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Nothing More Than Murder by Jim Thompson

Nothing More Than Murder (1949)

by Jim Thompson

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“Nothing More Than Murder,” first published in 1949, was Jim Thompson’s first major success and was followed in 1952 by the book most critics agree is his magnum opus (“The Killer Inside Me”). On the surface, “Nothing More Than Murder” might appear to be yet another twist on James Cain’s “Double Indemnity.” Here, the husband (Joe Wilmot) has an affair with Carol. There’s a double indemnity insurance policy on the wife (Elizabeth), who is seemingly murdered in a bizarre film editing accident. But, this is a Jim Thompson book and the basic idea of the three-sided romance is twisted in quite a different way. What if the wife accepts that the marriage has gone to hell in a hand basket and offers to step aside if she can collect the insurance money? After all, all you would need is a body somewhat resembling the wife and it doesn’t really matter where you find that body, does it?
Moreover, this is not a simple tale of lust and greed and guilt tearing one apart (as if such a tale were ever simple). This is a Jim Thompson novel and it is a world where seemingly everyone is greedy, dirty, underhanded, and conniving. Joe Wilmot is not a basically decent guy. Make no mistake about that. Never mind the adultery or the murder conspiracy. He is in the movie theater business and he is involved in underhanded, sneaky deals to stifle any competition in his small city and to undermine the union rules. He is as cagey as a shark. And, in the end, everyone seems to put together how he has put more than one over on them. In typical Thompson fashion, the walls start closing in on Wilmot and the noose around his neck gets squeezed tighter and tighter. ( )
  DaveWilde | Sep 22, 2017 |
This was my first Jim Thompson, and I have to admit I found it difficult. As a member of the 21st century, and a British citizen, the 1950s USA demotic, especially concerning the minutiae of running a private cinema, was at times for me opaque to the point of impenetrable. The story is told in the form of a monologue by the central character, and although every page positively reeks with the seedy atmosphere of his existence, many of his actions and motives had to be deduced from clues I had a habit of missing. I enjoyed guessing, though, and mostly I guess I guessed right, as I did manage to hold on and reach the end of the story mostly knowing (or thinking I knew) what had gone on. What's more, all of the above notwithstanding, it was still gripping enough to inspire me to have another go sometime soon. ( )
  jtck121166 | Jul 13, 2013 |
This book really surprised me. Written in 1949 (it's old!), clocking in at just over 200 pages and costing me pittance from a discount book store, i actually enjoyed it! It's written a la pulp fiction / noir and centers around a small-town cinema operator - Joe Wilmot - and his odd love-hate relationship with his older wife Elizabeth. They run the show together but a bigger movie chain starts to move in on their turf, and both scheme to find a way out by way of insurance money! To tell more would not do justice to the twisting plot and the black comedy of the seedy US showhouse era of the 50s. And boy does the plot twist and turn, u really never know what to expect next. After reading this, now wonder all the current pulp fiction writers pay homage to Jim Thomson - he was truly a genius amongst a dying breed. ( )
  shob.dw | Feb 8, 2011 |
Not quite as dark and nihilistic in some ways as the other Thompson I have read, although it's hard to say why. Perhaps it's because for some reason I found myself rooting for the protagonist, Joe Wilmot, even as he sinks into a complicated murder plot. Thompson makes it clear that Wilmot takes as much advantage of everyone as he can in both his business and personal dealings, but the background story of his struggle to maintain his independent theater in a small town in the face of a threat from the owner of a large chain places him in an underdog role that draws our sympathy. All in all, the plot, while it contains more than enough threads to make this a satisfactory mystery, isn't woven together all that skillfully. It is Wilmot's first-person narrative that makes the book work and holds the reader's interest. ( )
1 vote datrappert | Sep 26, 2010 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0679733094, Paperback)

Sometimes a man and woman love and hate each other in equal measure that they can neither stay together nor break apart. Some marriages can only end in murder and some murders only make the ties of love and hatred stronger. This book proves just that.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:15 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Joe Wilmot is a smooth operator. He runs the picture house in Stoneville and he knows how to deal with everyone, from the movie distributors and the union representatives to his projectionist and the punters. However, when it comes to handling his wife, his mistress and a bogus insurance claim, it turns out he isn't quite as clever as he thought. An uncompromising and terrifying vision of small-town corruption and the romantic triangle from the author of the toughest crime novels ever.… (more)

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