The Fact and the Fiction: Jim Thompson Trivia

Mulholland Books is pleased to announce the publication of Jim Thompson’s THE KILLER INSIDE ME, THE GRIFTERS, A SWELL-LOOKING BABE, THE NOTHING MAN, and AFTER DARK, MY SWEET, available as e-books for the first time.

Jim Thompson’s sometimes charmed, sometimes troubled life has been the subject of much debate–just like in his fiction, which often found inspiration from real-life experiences, it’s sometimes hard to separate the cold, hard facts ofThompson’s life from pure fantasy. Below are a few tidbits from the life of Jim Thompson you may or may not know. Rememeber: if you’ve never read a Thompson novel, it’s now easier to get started than ever before!

Jim Thompson wrote nearly half of the The Killer Inside Me, his most recognizable work, in just two weeks, after a fateful meeting at the Empire State Building offices of Lion Books, where the idea of a cop who covers up the murder of a prostitute
was first introduced to him. He then left New York City for the Quantico Marine Corps Base in Virginia where he finished the first draft of the novel in another two-week surge.

When Thompson was courting his future wife Alberta, he used to tease her by claiming he was born in jail. The boast was half true—he was actually born one floor above the cell block of the Caddo County Jail, in the apartment his family lived in while his father was deputy sheriff of the county.ere his sister Maxine lived with her family, where he finished the first draft of the novel in another two-week surge.

Many have speculated at the psychological roots of Thompson’s focus on crime and criminality in his writing; some have suggested it might have had something to do with Jim Thompson’s father, with whom the author had a famously fractious relationship. His editor at Lion Books,
Arnold Hano, has been quoted as follows: “Regarding all the
violence [in Thompson’s novels], I suspect his I suspect his relationship with his father is much more of a causal factor than anything else. The anger, the quiet murdering, was Jim getting back somehow.”

Late in life, Jim Thompson enjoyed a brief creative partnership with Stanley Kubrick, who had read Thompson’s work and considered him a singular talent. The two went on to collaborate on two of Kubrick’s earliest notable films, The Killing and Paths of Glory. But their friendship ended over a bitter dispute over Thompson’s writing credits on the two films.

Thompson’s most famous creation, the local sheriff, serial-killer-in-disguise Lou Ford, appears in slightly different form in one other Jim Thompson novel, Wild Town, in a series of events that predates those of The Killer Inside Me. But
Thompson wrote Lou Ford into another completed manuscript as well, which would become the novel The   Transgressors. The novel, written during the late stages of Thompson’s career, would have featured Lou Ford as a protagonist, but Thompson decided against it at the last minute for reasons having to do with the motion picture rights to The Killer Inside Me. Instead of a significant rewrite, Thompson simply renamed the Ford the phonetically-similar moniker Tom Lord.

In addition to his many novels, Thompson wrote two autobiography-as-tall-tales, Roughneck and Bad Boy that shed light a darkly comic light on his unusual upbringing and wild early years.Before becoming a full-time novelist, Thompson was variously employed as a hotel bellboy, an oil field laborer, a factory worker and a freelance journalist.

Up to his death, Jim Thompson was certain he’d be revered as an acclaimed author—on his deathbed in 1977, he told his wife he’d be famous in a decade’s time. He was right—give or take a few years.

Jim Thompson was born in Anadarko, Oklahoma. He began writing fiction at a very young age, selling his first story to True Detective when he was only fourteen. Thompson eventually wrote twenty-nine novels, all but three of which were published as paperback originals. Thompson also co-wrote two screenplays (for the Stanley Kubrick films The Killing and Paths of Glory). Several of his novels have been filmed by American and French directors, resulting in classic noir including The Killer Inside Me (1952), The Getaway (1972), and The Grifters(1990).

Over the next year, Mulholland Books will be publishing Jim Thompson’s entire body of work in e-book format for the first time. Look for the next batch next month.