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Author Information: Jim Thompson

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Biography's Source: IBList user synopsis

Sept. 27, 1906 - April 7, 1977

Jim Thompson was the darkest and most innovative noir fiction writer of the 1950’s and 60’s pulp paperback era. He was born above the jailhouse in Anadarko, Oklahoma. His father, the sheriff and a congressional candidate, was the main inspiration for Thompson’s most famous character, the psychotic sheriff Lou Ford. After his father split town under suspicion of embezzlement, the family was thrown into itinerancy. Their fortunes swung between polar extremes – his father cashed out of a business partnership for a quarter of a million dollars in 1919 – but most of the time they were paupers. In his teens Thompson worked as a bellboy, procuring bootleg liquor, call girls and drugs for guests and exposing him to the local criminal underworld; by age seventeen he had already begun his lifelong battle with alcoholism. In his early-twenties he worked bottom-end jobs in the oil fields and rode the rails as a hobo. He also later graduated from the University of Nebraska. During the Depression he was active in the Communist Party and became director of the Oklahoma Federal Writer’s Project. Fellow Oklahoman and leftie Woody Guthrie helped Thompson get his first novel, Now and on Earth, published in 1942. After two more hardcover novels, he plunged into the burgeoning paperback original market, publishing ten books in 1953-54 alone. In 1955, director Stanley Kubrick tapped Thompson to co-write the screenplay for his first studio film, The Killing, but after Thompson protested about only getting a “dialogue by” credit, Kubrick agreed to hire him to write a draft for Paths of Glory and give him a proper credit. When Thompson died in Hollywood after a series of strokes at age 71, all of his 29 books were out-of-print in the U.S. His prediction prior to his death that “I’ll be famous after I’m dead about ten years,” turned out to be right on. In 1984 Black Lizard Books began to reissue many of his best novels, jumpstarting a full-blown revival that culminated in several film adaptations of his work, including The Grifters (1990, directed by Stephen Frears), After Dark My Sweet (1991), and a remake of The Getaway (1994), and spearheaded a general resurgence of interest in pulp crime fiction.




©Steven Jeffery /, 2017
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