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Savage Art: A Biography of Jim Thompson Paperback – October 1, 1996
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Jim Thompson was one of the greatest crime novelists ever, leaving behind a legacy of hard-boiled classics like The Grifters and The Getaway. Robert Polito has written the definitive biography of this brilliant American original. Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for biography. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
A series of Vintage reprints and Hollywood films like The Getaway and The Grifters have helped develop a wider popular and critical following for crime author Jim Thompson (1906-1977) than he sustained while alive. More twisted, sadistic and nihilistic than Chandler or Caine, Thompson's trademarks were his fiendish first-person psychopaths and lowlifes and his grim tales of failed lives and thwarted crimes. Polito, director of the writing program at Manhattan's New School, here untangles the man from his two-volume autobiography (Bad Boy and Roughneck), revealing a maverick alcoholic who was dogged by spells of depression and missed opportunities throughout his hand-to-mouth career. The son of a corrupt Oklahoma sheriff who lost his money speculating in oil, Thompson had his first alcohol-induced nervous breakdown as a hotel busboy in Ft. Worth while still in high school. He oscillated between low-wage jobs, hack journalism and literary circles for the rest of his life; joined the Communist Party in 1936; briefly became director of the Oklahoma Writer's Project; and struggled to publish novels that were often either too dark or slapdash for the mainstream. He enjoyed his most prolific period under editor Arnold Halo at Lion Books in the 1950s, eventually landing in Hollywood as a part-time film and television writer. This meticulous study adroitly evokes the rise of pulp adventure and crime magazines like Saga and True Detective, where Thompson honed his style, and the seedy underworld of hoboes and grifters who formed the models for his "savage art." Photos.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top customer reviews
The author attemps to draw similarities betweein Thompson's life and thought processes by inclunding passages from his works which becomew boring in the extreme. This will prove especially irritating to all but the individual who has read the majority of Thompson novels and short stories. The author constantly divulges every aspect of Thompson's works, down to the smallest detail. New readers of Thompson will likely feel they've already read Thompson's entire output.
This is a valid biographical tool but the author relies on it too much. The rememerances of family, associates, friends, and others who knew Thompson are also carried to the extreme. It seems every two or three paragraphs is followed by a 'rememberance' or section of Thompson's work. I probably skipped half the book due to this irrirating habit of the author trying to analyze Thompson
through these devices.
The hard facts of Thompson's life are fascinating, however, and I
found myself wondering how with all his hangups, family problems,
heavy drinking, and such how Thompson managed to live as long as he did. Thompson was a troubled individual his entire life and it
is obvious he poured much of his fears and frustrations into his incredible works.
I can recommend this book to the devoted Thompson fan since it does detail his life nicely but be aware that even the most hardened fan will find it hard going.
This award-winning book certainly deserves any awards based on the good scholarship Polito brings to the effort. The details, though, sometimes bog the reader down in minutiae that seem to detract from who Thompson was. One of the more interestings periods of Thompson's life was while working with the WPA as a writer working on the Oklahoma Guide. The connections with the writers and the communist and socialist, including Thompson, even Thompson's activitist role in the WWW is rendered in such detail that the reader wonders why Polito brings in all the detail -- which seems almost like the minutes of a party meeting -- that he does. However, whether intentionally or not, Polito puts the lie to the contention that mystery writers are right-wing apologists for capitalism. Thompson (and perhaps even more so Lous L'Amour who was part of Thompson's group of writers who were involved in Oklahoma's communist party) were not just hacks churning out pulp fiction for the he-man magazines but were men of conscience who were well aware of the plight of the working man during this era in this time and place. The fact that Thompson gave up the party doesn't detract (or indict) from his deep feelings for injustices he experienced in his life and saw in others.
All in all, Polito's work represents excellent scholarship, and in reading this book, you will come away with a close rendering of Jim Thompson's life. However, while well documented and certainly with a pedestrian scholarship, I never felt that Polito found the source of Thomson's real genius.
Plus the writer includes fragmentary notes of lost papers, and of books written by Jimmy now out of print, lots of pictures, newspapers notices's...It is a great book ( and a big one: 500 pages!). I would like to know if Polito had the birth certificate of Jim, because I'm an astrologer and very curious to know the hour he was born!