The blog of author Dennis Cooper

Spotlight on … Jim Thompson Savage Night (1953)

 

“Life is a bucket of shit with a barbed wire handle.” — Jim Thompson

‘If there’s a heaven for manly writers, Ernest Hemingway presides but Jim Thompson has a seat on the administration council. Nobody even comes close to the grit, aggression and all-around crazy vibe of his novels, except maybe contemporary madman Anthony Neil Smith, who seems to thrive on being the most violent writer alive. “Savage Night” is a term that comes back often in noir literature, in the stories of Smith himself and Allan Guthrie amongst other. But the term originated from Jim Thompson. I was curious to see the origin behind such a haunting term. Turns out the original SAVAGE NIGHT proudly wears its title. Especially the “Savage” part. Jim Thompson was in great writing shape in 1953, so blood pours and heads butt on the page.

‘The form is admirable. Ever watched Steven Soderbergh’s THE LIMEY? Remember how weird the editing cuts were? You never knew exactly if you were in the future, the past or a fantasy? This is what SAVAGE NIGHT reminded me of. Thompson throws in very subtle clues throughout the narrative as to make you question whether Bigelow and Bigger are the same guy. The obvious answer is yes, but if you go deeper, it’s not that obvious at all. At least not to the characters and Thompson takes pleasure in concealing the truth to his readers too. The Bigelow/Bigger parts are clearly cut and the protagonist acts very differently in both. Bigelow knows Bigger but the only thing bigger knows is killing. He’s a savage with a pronounced taste for blood.

‘Reading SAVAGE NIGHT, I really was baffled by the fluidity with which Jim Thompson managed all the variables of his novel. The premise looks simple. It’s a hit, a contracted killing. But the Bigelow/Bigger duality isn’t. That’s “psycho noir” for you and Jim Thompson understood and mastered this idiom and boiled it down to 149 pages of pure hell in SAVAGE NIGHT. He spares no brutality to his main protagonist, although he IS the main purveyor of brutality throughout the novel. I’m not going to spoil it, but the ending is absolutely brilliant. It was also in THE GETAWAY and Jim Thompson just has a knack for making abstract but relevant endings. It was surreal and cringe worthy. Rare are the endings who live up to their stories, but with Jim Thompson, this isn’t a concern.

If you’ve been around the East much, you’ve seen a lot of houses like it. Two stories high but looking a lot taller because they’re so narrow in depth; steep-roofed with a chimney at each end and a couple of gabled attic windows about halfway down. You could gold-plate them and they’d look like hell, but they’re usually painted in colors that make them look twice as bas as they normally would. This one was crappy green with puke-brown trimming.

‘Not only SAVAGE NIGHT is an origin story for the follow-up titles that bore the same name, but it’s an origin story of Bible-like proportions to psycho noir in general. It’s a short novel, technically a novella, but Thompson’s protagonist goes through hell from cover to cover. It’s bleak, intense and doesn’t have nearly enough credit in Jim Thompson’s legacy (and it has some credit already). If you’re looking for the purest noir experience you can have, put SAVAGE NIGHT on top of your list. It’s very clear it’s not your common crime fiction. It’s as bleak and heartless as it gets. Not everybody’s cup of tea, but if you’re as into heartless fiction as I am, this will blow your socks off. SAVAGE NIGHT is my fourth Thompson novel and I’m only starting to understand how important he is to the genre.’ — Dead End Follies

 

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Further

Jim Thompson @ Wikipedia
Jim Thompson @ goodreads
Jim Thompson is the perfect novelist for our crazed times
Cigarettes And Alchohol – The Extraordinary Life of Jim Thompson
JIM THOMPSON IS THE CYNICAL VOICE OF REASON WE NEED IN THIS DUMPSTER FIRE OF A YEAR
Things Are Never What They Seem: A Look At Jim Thompson
DARK HEARTS AMERICANA: JIM THOMPSON
Jim Thompson, Noir and the Popular Front
The Best Writer You’ve Never Heard of: Jim Thompson
High Priest of the Godless: A Jim Thompson Primer
Jim Thompson’s Lost Hollywood Years
The Prole Inside Me
A Tale of Pulp and Passion: The Jim Thompson Revival
The genius of novelist Jim Thompson
JIM THOMPSON AND THE KILLER INSIDE US ALL
Metaphysical Okie: Jim Thompson In San Diego
Jim Thompson — an obscure, dead pulp writer — is suddenly famous
The American ‘Dimestore Dostoevsky’ – Jim Thompson
The Law Pays a Visit to Jim Thompson

