A novel by Jim Thompson, initially published in 1964. A twisted conglomeration of styles, Pop. 1280 reads like an existential, noir-tinged black comedy.
Nick Corey is the well-meaning but mostly ineffectual sheriff of Potts County, a tiny pre-civil war community somewhere in the southern United States. He lives with his wife, Myra, and her idiot brother Lenny. Nick does what he can to avoid them, in the process having two affairs, one with Myra's best friend, Rose, and one with Amy, his childhood sweetheart. After he kills two local thugs who have been hassling him, Corey must continue killing and blackmailing the locals to keep everything the way it was.
The plot is complicated, basically centering on Corey's near-instantaneous change from pushover to ruthless, cold-hearted killer, but it isn't really the point of the whole affair. It's the way it's told more than what it says. Thompson creates a wonderfully lush world in a little over two-hundred pages, complete with wife-beaters, pimps, crooked cops, and racists. Thompson throws in a religious subtext (comparing Corey's actions to those of Jesus Christ) with some philosophical underpinnings to keep you thinking. The end result is that this novel continually surprises - it's not just anything; it plays with different genres without sinking into any one of them.
Bertrand Tavernier directed a french-language film adaptation called "Coup de Torchon" ("Clean Slate"), released in 1981.