Contribution

(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Jim Thompson brought a level of psychological realism to crime novels seldom achieved by writers in that or any other genre. He explored the criminal mind in chilling and powerful first-person narrations, presenting the ordinary world through the eyes of brutal and brutalized killers to whom commonplace morality and rules of behavior do not apply. Thompson’s killers tell their stories and describe their savage behavior without entirely losing the reader’s sympathy and understanding, yet Thompson did not justify or excuse his criminals because of their warped environments, nor did he maintain the reader’s sympathy by providing his killers with unusually despicable victims. He achieved something much more difficult: He persuasively presented a world that causes readers to suspend their ordinary moral judgments as too simplistic and abstract to apply to the margins of society inhabited by his characters.