 

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Extras


The Jim Thompson Story


Jim Thompson’s cameo in the 1975 film “Farewell, My Lovely”


Kermode Uncut: The Movies Inside Jim Thompson


Robert Polito on Jim Thompson

 

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Cold Blood: On Jim Thompson and Stanley Kubrick
by Hachette


Stanley Kubrick & Jim Thompson

 

In the mind of crime fiction aficionados, the brooding image of pulp writers from the 40s and 50s usually resembles a haunting Edward Hooper painting of doomed loners sloughed at a rickety desk inside a dimly lit hotel room. Knocking out stories for a penny a word to keep the bookies at bay, bourbon in their system and the landlord off their backs, rarely were these bleak fellows thought of as family men.

While that pathetic portrayal fits authors David Goodis and Cornell Woolrich, paperback writer Jim Thompson was a different kind of literary animal. Although Thompson suffered from legendary bouts with the bottle (when he was a boy, his grandfather gave him whiskey with breakfast), he was also a married man with three children and a house in the suburbs. He wore suits and ties and rarely rolled around in the gutter with his contemporaries.

“He’d take any job, you know, to earn a living and feed his family,” Thompson’s long-suffering wife Alberta, whom he married in 1931, once told an interviewer. Until Thompson’s death in 1977 at 70 years old, his wife stood by her man through drunkenness, money woes and sickness. As his friend and former editor Arnold Hano pointed out in 1991, “unhappy endings were his style.”

Although Jim Thompson’s twenty-nine novels were out of print when he died, in 1984 writer and David Lynch collaborator Barry Gifford (Wild at Heart, Lost Highway) teamed-up with the Berkeley based publishers Creative Arts Book Company to create Black Lizard Press. Featuring gaudy covers by Kirwan, the Black Lizard books were all about pulp fiction when Tarantino was still clerking in a video store.

Reprinting the novels of forgotten authors David Goodis, Charles Willeford, Peter Rabe, Harry Whittington and others, Black Lizard was thrilling and seductive, enticing a brand new generation of crime fiction fans. As a young crime movie geek and New York City writer hanging-out at St. Mark Books, it was during this period that I first discovered the cold-blooded “noir” writers that changed my life.

Today, more than thirty years after Jim Thompson’s death, his brutal novels has influenced a generation of neo-noir writers including Ken Bruen, Jason Starr and the late Jerry Rodriguez. Drawn to the dangerous appeal of his “sociopaths and suckers,” as crime writer and film critic Stephen Hunter once described his characters, Thompson’s disturbing universe never got boring.

“Jim Thompson created a fictional world which was the dark flipside to this one,” wrote Brit-writer Charles Waring. “As novel after novel reveals, the universe according to Thompson is the literary equivalent of a photographic negative: we see the outlines of people and places but even familiar images are rendered unrecognizable in Thompson’s bleak dystopian vision.”

Coming of age in the days when aspiring writers still cherished life experience over MFAs, the towering Thompson worked a variety of unglamorous jobs including hotel worker, plumber’s helper, truck driver, pipeliner and harvest hand before becoming a professional author.

Still, it wasn’t until the publication of his 1952 hardboiled novel The Killer Inside Me, one of Thompson’s more disturbing novels that Bronx born filmmaker Stanley Kubrick discovered writer. “If good crime writing offers an analysis of a nation’s mental health, Jim Thompson was crime fiction’s Sigmund Freud, contributing a fevered, overwrought and compelling account of the killer inside us all,” Declan Burke wrote in the Irish Times in 2010.

