Jim Thompson’s childhood was quite unconventional, according to his wife, Alberta. Born James Myers Thompson, he grew up in Oklahoma, Texas, and Nebraska, where his brilliant and charismatic but erratic father first triumphed and then hit the bottom in one career after another, finally going bankrupt in oil after having made millions. Jim Thompson shared his father’s brilliance and his inability to establish order in his life. While still in high school, he began his long struggle with alcohol, despairing at the meaninglessness of life and generating a self-destructive rage at the stupidity and parochialism of society around him.
He attended the University of Nebraska for a few years and married Alberta there in 1931. To feed his wife and three children during the Great Depression, he worked in hotels, oil fields, collection agencies, and vegetable fields. He had had his first story published at the age of fifteen and earned extra money by writing true-crime stories, character sketches, and vignettes of his experiences with the down-and-out people around him. His appointment in the late 1930’s as director of the Oklahoma Writers Project inspired him to break into the larger publishing world. He wrote two excellent novels, Now and on Earth (1942) and Heed the Thunder (1946), but despite praise from critics, neither book sold. Thompson worked on several major newspapers and briefly served as editor-in-chief of Saga...
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