Archive for Jim Thompson

Bad Boy – Jim Thompson (Lion Books, 1955)

Posted in crime noir, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , on February 27, 2012 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Here is a case of the pulp writer slipping “something else” onto the book racks simply on name value. Bad Boy isn’t a novel but a series of interlinked autobiographical vignettes…today we would call it a collection of creative non-fiction or flash memoir. Thompson offers anecdotes about his childhood, his restless father who could never decide on what to be (lawyer, oil man, insurance agent, realtor, lender), his three-year stint as a bellboy, which led to looks like Now and on Earth and A Swell-Looking Babe; a stay in a sanitorium to dry out, leading to The Alcoholics; a bizarre encounter with a smiling but psychotic sheriff who told a young Thompson he could kill Thompson and no one would ever know or care, leading to The Killer Inside Me and Pop. 1240…tales of odd jobs and odd men in the Depression era; working as a junior and senior reporter; writing stetckes and stories and then novels; hunger, desperation, and so on.

According to the Thompson bio, Savage Art, he would later mine the chapters in this book and re-write them as stories and articles for magazines when he needed a few bucks.

A must-read for Thompson fans…if you are not into is work, you might not appreciate the memoir of it all.

After Dark, My Sweet – Jim Thompson (Popular Library, 1955)

Posted in crime noir, noir fiction, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , on January 25, 2012 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Reading the Jim Thompson bio, Savage Art, Lion Books had pruchased too many manuscripts from the writer…not all his books were published in the chronology he wrote them, some were inventoried for a few years, and some were re-sold to other publishers, often new ones that needed quick product, as the case is here with After Dark, My Sweet with Popular Library. (Harlan Ellison has a great personal story of selling his first novel, Web of the City, to Lion for $1,000 in 1958 — in fact he met Thompson at the Lion Books office — and then he was drafted, and while working on the armny base newspaper over a year later where he talked them into a book review section, he opened a box of review copies from Pryamid Books and found one called Rumble with bis name on it…Lion had gone ot of bisiness and had sold its unpublished inventory of manuscripts to Pryamid.)

After Dark is narrated by the typical outsider caught up in crime…Kevin “Kid” Collins is an ex-boxer who has escaped from a mental institute…he has anger management and rage issues and had removed his goves and murdered his oppenent in the ring.  Acting a bit insane and mentally challenged, he got off the murder charge on an insanity plea.

He wanders into a small town and in a bar, he meets Fay, a sexy widow who takes him home and hires him to maintain the house, and later maintain her in bed. He gets pissed off at the bartender and knocks the bartender out with a skillful punch, which impresses Kay, who at first was making fun of him because he seemed slow and dim-witted.  She has a “friend,” an older man and ex-cop known as Uncle Bud, who has been plotting the kidnapping of a rich family’s sickly son.  Uncle Bud recruits Collie — as Fay calls him — into the crime, and seems she has been luring him into the scheme from the start.

Collie almost splits town, but he is in love with Kay and thinks fhey have a future, and the possibility of a three-split ransom entices him, even though he suspects that Uncle Bud will double-cross him, kill him, pin the whole kidnapping on him to make Uncle Bud look like a hero and get back into the good graces of the police department. (Mel Gibson’s movie Ransom had a simnilar plot.)

Of course, things go awry — at first taking the wrong boy from a playground, the boy having diabetes issues and needed medicine, Fay’s ambiguous attitude after she learns Collie is a bughouse escapee…

There is a 1990 movie version, a smooth indie, with Jason Patric playing Collie, Rachel Ward as Fay (with a Brit accent) and Bruce Dern as Uncle Bud.  The movie is fairly faithful to Thomspson’s story, adding in a pretty stemy multi-orgasmoic all-night sex scene (and many shots of Rachel Ward’s behind in veruy tight demin short-shorts). It was filmed in Indo, a place I know, and I was pleased to see familiar territory.

Like a number of Thomspon’s books, the novel is the final thoughts of a man before he dies, but we see it coming…how else could it be for Kid Collins?  It’s almost as if he wants it, knowing he is a loser in life who knew a few moments of happiness.

Savage Night – Jim Thompson (Lion Books, 1954)

Posted in crime noir, noir fiction, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , on December 25, 2011 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

The narrator of this fine noir novel is Carl Bigelow, once known as Little Bigger, a notorious hit man for the mob who is five feet tall and perpetually looks like a kid. He has been hiding out in Arizona, running a gas station, having got a new set of teeth, contact lenses, and a new life…but he is suffering from a lung ailment that has him coughting up blood from time to time.

