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Literature / After Dark, My Sweet

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After Dark, My Sweet is a 1955 crime novel written by Jim Thompson.

William "Collie" Collins is a seemingly gentle and socially awkward drifter and ex-boxer who has recently escaped from a mental institution. Though Collie appears scatter-brained and gentle, it masks a deep capacity for violence and a very short temper. After wandering into a small California town, Collie runs across barfly Fay Anderson and former lawman Garrett "Uncle Bud" Stoker, who quickly rope him into their plans to kidnap the son of a wealthy man and hold him for ransom.

It was later adapted into a film in 1990.

List of tropes applying to this book:

  • A Lighter Shade of Black: While Collie is clearly a Villain Protagonist, by Jim Thompson standards he's practically a saint. He has an actual functioning moral code and he at least tries to help people with no ulterior motive, even if he's violently insane.
  • Affably Evil: Collie. He's polite and earnestly friendly to everyone he meets, and just expects to be treated nicely in return. If you don't, however…
  • Anti-Villain: Collie. He's violent and unhinged, but by Jim Thompson standards he's practically a saint. He has a genuine moral code and at least tries to be a decent person, even if he's hindered by his mental illness, which makes him both easy to manipulate and to set off into a homicidal rage.
  • Cool Old Guy: Uncle Bud tries to cultivate this image, but Fay frequently points out that he's just as much of a failure as her and Collie.
  • Dumb Muscle: Subverted. Most people think Collie's this, but he' actually semi-unintentionally Obfuscating Stupidity.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Collie is introduced sitting at a bar happily rambling on about an obviously false story and attempting to chat with his fellow patrons. However, when the bartender asks him to leave, Collie snaps and knocks him out with a single punch.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Uncle Bud is a friendly, genial man who effortlessly charms anyone he meets, but whenever he's angry he becomes startlingly cruel.
  • Genius Bruiser: Collie's not exactly a genius, but he's pretty cunning. And seeing as he's an ex-boxer, he's more than capable of handling himself in a fight, to the point he's introduced knocking out a man with a single punch.
  • Gentle Giant: Collie is a fairly friendly and docile guy whenever he isn't set off into a rage.
  • Insane Equals Violent: Collie is very quick to resort to violence, especially if he's insulted.
  • Jerkass: Uncle Bud, whenever his Faux Affably Evil act slips up.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Fay is unrepentantly recalcitrant and mean-spirited, and spends a lot of time relentlessly insulting Collie. However, she does genuinely and repeatedly try to warn him off from going along with Bud's plan.
  • Lawman Gone Bad: Uncle Bud is a former cop who is currently masterminding a kidnapping scheme, though Fay is quick to point out he was never exactly competent at it.
  • Mood-Swinger: Fay. She can rapidly shift between being friendly or insulting the people around her, which isn't getting into how she repeatedly shifts between trying to rope Collie into Uncle Bud's scheme or trying to warn him away from it.
  • Motor Mouth: Collie is very prone to rambling on about random subjects for long periods of time.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Collie is horrified when he realizes he nearly killed Doc after almost going into one of his fits of rage.
  • Nice Guy: Doc Goldman is a kindly doctor who genuinely wants to help Collie and protect him from the outside world. Collie actually notes this multiple times and genuinely appreciates Doc's help, even if his delusional fixation on Fay makes him reject it oftentimes.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Collie's awkward demeanor and his seemingly scatterbrained and eccentric personality makes it very easy to dismiss him as a moron. However, he's genuinely cunning and good at judging people. Unfortunately, his delusions make it very easy for him to be manipulated.
  • Socially Awkward Hero: While he isn't a hero, Collie is very socially awkward and prone to both rambling and coming up with obvious lies to explain his drifting that makes him come across as stupid. That, however, is a very dangerous assumption to make.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Collie's delusions and skewed perspective of the world makes anything he says hard to trust.
  • Villain Protagonist: Collie, Fay, and Uncle Bud are kidnappers and generally unpleasant to be around. It's telling that Collie is actually the nicest of them.