The first time I become conscious of the works of Jim Thompson in the late 80’s. Black Lizard Press, then an independent publisher, had just started reprinting a run of garish pulp novels that hung there in the corner of my eye. But it wasn’t until I saw the copy of “The Killer Inside Me” that I took notice. Everyone was talking about Thompson at this point and I, who knew my Hammett, Chandler and Cain was intrigued.
What struck me hardest was the despair. Every Thompson hero was on a spiral to destruction and there was no escape. It didn’t matter how strong they were, how shrewd or driven. They were going to meet their end, and it was going to hurt.
I didn’t expect that. Sure, the characters in Cain died, but in general, the anti-heroes of pulp survive for the next book in the series, at least that’s what Richard Stark’s, Parker, had taught me.
Thompson heroes, didn’t get that. They died badly. And what’s worse, you were glad that they were gone…
I think that says a lot about an author, as I’m of the belief that no writer escapes what they see when they look in the mirror. I’ve often wondered what Thompson saw, what he struggled with…
And then I’m glad I don’t know.