The Killer Inside Tod Goldberg

The author and Alta contributor picks Jim Thompson’s The Killer Inside Me as his top noir classic.

Tod Goldberg is the author of the upcoming book The Low Desert: Gangster Stories.
Tod Goldberg is the author of the upcoming book The Low Desert: Gangster Stories.

What’s your favorite classic noir?
The Killer Inside Me by Jim Thompson.

Why?
I bought it in 1987, in a used bookstore in Deer Park, Washington, while on a summer fishing trip. I was 16. I thought the cover was cool—“You see—I had to destroy them” was splashed across the top, so I thought it was going to be a sort of Dirty Harry–type thing. It ended up being one of the greatest existential journeys into human darkness that has ever existed. I read it in three hours and then read it again. It shouldn’t work. It shouldn’t have been published in 1952. It’s too brutal, too lost, too nihilistic.

What makes a great noir?
That the good guy doesn’t always win. That there aren’t really any good guys. Hell, there’s hardly any good at all. It’s the perfect mirror into our world, where we expect most people to be kind and decent but often find the opposite.

Read more from Alta‘s Fall 2020 Noir Special Section.

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