Lost Continent Books

Mapping the Terrain of Used and Rare Books

Review: “A Hell of a Woman,” by Jim Thompson

After hearing so much almost awe-inspired praise for Jim Thomson from notable authors such as Joe Lansdale and Stephen king, and from sources such as “The Kirkus Review”, and “The New York Times”, I finally got around to reading one of his novels.

“A Hell of a Woman” is one hell of a book. It’s mystery, suspense, crime, noir… but somewhere in the book’s DNA – though nobody would dare formally classify it as this – is horror. Psychological horror to be precise. Thompson projects feelings of paranoia, confusion, and dread in almost palpable waves from the pages right into your skull.

But I think the real accomplishment here is the portrayal of that subtle denial, that gentle twisting of the truth, the little white lies that we tell ourselves just to make reality more palatable; to keep the facts on our sides so we don’t have to acknowledge our perversions, our faults, our failures. We all do it, and we all know it, but we will never admit it. Because we can barely admit it to ourselves – it’s too painful to realize that some aspects of our outer reality are simply not true. They are illusions created to hide secrets.

As the book progresses Frank “Dolly” Dillon gets himself in deeper and deeper. Things pile up. He begins to suffocate under the weight of his desires, lies, and possible psychosis. I won’t give anything away, but the man finds himself in the shit and Thompson does a brilliant job of showing how he psychologically copes while his reality is crumbling around him.

And the book is short. I read it in one sitting. It’s short, fast, and brutal. There is no dicking around here. Characters are developed swiftly and elegantly, atmosphere substitutes for hundreds of words, and the plot moves efficiently and seamlessly until the bitter schizoid ending.

This is one book that I would consider a masterpiece of its genre. Highly recommended for any fan of crime, mystery, horror, suspense…. Anyone who isn’t afraid to acknowledge their own darkness alongside the darkness in others.


(If you can find a copy I would recommend the Centipede Press edition of this book which has a great introduction by Joe Lansdale and haunting full page illustrations heading each chapter.)


About jansonbriggs

Book collectoe/ dealer, aspiring author, have had poems published in a few small magazines.... I like cats and quiet. I like airplane lift-offs and the new-renewal of wandering (wondering?) around somewhere new. I like solitude. I miss people. Bob Dylan. Running water; still water - I like water. A good sence of humor. Again: A good sense of humor. That's what keeps us sane and human and Kind.

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