“The Man” has found him…The Man is a mysterious syndicate guy who one day is in the papers for indictments, beats them, and a month later he is seen in society pages yukking it up with the judges and politicians who were trying to convict him of this or that. We realize it is all for show, and it is all about money.

There is a fellow who is abut to tur state’s evidence because he cannot deal with jail, and Carl Littke Bigger has been found and hired t take the guy out. Carl cannot say no to the job, or The Man will just have him killed, just as The Man orders Carl to kill a mutual acquanitance to prove he still has a killer inside him.

The plot for murder is an intricate one: Carl moves to the snall town where the target lives, enrolls in the local teacher’s college as a cover, and rents a room in the house of te very target…there he seduces and plays emotional games with the target’s lonely ex-singer/stripper wife, and the crippled maid, Ruthie, who also goes to the college.

Ruthie needs crutches because ne of her legs, at the knee, did not fully form, and there at the knee isna tiny foot wth tiny toes. Carl witnesses this tiny foot when he ravishes Ruthie in his bedroom in one of the most perverse sex scenes to come out of noir fiction yet.

I could see Mickey Rooney in this part, c. 1960 or so…a small tough guy. How does this five foot fellow charm the ladies? They crave attention and he gives it to them — he is s charmer, and flatters them, and gets them to love him…the idea, he tells The Man, is to get the wife to actually help him murder the target, and he will patsy her and make it look like she did it alone.

Instead, he frames Ruthie, and then runs away with her…he runs because he knows The Man will take him out after he does the job, to insure no loose ends.

The local good ol’ boy sheriff suspects him, checks him out…and in a bold and swifty move, Carl frames himself by sending an anonymous note stating who he really is, the notorious Little Bigger, but shen it all comes up to look like b.s., it helps him in his plan.

But Carl is insane…he is dying from his ailment, he knows he will never get out of the grip of the mob, and he slowly goes nuts…he may even have fallen for Ruthie, the cripple girl he has knocked up and framed for murder.

The last 10 pages are bizarre…we are not sure what is reality and what are hallucinations…did he kill Ruthie and the baby in her or has she murdered him? Did she ever exist? Has this whole novel been the wild paranoid fantasies of a dying man?

An amazing read…evidence of Thompson’s brilliance as the, yes, Fyodor D. of crime spree. Existential, literate, and American all the way.

A Swell-Looking Babe by Jim Thompson (Lion Books, 1954; Black Lizard Books, 1987)

Posted in crime noir, noir fiction, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , on December 17, 2011 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

A third-person narrative, where Thompson normally wrote his best in first person, of young Dusty Rhodes, a bellhop in an “upscale” ($15 a night) hotel that never lets a single woman take a roon, because chnaces are she is a working girl, and young couples must show marriage certificates, and more importantly: employees are forbidden to spend some time in any guests rooms, especially the male employees with female guests. Dusty has had some propositions but thus far has ignored temptation, until one swell-looking babe from Dallas comes rolling into town and takes a room…her looks even make the night desk clerk forget that she is a single woman, and she gets the special rate of $10 a night.

His life basically sucks. He was going to college with an intent of becoming a doctor, but then his mom died, and his father lost his teaching job because he had signed a petition associated with an American Communist group. It is the early 1950s, there is the red scare and the black listing. His father’s health is bad and his mind is slipping. Dustyhad to quit college and get a job not take care of his dad, and pay the lawyer handling his dad’s lawsuit to get his job back.  Working the night shift at the Manton Hotel is better for him, the tips are better.

One of the residents is a former botegger and wise guy with underworld crime connections named Tug. He always has wise guys coming to visit him. Tug has taken a liking to the young bellhop Dusty.

One night the swell-looking babe calls up for stationary and Dusty brings itto her…he is met with her half-naked body and a lipstick smeared kiss…then she pushes him away and starts screaming…the furniture in her room is upturned…Tug comes to his rescue, tells him gthe broad is setting hm up and do’t worry, kid, ol’ Tug will take care of it.

Dusty can’t believe she has set him up for a lawsuit at the hotel; she will claim he tried to rape her; the hotel will pay her off to keep quiet. He has heard of such scams. But he has Tug onhis side, Tug and his boys have whisked Marcia away, but Tug wants Dusty to do soemthing for him: help him rob the hotel of the safe desposit boxes where some of the guests, in for the horse races, keep a lot of money, at least $200K all together…

Murders happen, doublecrosses, the babe from Dallas is in on it with Tug, they had set him up all along…and despite Dusty trying to do the right thing, nothing works out for him.

