Savage Night by Jim Thompson – Reviewed by Guy Portman
A shadowy crime boss known as ‘The Man’ sends contract killer Carl Bigelow to a small town, on a mission to kill a man, by the name of Jake Winroy. Jake is a key witness in a forthcoming court case. Carl, whose ruse is that he has come to study at a language school, finds lodgings with Jake’s family, and takes a part-time job at a bakery.
Matters start to go awry for the diminutive, doomed hit man, when he first arouses the suspicion of the town’s sheriff, and later goes on to have an affair with both Jake’s wife, and Fay, the disabled housekeeper. Events eventually culminate in an unpredictable end.
Protagonist Carl is a paranoid, pensive and perplexing character, who suffers poor health, and is convinced that he is disintegrating – he often comments that there is not much of him left. Acutely aware of his weaknesses, Carl is attracted to ugliness, as he sees himself reflected in it.
Savage Night is a suspenseful crime novel about a vulnerable narrator, who is both a victim and perpetrator, that explores the ugly side of the human condition. This is a nihilistic and violent book that utilises Jim Thompson’s trademark stark, pulp prose style.