In Savage Art, Robert Polito’s brilliant biography on Thompson, he writes that Kubrick referred to The Killer Inside Me as “probably the most chilling and believable first person account of a criminally warped mind that I have encountered.” In 2010, director Michael Winterbottom adapted the book and shaped an equally disturbing film from Thompson’s material starring Casey Affleck and Kate Hudson.

In 1956, when Stanly Kubrick and producing partner James B. Harris secured the film rights to Lionel White’s caper novel Clean Break, it was Kubrick’s idea to recruit Thompson as his co-writer. “Are you familiar with a guy named Jim Thompson,” he asked Harris. “He’s a terrific writer who’s written some stuff I love.” Living in Sunnyside, Queens at the time, soft-spoken Jim Thompson was soon working with the budding maverick director.

Like most freelance writers, be they family men or soloists, Thompson often had money problems and leapt at the chance to apply his pulp sensibility to the silver screen. Years later, Thompson’s books including The Getaway, The Grifters, and After Dark, My Sweet was made into features, but Clean Break was the writer’s first foray into film.

Slaving their days away in an office on West 57th Street in New York City, Kubrick and Thompson became fast friends despite their twenty-two year age difference. While it’s strange to think of extraordinary artists doing ordinary things, Kubrick sometimes trekked to Queens to visit the Thompson clan. Thompson’s daughter Sharon, whom Polito interviewed, says, “Stanley came out to our place and just drove us all insane. He was a beatnik before beatniks were in. He had long hair and weird clothes.”

Elsewhere in Savage Art, Polito mentioned that Thompson sometimes loaned Stanley a tie if they went out to a restaurant to talk about the script. “They would discuss what each scene was about and how long it should run and then Thompson would write it up.” But, since Thompson was a novice screenwriter and Kubrick was used to working in his own way, turning the racetrack robbery novel into a low-budget picture wasn’t easy.

Literary agent Robert Goldfarb, who represented writer Lionel White and later Thompson, remembered receiving the hulking first draft, “…in a cardboard carton big enough to house a family—and the script was something like 300 pages, legal sized, clipped at the top. The whole thing looked like amateur night.”

After paring down the script and securing macho man Sterling Hayden to play the lead, the filmmakers received partial funding from United Artists—who insisted on a title change–to make the picture. With a shoestring budget of $320,000, which was small for even 1956, Kubrick made an exquisite heist flick while simultaneously stabbed his co-writer in the back in the process.

At a screening Thompson attended with his family, the writer was shocked when the credits on The Killing read: script by Stanley Kubrick and additional dialogue by Jim Thompson. While many authors have detailed their pitfalls working within the Hollywood system, this was an unexpected blow to Thompson, who thought of the rising auteur as more than a business associate.

“My father nearly fell off his chair when he saw that,” remembered his daughter Patricia. Although Thompson tired to save face by telling his family that he would fight Kubrick through Writers Guild arbitration, biographer Polito discovered that this wasn’t true. Still, displaying perfect freelance writer behavior, Thompson might’ve been pissed-off, but he didn’t let that stand in the way when Harris-Kubrick offered him the kingly sum of $7,500 to co-write the script for Paths of Glory the following year.

In 1957, when Harris-Kubrick moved to California, the Thompson family relocated to Hollywood Hills to be close to Stanley. Riding into the sun-drenched city on the train, they were met at the station by the director. “The writing of Paths of Glory was essentially a very well-paid part time job for Thompson,” reported biographer Michael McCauley in his 1991 book Sleep With the Devil. “With a burst of spirit and a bust of creativity, he wrote and sold two novels (The Kill-Off and Wild Town) that same year.”

In actuality, Kubrick hired Thompson to rewrite the original draft penned by Calder Willingham. However, when their star Kirk Douglass read Thompson’s rewrite, he was appalled and reportedly threw the script across the room. Demanding that the Willingham’s version be reinstated, the final shooting script was credited to the two writers and director Kubrick.

