I have been on a quest since discovering the outstanding novels highlighted by Hard Case Crime, to finding the novels of the pulp and post pulp era authors. I recently found one such author, whose book "The Grifters" was the basis of a movie I really enjoyed, who fit the bill.

Jim Thompson had a long career and thanks to the publisher "Black Lizard" (now a part of Random House) his work saw a resurgence in the 1980s.

Here are a few links that are much more informative that anything I could write:




I am currently reading "The Killer Inside Me" and am really enjoying it. I am hoping to read "The Grifters", "Wild Town" and "Cropper's Cabin"

Do you have any favorite Jim Thompson books or do any writers claim Thompson as one of their influences?

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My favorites are Savage Night, Hell of a Woman, Swell-Looking Babe, The Getaway, After Dark My Sweet and Pop. 1280. His two Faulkner-like books, Now and On Earth, Heed the Thunder, are very good, but not crime fiction. His short noir story, Forever After, is a classic and what he accomplishes in those 6 pages are amazing.

There's some Thompson influence in my first book, Fast Lane, although there's probably more of a Ross Macdonald influence in that one. I don't believe there's any Thompson influence in any of my other books. But Thompson, Hammett, Willeford and Stout are easily my favorite crime fiction writers.

I have a short article about Thompson (which was later reprinted by Gary Lovisi for his Paperbacks on Parades) at :


Thompson, Hammett, Willeford and Stout are easily my favorite crime fiction writers.

Dave, what is it about these authors that you think makes them endure over time? I want to read more classics, and it's hard to know where to start. If you were recommending books to give someone an overview of classic crime fiction, which titles would you suggest?
Sandra, they were great writers who happened to write crime fiction. With Thompson and Hammett, these guys were shaped by unique times and experiences that you're just not going to find today--Hammett serving in World War I and being a Pinkerton detective, Thompson growing up in the depression and having most of the jobs that his characters had in his books--bellboy, door-to-door salesman, wildcatter, newspaperman, etc. What I love about Hammett's writing is the toughness and sparseness of it--and the Continental Op is one of the great characters in crime fiction, a short, balding nameless op who's relentless in getting the case solved. I'd recommend everything he wrote--but maybe start with his Continental Op short story collections, then go to Maltese Falcon and Red Harvest. Thomspon's writing is a wild ride--and a hell of a writer. I'd start with the books I mentioned above, but once you get hooked you're going to want to read all of his. Stout in my opinion was the best pure writer of anyone who ever wrote crime fiction--and his Nero Wolfe books are a neat blend of American Hardboiled and classic British Detective--wiht Archie Goodwin being the wisecracking harboiled PI and Nero Wolfe the brilliant and eccentric Sherlock Holmes-type detective who would have all the clues brought to him, and after an interrogation of all the witnesses point out the guilty party (and always several steps ahead of Archie). The writing and relationships carry these books, but Stout also wrote a brilliant and very perverse noir classic, How Like A God, that I highly recommend. With Stout, I'd start with the second Nero Wolfe book (his first Fer-Der-Lance seems kind of stiff to me) and go on from there. His early books have stronger plots, but by the time you get hooked its the interplay between Archie and Nero that will keep you reading. With Willeford there's a sardonic tone and subversiveness in his books I really dig--a common theme of a true artist willing to destroy himself (and those around him) than consenting to selling out. Of course, the guy like the others mentioned, was also a great writer. I'd start with The Woman Chaser, Cockfighter, The Shark-Infested Custard, Wild Wives, then move onto his Hoke Mosely series starting with Miami Blues.
A very nice piece in Hard Luck, Dave. Thanks.
That was a highly enjoyable article, Dave.

I think that Thompson's style, because of his upbringing and lifestyle, has a unique element to it.

I am really enjoying how he is defining the character of Lou Ford in "The Killer Inside Me." Ford is a serial killer of sorts, but instead of being embellished with bizarre personality traits or wallowing in self-pity at being a monster, he's a pragmatist. He simply has a "sickness" that he keeps under control.
I love Jim Thompson's stuff. It's so dark and nasty. He really has his characters plumb those moral depths. THE KILLER INSIDE ME is, of course, a classic (and Sandra, if you haven't read that one start there. I also love A HELL OF A WOMAN, and POP.1280. I haven't read all his books yet - I dip in whenever I feel the urge :o)

He led a colourful life - his autobiographical books (which read like novels) are really good fun - BAD BOY and ROUGHNECK.
My father tells of working in the city room with an alcoholic Jim Thompson at the old Los Angeles Mirror in the early 1950s. Pop said all JT did was work on his novels and drink. The other reporters and re-write men (who typed up as stories what news the reporters phoned in) thought he was nuts. Pop said almost no one talked to him, although my dad had a couple of his novels around the house for me to read. I loved them.
That's an interesting story Jack.

It fits with the other stories I heard about him
I wrote a "review" of Thompson's Now and on Earth on Epinions.com in 2000--read the book with a bunch of other pals on the site and we all posted our impressions there:


He changed my whole perception of writing, especially fiction.
Powerful stuff, Cornelia. I really enjoyed it.
I'm so glad you started this thread. Thompson rules!
The article was very informative and had a fascinating premise. Thanks for the link.

The timing was mostly coincidental, but it does reinforce the idea that violence in literature has always been with us. It's easy to look back and see kinder, gentler times but that is simply not the case. Thompson is respected partly because he survived the test of time. The book I am reading is 57 years old. I can't say there are too many more from that era with it on my shelf.

Twenty years from now, people will put up the surviving books from this time and marvel at the themes and how they capture the spirit of the times. I bet a few of them will be the same ones criticized recently.

But Back to the topic at hand. I discovered to my great joy that the library in my home town can order in a few Jim Thompson books that are harder to find. I am surprised at the simple elegant way he captures the rawness of such a disturbed mind. I'm loving it.


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