The Getaway by Jim Thompson
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
"Flight is many things."
One remembers the 1972 Hollywood movie with Steve McQueen and Ali MacGraw (the horrid 1994 remake is hardly worth mentioning). Sam Peckinpah's direction, tense plot, and the violent extended gunfight scene made the film into a classic that nowadays seems to be enjoying a renaissance of popularity. The film is based on Jim Thompson's "The Getaway" (1958), yet it would be hard to find a book and a movie based on it, which - except for some common elements of the plot - would be more different.
Coolheaded, intelligent, and likeable criminal, Doc McCoy, is the mastermind of a bank robbery. While the Doc and his crew flawlessly pull off the elaborate heist, not all aspects of the getaway plan work as expected and the Doc's and his wife's flight with the loot to their promised safe haven in Mexico is filled with horrors.
To me the best thing in the book is that it gives a totally unexpected answer to the question "Will Doc and his wife manage to escape justice?" The answer, neither "yes" nor "no", transcends this simplistic question. While literary and somewhat allegorical the denouement is very pleasing for its surprise factor.
Other than the ending, I have to commend the well-constructed plot. The writing is economical yet notably dated: I am currently reading a novel written only four years later, which sounds contemporary, while Mr. Thompson's prose feels like it came from the 1930s. Also, only McCoy's character is drawn with any depth: all other protagonists are pure paper. The portrayal of women in the novel may be considered demeaning. The high violence content - the novel depicts numerous killings - is to be expected and feels natural.
Two and a half stars
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