Texas by the Tail
Jim Thompson | 1994-10-04 00:00:00 | Vintage | 224 | 20th Century
Mitch Corley has a girlfriend with expensive tastes and a ruthless wife who refuses to become an "ex" without major compensation. He needs big money and he needs it fast. Which makes Texas Mitch's natural destination, since nowhere are rich men more inclined to stake huge sums on a roll of the dice. The only problem is that Texans are sore losers--and they have cruel and ingenious ways of getting back at anyone who cheats them.
Texas by the Tail is a high-spirited, sexy, and ingeniously plotted novel of the grifting life, by a writer who is a virtual encyclopedia of the con, the scam, and the double cross.
This book compares favorably to the best work Thompson has done, with wit, wise-cracking dialogue, and pacing. It's as good as anything he's done. Having read Thompson's oeuvre, I'm not sure what to say for these other reviewers. They just offer opinions, not analysis. Do yourself a favor: don't take their word for it.
Texas by the Tail by Jim Thompson chronicles the largely comic adventures of Mitch Corley, a gambling grifter whose theatre of operation is the great state of Texas. Since the plotting is more than a little haphazard, it's useful to view Texas by the Tail as a series of vignettes rather than a conventional novel with a beginning, middle and end.
Published only 2 years after The Grifters, a magnificently well polished Jim Thompson novel with similar subject matter, this book is a bit of a disappointment. Instead of telling a compelling and viscerally engaging story as he did in The Grifters, in Texas by the Tail, Thompson chose to fill the narrative with a series of disparate scenarios. These scenarios are, in many cases, interesting in their own right, but they fail to gel together.
Bottom line: A disappointing misfire by an author capable of much, much better. Probably of interest to diehard Jim Thompson fans only.
Although a Jim Thompson book about grifters and gamblers in Texas sounds like a can't-fail combination, Texas By The Tail is a misfire, more of an outline for a novel than an actual novel. The characters are bland and the plot never really gets going before it peters out abruptly. I give it three stars only because even a bad Thompson is better than no Thompson at all.
I'm a huge Jim Thompson fan and have read 15 of his books. TEXAS BY THE TAIL is not one of his best. Some of the writing is quite good, and I liked the characters. However, there were far too many plot holes and coincidences. Yeah, that can be said about most of Thompson's books, but it's particularly true here. The plot concerns Mitch Corley, a professional gambler, and his attempts to scam people in Houston. He has a wife who won't divorce him and a girlfriend who doesn't know he's married. Plus, he's starting to make some powerful people mad about his gambling cons. I actually found myself rooting for Corley, but the resolution left me wondering what happened.
Overall, this book is second tier Thompson. I'd recommend THE GRIFTERS or POP. 1280 instead. However, Thompson completists likely will enjoy it more than the average reader.
This book reads like it was pieced together from notebooks found in a motel after the writer left town. I would only recommend it to someone on my s-list. I thought the cover looked interesting when I picked it up at the bookstore, but now I dislike that as well.
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