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JIM THOMPSON
Nothing But A Man


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Popular Library, New York, 1970
price: 60c; 128 pages


The blurb on the back:

A one-man battle for dignity... for love... but mostly for manhood...
Duff Anderson works hard on a railroad gang, makes good money ($80 a week), and has learned to get along.
But he wants more. He wants to be a man down South where, at best, he's called boy. And he'll settle for nothing less.
This is the unforgettable story of Duff Anderson's world and the people in it: his father, a hopeless alcoholic; Josie, the well-educated girl who loves him; Josie's minister father, an over-cautious Uncle Tom; and of Duff himself, who wages his own personal battle as he seeks to become nothing less than a man...


opening lines:
Late afternoon. The Alabama sun sent spears of white-hot sunlight down the tracks to splash against the section-gang's bunk car.


The film of Nothing But A Man came out in 1964 at the peak of the Civil Rights struggle, and was a major critical hit for its sensitive and dignified portrayal of racial issues. (You'll notice how easily I slip into the language of the era.)

Nowadays the movie is pretty much forgotten, but it's still not a bad piece of work. No revelations, nothing startling, just solid, competent and intelligent. And the same's true of the book which was put together by the veteran pulp-meister Jim Thompson (probably best-known for the novels that inspired the films The Grifters and The Getaway). Worthwhile, not just worthy.

What I'm not sure about is why it took so long for the book to emerge.


ARTISTIC MERIT: 3/5
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE:
2/5
HIPNESS QUOTIENT:
3/5


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