Pop. 1280 by Jim Thompson fulfills the “Book with POP, SUGAR, or CHALLENGE in the Title” category of PopSugar 2019 Reading Challenge. This was the third novel I tried. The first two were poorly written and trite. This story was odd and not to my taste. Perhaps because it was published in 1964.
Pop. 1280 takes place in the old west but not that old. It seems to fall in a small midwestern or western town in the early 1900s. The main character, Nick Corey, is the sheriff of a tiny town with only 1280 people.
He’s a character that’s for sure. Never have I ever wanted a first-person narrative to end with the death of the main. By the last quarter of the book, I hated Nick and wanted someone to put a bullet between his eyes.
I need to do some research about the author and the genre because I missed something. A wildly popular book with such an ugly, misogynist, racist, violent character as the protagonist seems like an anomaly. There was absolutely nothing redeemable about the man. He was a murder and a con artist, a philanderer, and a terrible friend.
For me, he seemed the stereotypical hero for older books. My view of the “old westerns” has that man who owned his world and could say or do anything he wanted with immunity. And that was Nick in spades. He manipulated people into seeing his point of view or twisting situations to remove the blame from himself. He was a terrible person through and through.
The author had to be doing this on purpose. To touch on so many political, class, racial issues in one novel could only be done so on purpose. This was one of those books I wish I had a book group for.
The ending reminded me of the current political situation in our country. As Nick continues to get away with all his crimes, manipulations and ugliness, he develops a God complex. At the book’s start, he seems like a decent guy, a little dumb but some you could count on. Then his crime spree begins and we see his true colors showing through. The more he gets away with, the bigger his ego gets. Until the end when he believes he’s the second coming of Jesus.
Part of me wanted the story to go on until his total downfall and his complete shock of not getting his way or losing. Part of me wanted Rose to plant one between his eyes.
I’m not a fan of westerns with the big hero male. I have no love for misogynistic tales of brave strong men who get the women. I like it when the a*** get what’s coming to him. I maybe have to fanfic Nick’s ultimate demise.
With all my dislike of the subject matter, Mr. Thompson did a great job pulling the reader down the rabbit hole. It took a good half of the book to realize what a horrible human being our protagonist was. And because of the first-person perspective, he had to present the information in a way that Nick didn’t interpret his behavior as bad, or evil.
For a well-written book, I wish I could have loved it more but I have a hard time getting over the themes. It’s like The Magicians. We all know I have a problem with satire too. I understand the author was making a point, but in my pleasure reading, I don’t want to think that much.
I give Pop. 1280 by Jim Thompson Three Sheriff Stars because Nick was a jerk.