It's the birthday of Jim Thompson, born 116 years ago today in Oklahoma. Raised in the hard scrabble oil fields of Texas and abandoned by his father for a time, Thompson struggled from a young age to help support his family. There was no odd job he wouldn't take. His stint as a bellboy introduced him to the seedier side of life as he used his skills to procure women, drugs, and bootleg alcohol for the hotel's clients.
Thompson wrote most of his best work in the 1950s and 60s. Eleven novels were written and published just between 1952 and 1954 when he was at the height of his creative output. The two things that drove him to write were his desire to tell a story, and the need to pay his bills. He had a brief and successful fling with Hollywood with Stanley Kubrick's The Killing, and The Getaway starring Steve McQueen. But like most flings. it ended badly. Though Thompson and Kubrick wrote the screenplay for The Killing, Kubrick cheated him out of the credit. After The Getaway, several promising Hollywood options faded away. Thompson was treated almost like one of the failures in one of his novels, short-changed by grifters and con artists who wore suits and ties instead of cowboy hats and jeans.
This short documentary on Jim Thompson's life includes great commentary by Donald Westlake, who needs no introduction.