It's kind of amazing because pretty much all the usual is in there—drunks, sadists, harpies, felons, etc.—but utterly revitalized. Instead of focusing on the tiresome intricacies of a caper, that's taken as a given, and the action, as the title suggests, is all on the aftermath, a series of snafus and unfortunate incidents following a swift and easy takedown of a small-town bank. Instead of trying to make something unlikely work (my usual problem with caper and heist stories) Thompson turns his attention to something all too familiar: how things can go terribly wrong. The story proceeds like one of those dream nightmares where the predicament constantly worsens—focusing on the chaos rather than the order, Thompson's strongest point by miles. Then he indulges himself with two separate scenarios of profound claustrophobia, as vividly realized as anything he ever wrote. The first, particularly, which involves a cramped cave space reached underwater, is right over the top. I groaned when I came to it again because it was instantly as potent and disturbing as the first time I read it. I had to put the book down and pace my apartment awhile to restore a sense of freedom of motion. Thompson absolutely robs me of it in that section. The Getaway goes on the short list for me of his best.

In case it's not at the library.

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