Even a lesser work by Jim Thompson is great fun to read. It is with reluctance that I admit Wild Town falls into that category, especially with such a strong set up. Bugs is a life time loser, in and out of jail with a temper and a lust for women. He wanders to an oil boom town and in the employ of local rich man, Hanlon as a hotel detective. Lou Ford is the deceptively hayseed sheriff capable of great violence.
Of course, there are dames too: Hanlon’s loose young wife whose got her eye on Bugs, the seemlingly innocent hotel maid that can’t resist a strong man, and the goodhearted school teacher that seems like the image of perfection to Bugs. The characters are colorful, they just are left in one of Thompson’s most straight forward and least bleak plots.
I can’t give too much away without spoilers, but there’s a murder, blackmail, some missing money and double crossing, it’s just missing the bleak almost surrealism that brightens the best works by Thompson (see Hell of a Woman, The Killer Inside Me). Still, fans of noir could do much worse for quick and mostly satisfying summer reading.