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James Myers Thompson was an American author and screenwriter, known for his hardboiled crime fiction. Thompson was born in Anadarko, Oklahoma Territory, on Sept. 27, 1906, and began writing early. He published a few short pieces while still in his mid-teens. He was intelligent and well – read but had little interest in or inclination towards formal education.
Thompson wrote more than thirty novels, the majority of which were original paperback publications, published in the 1940s and 1950s. Despite some positive critical notice, he was little recognized in his lifetime.
His best regarded works include The Killer Inside Me, Savage Night, A Hell of a Woman and Pop. 1280.
The writer R.V. Cassill has suggested that of all crime fiction, Thompson’s was the rawest and most harrowing; that neither Dashiell Hammett nor Raymond Chandler nor Horace McCoy, author of the bleak They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?, ever “wrote a book within miles of Thompson”.
In the introduction to Now and on Earth, Stephen King says he most admires Thompson’s work because “The guy was over the top. The guy was absolutely over the top. Big Jim didn’t know the meaning of the word stop. …he let himself see everything, he let himself write it down, then he let himself publish it.”
Thompson was called a “Dimestore Dostoevsky” by writer Geoffrey O’Brien.
Thompson’s life was colorful. His novels were inspired by his experiences. Thompson’s father was sheriff of Caddo County, Okla. He ran for the state legislature in 1906 but was defeated. Soon after he left the sheriff’s office under a cloud of embezzlement rumors. The Thompson family moved to Texas. The theme of a once-prominent family overtaken by ill – fortune was featured in some of Thompson’s works.
In the early 1930s, Thompson worked as the head of the Oklahoma Federal Writers Project, one of several New Deal programs intended to provide work for Americans during the Great Depression. Louis L’Amour, among others, worked under Thompson’s direction in this project.
Thompson’s stories are about grifters, losers, sociopaths and psychopaths -some at the fringe of society, some at its heart, their first – person narratives revealing a deep understanding of the warped mind. There are few good guys in Thompson’s literature. Most of his characters are abusive or simply biding time until an opportunity presents itself, though many also have decent impulses.
Thompson died Apr. 7, 1977.
Author trivia: Herman Melville’s Moby Dick was inspired by a real event. In 1820, the Nantucket whaler Essex was repeatedly rammed by a large sperm whale and sank in the Pacific Ocean, leaving the 20 crewmembers adrift in three small whaleboats for 95 days. Only eight men survived.
Interesting trivia: Reading about yawning is enough to make many people yawn.
Quote: “Read, read, read. Read everything ; trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it’s good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out of the window.” ~William Faulkner
Don’t forget the public library if you’re wanting to find a book to read or to listen to.
See you on the bricks!