According to biographer Robert Polito, only seven scenes of Thompson’s made the final cut. Although Paths of Glory won the Directors Guild of America Award for best screenplay, with the exception of a few television shows and a failed attempt to adapt his novel The Getaway (star Steve McQueen didn’t like the script), Thompson’s screenwriting career stalled.

One last project Kubrick commissioned from Thompson in the late 1950s was the treatment for a New York noir called Lunatic at Large, about a former carnival worker with anger issues and his “psychopathic” girlfriend. Unfortunately, after Kubrick moved to England in 1962, the only copy of Thompson’s treatment was “lost” amongst the directors many papers and wasn’t located until after his death in 1999.

“When Stanley died, he left behind lots of paperwork,” his son-in-law Philip Hobbs told the New York Times in 2006. “We ended up going through trunks of it, and one day we came across ‘Lunatic at Large.’ I knew what it was right away, because I remember Stanley talking about ‘Lunatic.’ He was always saying he wished he knew where it was, because it was such a great idea.”

In April 2010, it was announced that Sam Rockwell and Scarlett Johansson were to be cast in the film, which was to be produced by Hobbs, the Kubrick estate and Edward R. Pressman, but thus far, Lunatic at Large hasn’t been made.

 

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Book

Jim Thompson Savage Night
Vintage

‘Jake Winroy had no looks, no education, and little else before he’d worked his way to the top of a million-dollar-a-month horse-betting ring. But when the state’s latched onto his game, the feds take a bite and the lawyer fees eat away at the rest, all Jake’s got left is the bottle and a beautiful wife whose every word is ugly.

‘Jake’s to be the top witness in a major case against organized crime — if he hasn’t already kicked the bucket before the trial has its day in court. But an enigmatic mafioso known only as The Man has a plan to make dead certain Jake never gets the chance to testify.

‘The Man’s hired Charlie “Little” Bigger, a hit man barely five feet tall, to infiltrate the Winroy residence as a tenant and murder Winroy in cold blood. To Little, it seems like the easiest job on Earth. Until he lays eyes on the beautiful and dangerous Fay and the Winroy’s young housemaid Ruth, a woman as sensual as she is vulnerable. Savage Night is Jim Thompson at his most unpredictable and deeply suspenseful, in a claustrophobic thriller of one man’s fractured mind.’ — Vintage

