Pop. 1280

Pop. 1280 - Wikipedia

Pop. 1280 is the title of the book and it refers to the population of Potts County, where Nick Corey is “High Sheriff.” It is the 57th largest county out of 57 counties in Texas.
This book is a literary masterpiece that serves as a sardonic attack on small Southern towns in the early twentieth century. Nick Corey is on the surface a good ole boy, a not-so-bright, uneducated Southern hick. He is much more than that when you poke under the surface. His lazy, shiftless ways and his appearance as a good-for-nothing buffoon are just an act, an act that lets him get away with all kinds of graft and other behavior.

Indeed, one of the genuinely genius things about this book is that, by using Corey as the narrator, Thompson is able to poke fun at what were the Southern conventions at the time, including race relations. He explains at one point that he couldn’t lean on the well-to-do citizens of the town no matter what they did, but he could lean on the Blacks and the White trash and no one would think anything of it. Thompson, using Corey as the narrator, pokes fun at the holier-than- thou front that Southerners put on, masking all their nasty deeds under the used-car-salesman-patter of the Southern preacher who just goes on and on, shoveling his horse manure till the listener just about drowned in it.

This book has it all, including incest, murder, adultery, graft, more murder, more adultery, and more graft. All of that hiding behind the sweetness and politeness of Southern manners and all of it accepted because no one in that small town wanted to rock the boat or wanted a sheriff who would rock the boat.

Corey begins his narration by explaining that he “should have been sitting pretty, just as pretty as a man could sit,” being sheriff of the county, drawing two thousand dollars plus what he “could pick up on the side.” He says he could go on being the sheriff “as long as I minded my own business and didn’t arrest no one unless I just couldn’t get out of it and they didn’t amount to nothin.”

He’s married to Myra, who, according to Corey, tricked him into her room at the rooming house, and then started screaming rape, leaving him no choice but to marry her and take in her imbecile brother Lenny (think of Lenny from Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men), who goes around at night peeping into people’s windows. He explains that Myra was quite a bit older than he was and “she looked every bit as mean as she was. And believe me, she was one danged mean woman.” He had really wanted to marry Amy Mason, but that didn’t happen because of Myra’s trickery. Of course, he had also “gotten real friendly with a married woman, name of Rose Hauck,” who pretended to be Myra’s best friend. Rose didn’t mean a thing to Corey, but she “was awful pretty and generous.”

Corey acts like he is the town goof and lets people get the better of him, but all through the tale it is Corey who is underhandedly manipulating people with his aw, shucks, attitude and silliness and few catch on to how dirty and underhanded he really is. Corey goes on to make a buddy of his who makes fun of him to be take the blame for a couple of murders and goes on to politic for the election by talking up how he didn’t believe the rumors about Sam Gaddis. Yup, soon enough there are rumors spreading about Gaddis baby-raping and feeding his dead wife to his hogs and so forth.

Nick Corey is a brilliant character and some would say he is a bit like Lou Ford in The Killer Inside Me. But, this book is a different one than the Lou Ford book and Corey is quite interesting in his own right.

All in all, an amazing book and you certainly have never read anything like it.

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