Like many Thompson novels, a noir read with a dark twist ending.

Always fun.

Swell-looking babes:

Nothing More Than Murder

Posted in crime noir, noir fiction, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , on November 29, 2011 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Jim Thompson’s third novel znd first cri e noir, published in 1954 by Harper and Row and then in paperback by Dell, before he started writing mainly for Lion Books.

Narrated by Joe Wilmot, he is not as cold blooded as later narrators, yt he has no moral compass when it comes to murder. He and his older wife run a small down movie theater. Theirs is a loveless marriage., especially when she catches him smooching with the honely teen employee, Carol.

His wife wanys out, and there is insurance money to be had. They hire a woman the same size as her, kill her, set the house on fire so the body is charred.  She takes off and waits for the insurance money. Meanwhile, Joe uis being blackmailed by two men who suspect he killed his wife for the money, Carol is in on it and will mess it up, and an insurance investigator is hounding him in a friendly way.

What can I say? Great read, but what Thompson is not?

Recoil by Jim Thompson (Lion Books, 1953)

Posted in crime noir, noir fiction, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , on March 30, 2011 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

The Blazk Lizard edition:

This isn’t Thompson’s best, this is no Grifters, Getaway or Killer Inside Me. However, even Thompson not at his best is better than many during the era.

Pat, the narrator, has been in prison for 15 years for a bank robbery where nothing was stolen. He could spend his life behind bars unless he can find some outstanding citizen to sponsor his parole.  He sends out a number of letters…

An angel comes to spring him, in the guise of Doc. Doc acts like he is doing a good deed to atone for his sins, and says Pat got a crappy deal on the sentence.  Doc has alos enlisted the help of a Senator for the parole, securing Pat a government worker job.

Enter Doc’s wife who isn’t his wife, some shady characters, textbook salesmen, and a private ye Pat hires to find out the real reason Doc sprung him.  The gumshoe winds up dead and the cops finger Pat for it.

Before Pat goes back to the hoosegaw, he wants to know what the hell this is all about.  It seems convoluted at first, Doc swindling some money to get a certain textbook banned from the schools so the competing publisher can get that lucrative state-wide grant, selling thousands of textbooks at high prices.

But what really is going on, the Doc using that bribe money to guy ten life insurance policies on himself, fake his murder and make it look like Pat did it, and hiding out for a year as his real wife collcts the $100,000 double indemnity payouts.


Yes, it gets Chandler-esque in its strange crime plot, and kind of corny at the end with a two-page “happily ever after” ending where Pat gets an investigator job for foilibg Doc’s plans, and winds up with Doc’s wife as his own.


But a fun read, more goofy than dark.

The Killer Inside Me by Jim Thompson (Lion Books, 1952)

Posted in crime noir, noir fiction, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , on September 26, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

The recent film adaptation of Jim Thompson’s classic, and (aside from The Grifters) probably his most well-known, very reprinted novel, had us going back to read this work of psychological crime that was way ahead of its time.

Do we need to talk about the plot here? Certainly many of you who read this blog know the premise — first-person narrative of a sociopath and murderer, West Texas deputy sheriff Lou Ford, age 29, who keeps murdering to cover up his initial crime, setting up an old friend with what appears to be a murder-suicide between the friend and his hooker girlfriend.

There was a 1970s film adapt with Stacy Keach, a medicore actor who portrayed Mike Hammer and Ernest Hemingway on television.  The new 2010 adapt, starring Casey Afleck as Ford, is far more true to the novel, and examines Lou’s obsession with spanking and S/M in grander detail.  The spanking scene with Jessica Alba alone is worth the price of admission, and shows that Alba, along with her recent role in Machete, is moving away from that goody-two-shoes image that hindered her career (most likely cooked up by her agents and managers).

When Thompson died in 1977, in San Diego, California, working his final years as a time card manager at Lockheed-Martin, all his books out of print and forgotten, he told his children that one day his books would be rediscovered and they would provide revenue for the family.  He was right: a Thompson resurgence happened in France in the 1980s, in the U.S. in the 1990s, helped along by the movie version of The Grifters (penned by Donald E. Westlake, in fact)

Lion Books was a short-lived paperback house that vanished as quickly as it appeared. Interestingly, Lion bought Harlan Ellison’s first novel, Web of the City, and went under before publishing it, selling the manuscript to Pyramid Books, publishing it as Rumble. (Also of interest: Ellison originally acquired and edited The Grifters in the 1950s for Regency Books, an imprint of William Hamling’s, along with Rogue Magazine and Nightstand Books.)