Excerpt

The trouble with killing is that it’s so easy. You get to where you almost do it without thinking. You do it instead of thinking.
—- . . . I told Fruit Jar that I’d take the subway into town, and he drove me over near Queens Plaza. I had him pull up there in the shadows of the elevated, and I said. “I’m sorry as hell, Fruit Jar. Will you accept an apology?” And he was feeling good, so he stuck out his hand and said, “Sure, kid. Long as you put it that way, I–”
—– I jammed his right hand between my knees. I gripped the fingers of his left hand, bending them back, and I snapped the knife open.
—– “J-Jesus–” His eyes got wider and wider, and his mouth hung open like the mouth of a sack, and the slobber ran down his chin, thick and shiny. “W-whatcha d-doin’. . . whatcha . . . aaahhhhh . . .”
—– I gave it to him in the neck. I damned near carved his Adam’s apple out. I took the big silk handkerchief out of his breast pocket, wiped my hands and the knife, and put the knife in his pocket. (That would give them something to think about.) Then I shoved him down on the floor of the car, and caught the train into town.
—- And I hadn’t ridden to the next station before I saw what a fool I’d been.
—- Fruit Jar. . . He could have told me. I could have made him tell me–the thing that might mean the difference between my living and dying. And now he couldn’t tell me.
—- His brother . . . HIS BROTHER HELL! I almost yelled it out; I think I did say it. But I was up in the front of the car by myself, and no one noticed. People hardly ever notice me. And maybe that’s the reason I’m . . .
—- His brother. . . Detroit, 1942 . . . not sure of the details . . . Not sure! The Man wasn’t sure! Christ Almighty. As if he’d have hauled Fruit Jar into this deal without knowing every damned last thing there was to know about him!
—- He’d hauled him in. FruitJar had been sitting pretty with no heat on him and a swell income, and The Man had hauled him in on something that could be very hot. He couldn’t say no to The Man. He couldn’t even let on that he didn’t like it. But he didn’t like it; he was sore as hell. And since he couldn’t take it out on The Man, he’d taken it out on me.
—- That was the trouble. Just what I’d thought it was all along. It must have been that. . . I guessed.
—- His brother. Even if he’d had a brother, even if he’d had fifty-five brothers and I’d killed them all, he wouldn’t have done anything about it. Not, anyway, until after I’d done my job. I should have known that. I did know it when I stopped to think. But The Man had shot me the line fast, and I wasn’t thinking. Why think when it’s so easy to kill?
—- The Man wanted me to believe that FruitJar had come down to Peardale that day on his own. He had to make me think that, or I’d think of another reason for FruitJar being there. . . the real reason. Because he’d been sent. It might blow the job if I knew that. I might blow it and get away. . . instead of getting what a guy always got for blowing or running out.
—- Fruit Jar wasn’t very bright. He hadn’t needed to be very bright for the job The Man had sent him to do–to deliver some dough, maybe, or maybe to throw in a good chill as the clincher to a deal. But he hadn’t been even that bright. He’d missed connections somehow with the party he was supposed to see, and instead of beating it and trying again later he’d screwed around waiting. He’d gone out of his way to needle me.
—- I’d scratched him up with the knife, and he’d been a little worried when he took off for the city. He had a pretty good idea that he’d pulled a boner. And he should have known what The Man was like–when The Man was really sore at you, you never knew it–but he wasn’t bright, like I’ve said, and.
—- Or was it that way? Was I knocking myself out over nothing? Had The Man given me the straight dope?
—- He might have. A guy like me–well, he gets so used to looking around corners that he can’t see in a straight line. The more true a thing is, the less he can believe it. The Man could have leveled with me. I was damned sure he hadn’t, but he could have. He had–_he hadn’t_. He hadn’t–_he had_.
—- I didn’t know. I couldn’t be sure. And it wasn’t The Man’s fault and it wasn’t Fruit Jar’s. There was just one guy to blame, a stupid, dried-up jerk named Charles Bigger.
—- Big shot . . . Bright boy . . .
—- I could feel it. The hard glaze spreading over my eyes. I could feel my heart pounding–pounding like someone pounding on a door. Pounding like a scared kid locked in a closet. I could feel my lungs drawing up like fists, tight and hard and bloodless, forcing the blood up into my brain.
—- There was a crowd of people waiting to get on the train at Times Square. I went through them. I walked right through them. Giving it to them in the ribs and insteps. And no one said anything, so maybe they sensed what was in me and knew they were lucky. Because they were lucky.
—- There was a woman getting on, and I gave it to her in the breasts with my elbow, so hard she almost dropped the baby she was carrying. And she was lucky, too, but maybe the baby wasn’t. Maybe it would have been better off down under the wheels. Everything ended.
—–Why not? Tell me why not.
—- I walked back to Forty-seventh Street, and somewhere along the way I bought a couple of newspapers. I rolled them up tight under my arm, and their hardness felt good to me. I rolled them tighter, and slapped them against the palm of my hand. And that felt good, too. I walked along, swinging them against my hand, swinging them like a club, the motions getting shorter and shorter, jerkier and jerkier, and. .
—- “_Temper, temper_–”
—- Who was it that’d said that? . . . I grinned and it made my mouth hurt, and the hurt felt good… “_Temper, temper_–”
—- Sure. I knew. Have to watch the temper-temper. So I’d watch it. I liked to watch it. There was only one thing I’d like better . . . but everyone saw how lucky they were. And in a minute or two I’d be alone in my room. And it would be all right then.
—- I walked up the two flights of stairs. There was only one elevator and it was crowded, and I had enough sense to know that I’d better not get on it.
—- I climbed the stairs to the third floor, and walked down the corridor to the last room on the right. And I leaned against it a moment, panting and shaking. I leaned there, quivering like I’d been through a battle, and…
—- And I heard it. Heard the splashing and humming.
—- The quivering and the panting stopped. I turned the door knob. It was unlocked.
—- I stood in the doorway of the bathroom looking at her.
