Phillip Thompson: Outside the Law (a book discussion)

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Phillip Thompson’s latest thriller, Outside the Law, would/should/will attract a vast array of readers.  There are those who enjoy the thriller genre, of course. But Thompson’s book will also garner appreciation from those who love books detailing the all important “place.”

This is a Southern novel, set in rural Mississippi and Thompson never lets you forget it. His writing sets us firmly right where we belong in the novel. No wandering, effluent text descriptions in the style of Faulkner, oh no, Thompson is precise and deliberate in setting us right where each scene takes place. Carefully chosen descriptions give you the sense of place whether you’ve been there or never set eyes on rural Mississippi.

Try imagining this scene:

“…The sign proclaimed the establishment a Bill’s Bait Shop. He slowed the car and checked the rearview mirror once again for traffic. Seeing none, he slowed further as the car rolled onto the old steel truss bridge, looming in the yellow glow of his headlights. The steel girders, painted green like the water below, angled up and across the still river like an erector set. He gazed at the serene riverbanks. The milky light of a half-moon shone on summer vegetation hugging the water’s edge, honeysuckle and Johnsongrass, willows arching like delicate fingers over the surface, kudzu blanketing every open space. The water here looked deep.”

Sets you right there, doesn’t it? Sounds a bit ominous, too.

Thompson uses just the right amount of local dialog or jargon. Not enough to bog you down, just a simple “ahite” (*all right) here and there, maybe a few more colloquialisms to set the scene.

Okay, back to the discussion. Are the characters believable? Well, damn straight they are. If you’ve ever watched Longmire, Justified or even old episodes (well, they’d all be old, there are no new, duh) of Gunsmoke or Paladin, you’ll understand the lawman “Colt” whose hair-trigger responses elicit a literary retort, like rapid shots of text rather than bullets. He’s his own man and bears responsibility for his actions.

The villains make your hair stand on end. Thompson’s ultimate evil, “Hatch”, completely engages the reader’s attention. As in all the book’s characters, the reader knows the villain through dialog and action, description and detail.

Thompson’s approach to storytelling is through a technique wherein each character has a chapter, the action stands alone, leading to the response, the action, of the next character in the novel. This really works, to put it simply. The point of view in each chapter resonates with the person who “owns” it. Whether lawbreaker or law enforcement, each comes from a different place and Thompson deftly moves from one mindset to another.

Yes, I’d recommend this book. It makes the heart sing when a Mule writer writes! Phillip Thompson’s “Outside the Law” needs to be savored and enjoyed. Read it for the action but also read it for the sense of place. Thompson’s writing is sparse and brilliant, no flowery speeches, no unnecessary actions — finding writing this tight and well written can be an onerous task. Give yourself a break and just get this book knowing it will live up to your expectations.

Plot? Well… bad guys sell oxycodone, good cops try to stop them, people are killed in the process, who will prevail — good or evil? Telling any more would give away the book but I gotta’ tell you, it’s got one explosive ending!

Phillip Thompson, Outside the Law, .

From the website:

OUTSIDE THE LAW by Phillip Thompson. Colt Harper is the Sheriff in a rural Mississippi county who goes up against a Memphis drug cartel and their cold-blooded assassin and will do whatever it take to get justice…even if it means going outside the law.