Jim Thompson Noir Fest 2011

The Jim Thompson Noir Fest begins May 1, 2011. Here are the books I’ll be reading:

The Killer Inside Me (1952)

Savage Night (1953)

A Swell-Looking Babe (1954)

A Hell of a Woman (1954)

The Getaway (1959)

The Grifters (1963)

Pop. 1280 (1964)

I selected those titles out of curiosity mainly, and if I get particularly ambitious, perhaps I’ll read that After Dark, My Sweet (1955). For those interested in the book-film connection, there have been a number of film adaptations of Thompson’s work:

The Killer Inside Me (2010 & 1976)

This World then the Fireworks (1997)

The Kill-off (1989)

A Swell-Looking Babe (Hit Me) 1996

The Getaway (1994 & 1972)

The Grifters (1990)

After Dark, My Sweet (1990)
Coup de Torchon (Pop 1280) 1981

Série Noire (A Hell of a Woman) 1979

Thompson (1906-1977) was a lot more prolific than I realised, so it was no easy matter selecting a few books to cover. He was not a well-known author in his lifetime, but his reputation grew with the republication of a number of his titles by Black Lizard Books. Perhaps the film adaptations brought a new audience too. Thompson had the nickname ‘Dimestore Dostoevsky,’ so I’m intrigued about that. I’m curious to see how much of that “dialectic of isolated consciousness” exists in his books. I’m also curious to see whether the books are blatantly cinematic.

Thanks to comments & encouragement from Leroy & Lichanos, I feel inspired to get these neglected volumes off my shelf and read them. The next few weeks will not be exclusively Thompson and I’ll read a few other non-Thompsons in-between as the antidote.

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33 Comments

Filed under Fiction, Thompson Jim

33 responses to “Jim Thompson Noir Fest 2011

  1. leroyhunter

    Great stuff! The full listing of adaptations is great.

    I’ll join in with the 3 I have on the shelf. I’ve read that some of the later books are truly deranged.

  2. That’s quite a project. I’m not sure there are many writers out there of whom I would like to read 7 books in a row. Hope they are good and am looking forward to read your reviews and of course to see which one you did prefer. Although my TBR pile is huge, I’m afraid there is no Jim Thompson novel in it but I found one of his short stories “Forever After” in ” The Mammoth Book of Pulp Fiction”. That’s at least something.

    • Caroline–I’ll read a few other books in-between as I think I tend to lose the ‘flavour’ of an author if I read too many in a row. I’m screwed if they suck.

  3. I’m down! I think I can get all the one’s I need at the library. I’m not sure how I’ll feel after such a heavy dose. BTW, males beware! Incest (Grifters) and incest-castration (Hell of a Woman) seem to be recurring themes!!

  4. Now that Lichanos has mentioned incest as one of the recurring themes, I’m not sure I’m up for Jim Thompson.
    I’ll read the first reviews and will decide if I join you for one of those.

    • … [with] incest as one of the recurring themes, I’m not sure I’m up for Jim Thompson.

      Don’t be put off, Book-lady. These books were written in the 50′s, so it couldn’t be too explicit. In the one’s I know, there wasn’t any incest depicted, but the psychology of it was there. And hey, what about all those Greek stories?

      I’m assuming you are a female since the castration theme didn’t phase you at all.

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  6. I’m tempted to join you. I just had a look and A Swell-Looking Babe and A Hell of a Woman sound like my thing.

  7. I’ve read The Grifters (which features heavy incest themes). I thought it very good noir bar some aspects I’ll come back to once you’ve read it.

    I’ve got a copy of The Killer Inside Me. If you give me a headsup when you’re getting near it I’ll try to read it at a similar time. Pop 1280 I’ve heard is very good indeed. The others I don’t know.

    Interesting project. Go Thompson!

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  9. Coup de Torchon (Pop 1280) LOVED the book, but just couldn’t get excited about this film:

    http://www.amazon.com/review/RHA1T4ITZ6OKP/ref=cm_cr_pr_viewpnt#RHA1T4ITZ6OKP

  10. I really liked the film (I’ve seen it several times) but I saw it in isolation–by that I mean that I was unaware that it was a version of Thompson’s book.

    • I’ve just read the book and seen the film. I think Tavernier managed to transpose the setting in Africa. Exact sentences of the novel can be heard in the dialogues. But it somehow fails to show how twisted Lucien (Nick) is whereas it’s pretty clear in the book.
      More in the upcoming review, when you have posted yours.

  11. But it somehow fails to show how twisted Lucien (Nick) is…
    Yeah, that’s it in a nutshell. And the outrageousness of the humor isn’t there.

  12. I really liked Coup de Torchon (I’m a Tavernier fan), so I think it’s lucky that I saw it first and didn’t have memories of the book to compare it to.

    • Ultimately Coup de Torchon is an examination of the erosion of moral courage through the corrosive insidious presence of colonialism.

      Good review, and I agree with your summary. But obviously, a different theme than the book’s. That’s the magic of adaptation!

      • Thanks. It’s handy to have a review to refer back to. Saves me saying “I liked it cos it was good.”

        • “I liked it cos it was good.”
          I cannot count the times that I have asked someone, “Well, why did you like it so much?” only to be greeted with a look of scorn, incomprehension, or outright hostility. People take it as a personal attack, and frequently are totally at a loss to provide any reasons for their preference.

          It’s true that de gustibus non est disputandum, but on the other hand, people do have reasons for their feelings about culture, and at least we can state them and see if they are consistent.

          • I’m of the opinion that unless a person is factually wrong, then an opinion is just that–no right or wrong, just an opinion. And you’re right, we bring so much to a film or book–our opinions, beliefs, experiences etc.

            • …an opinion is just that–no right or wrong, just an opinion.
              That’s true a lot of the time, but only by laying out our reasons behind them, taste-based though they may be, is it possible for them to grow and maybe change to the fullest. When people say, “It was just good, that’s all,” the discussion and investigation has been ended.
              I

  13. …an opinion is just that–no right or wrong, just an opinion.
    That’s true a lot of the time, but only by laying out our reasons behind them, taste-based though they may be, is it possible for them to grow and maybe change to the fullest. When people say, “It was just good, that’s all,” the discussion and investigation has been ended.

  14. Well debate can turn ugly…

  15. Pingback: The Killer Inside Me by Jim Thompson « Book Around The Corner

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