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A Hell of a Woman by Jim Thompson
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A Hell of a Woman (1954)

by Jim Thompson

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» See also 31 mentions

English (5)  French (2)  All languages (7)
Showing 5 of 5
This is my second Thompson book, and when I thought 'The Grifters' was an odd piece of business, I clearly had no idea what Thompson was capable of. This pulp study of a deranged mind often reads like a twelve-year old's violent fantasy; in the end it all works surprisingly well, but you'd be forgiven for dropping the book forty pages in with a confused sigh. Stick with it. It's going to be something quite different. ( )
  mrgan | Oct 30, 2017 |
Top notch pulp masterpiece. Jim Thompson has a well-deserved reputation as one of the greatest of all the pulp writers. He wrote thirty novels in the late 1940's and the 1950's, many of which later became box office hits. But watching a movie based on one of Thompson's books is not the same as reading the original material. Although hundreds of writers have tried to ape his style, there was only one Jim Thompson. His tales are sordid. They are filled with psychopaths and grifters. His heroes are anti-heroes. They are not just criminals, but often mean, violent, sadistic men. Also, his books are filled with a sardonic sense of humor that often leaves the reader laughing out loud.

A Hell of A Woman is classic Jim Thompson. It is filled with the kind of characters and sardonic humor that Thompson is famous for. It is told in the first person and the reader is left to figure how much of what "Dolly" Dillon says is accurate and how much is his making excuses for his actions.
As with all of Thompson's books, it is not the plot which is ultimately fascinating, but his bizarre, despair-filled world beginning in the first chapter with the shocking incident of the old lady offering up her sweet niece in exchange for whatever trinkets a traveling salesman is willing to part with.
There are simply no redeeming characters in this book. Dillon is wife- beating, old lady-murdering, scum. Mona eagerly wants Dillon to kill her aunt so they can run off with the money. Joyce is sloppy and trampy and money-hungry. It's a bleak, miserable world that Dillon lives in and everyone is a welcher, a scoundrel, a cheat.

But, what Thompson does is take this miserable existence and makes it interesting. He tells it with Dillon's voice with Dillon bitching about the slow unattractive waitresses and, when asked why he doesn't try some other restaurant, Dillon says its all the same everywhere, nothing is any better anywhere. No one else writes like this. Thompson didn't just focus on the anti-heroes, but he got inside their heads and the reader felt their misery and Thompson did this way before anyone else got wise to doing it. Indeed, it is the physicality of emotions that Thompson conveys so well.
It is, indeed, a pulp noir masterpiece, but it clearly will not appeal to everyone given its focus on twisted people. ( )
  DaveWilde | Sep 22, 2017 |
Jim Thompson is a good writer. He writes hard-boiled style fiction that tends to feature dark and reprehensible characters. A Hell of a Woman was a decent read with a great ending. Thompson's ability to transfer paranoia from his protagonist to the reader is commendable, but the true shinning light of the novel occurs at final pages of the novel. The ending offers the reader multiple realities as the main character suffers from a nervous breakdown, leaving the reader to decipher the underlying truth for himself. ( )
2 vote ericj.dixon | Jul 3, 2010 |
Frank "Dolly" Dillon has been working as a door-to-door salesman all his life. Trying to find the one that will make him rich but it's always someone else's fault when each successive attempt fails. We pick up his story when he's at the lower end of the ladder collecting from other dead-beats who buy on credit from Pay-E-Zee Stores. Trying to make ends meet by skimming off his accounts things start to catch up with him when he meets Mona, a beautiful young woman who is being abused by her aunt. When he hears her story Frank promises to help, especially when he hears he could get his hands on a sizeable chunk of loot into the bargain to go along with Mona.

This is a dark tale of paranoia, sex and crime with characters not even a mother could love. I would have given it a higher rating but for the ending. I didn't appreciate having to read it about 4 times to actually understand what went on. ( )
2 vote AHS-Wolfy | Mar 26, 2010 |
Dolly Dillon is a poor sucker trying to hustle a meager living as a salesman/collector for Pay-E-Zee. He deals with bums trying to stiff the company on a daily basis. Then he meets helpless Mona and her pimping aunt. Suddenly Dolly doesn't feel so worthless because Mona is counting on Dolly to come up with some dough and take her away. And she knows where there is plenty of dough. He only needs to get the job done, then get rid of his lazy slob of a wife and that creepy, needling boss, Staples. ( )
  mstrust | Oct 27, 2009 |
Showing 5 of 5
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Jim Thompsonprimary authorall editionscalculated
Briasco, LucaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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I'd gotten out of my car and was running for the porch when I saw her.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0679732519, Paperback)

Young, beautiful, and fearfully abused, Mona was the kind of girl even a hard man like Dillon couldn't bring himself to use. But when Mona told him about the vicious aunt who had turned her into something little better than a prostitute--and about the money the old lady has stashed away--Dillon found it surprisingly easy to kill for her.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:27 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

'Dolly' Dillon sells cheap goods, door to door, for the Pay-E-Zee stores, to those who can't get credit anywhere else. He isn't so many rungs higher on the social ladder than the deadbeats and no-hopers he sells to, and he's been systematically skimming the accounts, but when he sees Mona Farrell he is moved to an uncharacteristic act of kindness by her vulnerability. It changes his life - for this is a woman worth killing for.… (more)

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