—- She was scooted down in the tub of suds, one arm raised up so she could soap it under the pit. She saw me, and she dropped the washcloth and let out a little squeal.
—- “C-carl, honey! You scared me to death.”
—- “What are you doing here?” I said.
—- “Why”–she tilted her head to one side, smiling at me lazily–“you don’t recognize Mrs. Jack Smith?”
—- “What are you doing here?”
—- “Don’t speak to me that way, Carl! After all–”
—- “What are you doing here?”
—- The smile began to shrink, pull in around the edges. “Don’t be mad, honey. I–I–don’t look at me like that. I know I was supposed to come in tomorrow, but–”
—- ‘Get out of there,” I said.
—- “But you don’t understand, honey! You see, sis and her boy friend drove out to Peardale, a-and I–it was perfectly nnatural for me to r-ride back to the city with them–No one could think there was anything w-wrong with–”
—- I didn’t hear what she said. I didn’t want to. I heard but I made myself not hear. I didn’t want any explanations. I didn’t want it to be all right. I was scared sick, so damned sick, and I was already sliding into Fruit Jar’s shoes. And I couldn’t pull back, I couldn’t run. They were all watching and waiting, looking for the chance to trip me up.
—- All I could do was kill.
—- “Get out of there,” I said.
—- I was slapping the newspapers into my palm. “_Get–slap– out–slap–of there–slap, slap, Get–slap_ . . .”
—- Her face was as white as the suds, but she had guts. She forced the smile back, tilted her head again. “Now, honey. With you standing there? Why don’t you go on and get in bed, and I’ll–”
—- “_Get-slap-out–slap–of there–slap, slap_ . . .”
—- “P-please, honey. I’m s-sorry if–I’ll be sweet to you, honey. It’s been more than a year, and h-honey you don’t know– Y-you don’t know how s-sweet–all the things I’ll–”
—- She stopped talking. I had my hand knotted in her hair, and I was pulling her up out of the water. And she didn’t try to pull away. She came up slowly, her neck, her breasts, the soapsuds sliding away from them like they didn’t want to let go.
—- She stood up.
—- She stepped out of the tub.
—- She stood there on the bathmat, fighting with everything she had to fight with–offering it all to me. And she saw it wasn’t enough. She knew it before I knew it myself.
—- She raised her arms very slowly–so slowly that they hardly seemed to move–and wrapped them around her head.
—- She whispered, “N-not in the face, Carl. J-just don’t hit me in the–”
—- I flicked the newspapers across her stomach. Lightly. I flicked them across her breasts. I drew them back over my shoulder and–and held them there. Giving her a chance to yell or try to duck. Hoping she’d try it. . . and stop being lucky.
—- There were too many lucky people in the world.
—- “You’re a pretty good actress,” I said. “Tell me you’re not an actress. Tell me you haven’t been leading me on, acting hardboiled and easy-to-get so you could screw me up. Go on, tell me. Call me a liar.”
—- She didn’t say anything. She didn’t even move.
—- I let the newspapers drop from my hand. I stumbled forward, and sat down on the toilet stool, and made myself start laughing. I whooped with laughter, I whooped and choked and sputtered, rocking back and forth on the stool. And it was as though a river were washing through me, washing away all the fear and craziness and worry. Leaving me clean and warm and relaxed.
—- It had always been that way. Once I could start laughing I was all right,
—- Then, I heard her snicker, and a moment later that husky saloon-at-midnight laugh. And she hunkered down in front of me, laughing, burying her head in my lap.
—- “Y-you crazy tough little bastard, you! You’ve taken ten years off my life.”
—- “So now you’re sixteen,” I said. “I’m going to count on it.”
—- “Crazy! What in the name of God got into you, anyway?” She raised her head, laughing, but looking a little worried. “It was all right to come in, wasn’t it, as long as sis and–”
—- “Sure, it was all right,” I said, “It was swell. I’m tickled to death you’re here. I’ve just had a hell of a hard day and I wasn’t expecting you, and–Let it go at that. Let me up off this toilet before I fall in.”
—- “Yeah, but, honey–”
—- I tilted her chin up with my fist. “Yeah? We leave it at that or not?”
—- “Well–” She hesitated; and then she nodded quickly and jumped up. “Stinker! Toughie! Come on and I’ll give you a drink.”
—- She had a pint of whiskey in her overnight bag. She opened it after she’d slipped into her nightgown, and we sat cross-legeed on the bed together, drinking and smoking and talking. There weren’t many preliminaries to go through. I’d broken the ice but good there in the bathroom. She knew who I was now, if she hadn’t had a damned good idea before. She knew why I was in Peardale. She knew why I’d had her come into the city. And it was okay with her.
—- “Little Bigger,” she said, her eyes shining at me. “Little Bigger. Why, my God, honey, I’ve been hearing about you ever–”
—- “Okay,” I said, “so I’m famous. Now just wipe it out of your head, and leave it wiped out.”
—- “Sure, honey. Carl.”
—- “I don’t know how I’ll do it. We’ll have to work that out. Now, about the dough–”
—- She was smart there. She might have said fifteen or twenty grand. And I might have said yes. And then I might have thought, I might have passed the word along: The dame’s hungry; maybe we’d better keep her quiet. .
—- “Aw, honey–” She made a little face. “Let’s not talk about it like I was doing it for–for _that_. We’ll be together, won’t we? Afterwards? And I know you’re not the kind to be stingy.”
—- “It’ll be a long time afterwards,” I said. “I’ll have to stay there at least until summer. You can leave any time, of course, but I couldn’t get together with you before summer.”
—- “I can wait. Where would we go, honey? I mean after–”
—- “We’ll work it out. That’s no problem. You got money, there’s always some place to go. Hell, we could live here or anywhere after a couple of years, when things cool off enough.”
—- “You won’t… You don’t think I’m awful, do you, Carl?”
—- “How do I know? I haven’t had you yet.”
—- “You know what I mean, honey … You won’t think I’d–I-d do the same thing to. . . You won’t be afraid of me, honey? You won’t think you have to–”
—- I tamped out my cigarette.
—- “Listen to me,” I said. “Listening? Then get this. If I was afraid of you you wouldn’t be here. Know what I mean?”
—- She nodded. “I know what you mean.”
—- “Carl, honey . . .” That husky voice; it was like having cream poured over you. “Aren’t you–?”
—- “Aren’t I what?”
—- She gestured toward the light.

