Pop. 1280

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Pop. 1280
First edition
Author Jim Thompson
Country United States
Language English
Genre Crime novel
Publisher Gold Medal Books
Publication date
Media type print
Pages 143

Pop. 1280 is a crime novel by Jim Thompson, published in 1964.[1][2] NPR's Stephen Marche described it as Thompson's "true masterpiece, a preposterously upsetting, ridiculously hilarious layer cake of nastiness, a romp through a world of nearly infinite deceit."[3]


Pop. 1280 is the first-person narrative of Nick Corey, the listless sheriff of Potts County, the "47th largest county in the state" (probably Texas). He lives in Pottsville which has a population of "1280 souls" (a number much reduced by the story's end). The narrative suggests that Sheriff Nick's tale dates to the Russian Revolution in 1917.

Sheriff Nick Corey presents himself as a genial fool, simplistic, over-accommodating, and harmless to a fault (given he is Pottsville's sole lawman). Early chapters are related in comic style representative of farce rather than hard-boiled crime fiction. From the outset Nick's problems appear to be those of a harmless fool, managing his shrew wife and idiot brother-in-law while simultaneously having affairs in town; a difficult election campaign against a more worthy candidate; negotiations with criminals and undesirables in Pottsville; and the evasion of work and physical exertion. Throughout a narrative that plumbs psychological depths particular to the novels of Jim Thompson, the farcical tone of Pop. 1280 is undermined by the emergence of a man far more cunning, ruthless, and psychotic than he presents himself.


Pop. 1280 was adapted as the French film Coup de Torchon (1981), directed by Bertrand Tavernier, set in French West Africa in 1938.[4]


  1. ^ Stephen Farber (1990-01-21). "In the Desert, a Jim Thompson Novel Blossoms on Film". Retrieved 2012-04-10. 
  2. ^ Charles McGrath (2010-06-03). "Filmed to a Pulp". The New York Times. Retrieved 2012-04-10. 
  3. ^ Marche, Stephen. "Bad Sheriff: Murder, Lies And Southern Fried Catfish". NPR.org. Retrieved 2015-05-08. 
  4. ^ Janet Maslin (1982-12-20). "Clean Slate (1981) 'Coup De Torchon,' Life In A French Colony". The New York Times. Retrieved 2012-04-10. 

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