So it turns out that the story of Jim Thompson’s life reads much like a Jim Thompson tale.
And like many Jim Thompson tales, it’s really good and sadly tragic.
I don’t know how a person can do better at connecting an artist’s life to his work the way Robert Polito does. In covering the events that formed Jim Thompson, Polito brings up ramblings and characters from Thompson’s body of work that obviously influenced the man. Jim Thompson’s one of my all-time favorite writers so to see how he became what he became made me appreciate his work even more.
It also made me incredibly sad for his life. This day in age, Thompson would have more resources to treat his alcoholism and depression, along with a more sympathetic society. Part of the reason why Thompson was able to write so effectively about sad sacks and their existential crises is that he was a sad sack who endured many an existential crisis. Polito brings out the human side in the man who was apparently quite polite and gentle to others but who wrote from the deepest recesses of his Oedpial Complex in almost every novel.
I do wish there had been more about his relationship to his wife and kids. There’s plenty about his contentious history with his father but not nearly enough on the latter. Maybe his kids didn’t want to talk about him? He seemed to be a frequently absentee dad and husband, whose wife loved him regardless. Either way, I wanted to know more in this regard.
Nevertheless, this is as good of a Jim Thompson biography as I could have hoped for and it almost singlehandedly made the Year of Jim Thompson worth it.