 

 

*

p.s. Hey. ** David Ehrenstein, Hi. I’ve never heard of Midge Decter before. ** Tosh Berman, Hi. ** Billy, Hi. ** Bernard, Time cavorts. Flies too. Let’s hang and look at art or something tomorrow, what do you say? I’ll pop into one of your communication realms. Or you can -> me. My blog used to be more like that. Hey, it could be again. I’m not holding my breath. Everyone, Fire-wise, I’m just gonna share this bit from Bernard and let you decide whether you want more fire. He knows his shit (fire). Bernard: ‘The most famous photo of a person on fire for most of my life has been the snap of Thích Quảng Đức, who self-immolated in Saigon in 1963, the first indication most Americans had that the government of South Vietnam promoted Catholicism and discriminated against Buddhists. You can see it here and elsewhere. It accompanied me through most of my adolescence; and by the time I was participating in Vietnam war protests I was putting it on my notebooks and backpacks. I wanted to have it always in mind, and I still keep the picture up in my home office. You probably know I’ve taught Nightmare on Elm Street many times, and this sequence is a big favorite of mine. Fans know that Freddy was born of fire; that is, he was an ordinary garden-variety child murderer until death by fire transformed into a supernatural presence in the dreams of children. Man, that’s a good story. Thanks, B, and see you pronto. ** Dominik, Hi!!! Yes, it was a relief. Mm, I’m not sure when we’ll hear. Any day now, I certainly hope. Aw, your love’s sweetness made my heart self-immolate. So I guess I’m dead? Wow, if so, death is overhyped. Love making everyone everywhere, especially you, happy, G. Wait, and rich too, G. ** Steve Erickson, Hi. Everyone, Mr. Erickson says … ‘I reviewed trans director Angelo Madsen Minax’s personal documentary NORTH BY CURRENT for Gay City News. After airing on PBS last year, it’s getting a four-day run at Anthology Film Archives starting tonight. Big up about the new therapist! Mm, the gig is … let me think … not next week but the week following. We might be shooting our respective new films at the same time, which seems like it would be good luck. Fingers crossed in tandem. ** Okay. I was thinking about the chewy pulpy prose of Jim Thompson the other day and decided to transmute that thought into a post spotlighting my favorite of his novels, as simple as that. See you tomorrow.

