Central City, Texas, is the setting for The Killer Inside Me, but the setting is both very specific and intentionally general. Thompson is specific about the people in the town, and the town’s location plays a key role in what is allowed to happen there. It is relatively isolated and should be the ideal of small-town America. The public face of Central City is shown clearly on the novel’s first page. Central City is a place where the deputies linger in the diner over a quiet cup of coffee and a piece of pie, listening to the whistle of the midnight freight train rumbling past, a place so nice and sedate that Lou does not take a gun with him when he goes outside to confront a bum. Lou even says to the worried waitress, “We don’t have many crooks here in Central City, ma’am.”

The irony of that statement permeates the novel and defines Central City. The town does not have many criminals…that are publicly acknowledged. The richest man in town, Chester Conway, is dishonest, but the townspeople do not say anything because of his money. The labor agitator is willing to work outside the law, but he is not arrested because he is a known power. Even petty crime like prostitution is only disrupted if and when the ministers complain. And, of course, Lou Ford, the friendly town deputy, is a sexual sadist and serial killer. Central City appears to be a quaint little town, far enough from the big city of Fort Worth that it is easier to fly than drive, but it is one-hundred-percent rotten.

The physical setting of the town is not described in detail. It is mainly sketched in order to give the characters some place to interact and to show how intimately they know it (and, again, how corrupt it is). Sheriff Maples gives Lou Ford traveling directions in relation to “the old Branch farm house” and notices that it is “behind a stand of blackjack trees.” Every bit of that detail is symbolic. Some of it is simply an indication...

(The entire section is 660 words.)


Anshen, David. 2007. “Clichés and Commodity Fetishism: The Violence of the Real in Jim Thompson’s The Killer Inside Me.” Journal of Narrative Theory, 37(3): 400. This academic article examines Thompson’s language use in context of culture theory.

Fleming, Michael. 2007. “Helmer Gets Some ‘Me’ Time. (Marc Rocco to Direct The Killer Inside Me).” Daily Variety, 294(23): 1. This brief article discusses the filming of The Killer Inside Me.

Payne, Kenneth. 2002. “The Killers Inside Them: The Schizophrenic Protagonist in

John Franklin Bardin’s Devil Take the Blue-Tail Fly and Jim Thompson’s The Killer Inside Me.” Journal of Popular Culture, 36(2): 250-263. This study puts Thompson’s novel in period context and examines his use of psychological concepts for literary and political purposes.

Polito, Robert. 1995. Savage Art: A Biography of Jim Thompson. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. Polito’s book-length biography addresses Thompson’s life and work.

Whiting, Frederick. 2005. “Bodies of Evidence: Post-War Detective Fiction and the Monstrous Origins of the Sexual Psychopath.” The Yale Journal of Criticism, 18(1): 149-178. Whiting’s rather dense article discusses Thompson and other detective fiction writers in the context of psychoanalytic theory.