10 Comments

  1. David Ehrenstein

    Here’s a nice obit for the bitch
    Here’sEugene on Midge and Poddy

    When she did The Grifters( (Donald Westlake and Stephen Frears superb adaptation) Annette Benning toldhe she read a ton ofThompson and was duly impressed.

  2. Bernard

    Yes, indeed. Tomorrow = Saturday, yes? So I text you in the morning after I imagine you’ve done the famous blog.
    There’s a couple Jim Thompson novels that really blew my young mind–for me as for many especially The Killer Inside Me and Pop. 1280. The Wikipedia bio compares him to Dostoevsky, which I think checks out. (My friend James just told me that in my stories about my older brothers and me, we sound like the Karamazovs, which, yeah, OK. I’ve never read The Grifters but the movie is incredible, with flaccid John Cusack between live wires Beining and Huston. I think of Thompson as adjacent to James M Cain and, later, Charles Willeford. Reminding me for some reason: This recent Nightmare Alley? What a travesty! A good novel and a great Hollywood movie, one of the most insane noirs and an incredible step for Tyrone Power–to go from pretty boy to decrepit dipsomaniac, risking his career. You can see that Bradley Cooper, I’m sure he’s very serious, but even when he’s a geek, he can’t allow his image to move too far from movie-handsome. Eccch.
    I’ve been in almost all the time, trying to get my routine going. So I’d be very glad to stroll and see something. Please prepare gossip if possible. And to go someplace you like to eat, late lunch or early dinner?
    Today I passed by a woman saying to a man who was vaguely threatening her somehow, “I have my camera” and he answered, “I obscenity myself of your camera! I obscenity myself of the whore mother of your camera.” Which is why it’s nice to understand French. A demain.

  3. David Ehrenstein

    One More Time

    At that demo I stred Midge straight in the face forseveral hours. She alternately glared back and looked away in fear.A Time I Treasure.

  4. Misanthrope

    Dennis, Just checked out the post from yesterday. I think it’s great.

    Hahaha, Bernard and his “low” testosterone and a handy. Thing is, his low T is everyone else’s overwhelming T.

    Yeah, no midlife crisis, I don’t think. Something that comes and goes. I’m not going to run out and buy (another) Corvette or anything.

    Booked as fucked at work this morning. Ugh. And it’s supposed to rain here all day.

    I actually did the following search on the interwebs the other day: “places where it doesn’t get cold and it doesn’t rain.” Loja, Ecuador seems to be the place to go. And San Diego.

    Erp.

    Have a good weekend. Give Bernard a big, sloppy, wetter than Ton’s butthole kiss for me if you see him.

  5. Dominik

    Hi!!

    Fingers very, very majorly crossed, obviously.

    Haha, my love’s intention definitely wasn’t to kill you!

    Oh. What a simple and yet profound love. And he managed too, at least in my case. I can’t say I suddenly became dirty rich, but I’m feeling pretty happy today. What about you? Love putting on his headphones and listening to the new My Chemical Romance song on repeat, Od.

  6. _Black_Acrylic

    Sad to say I experienced my own savage nights this week. Wednesday my brother Nick was at Elland Road to see Leeds United lose 3-0 to our hated rivals Chelsea. Then last night I had an flare up of my MS and am typing this on my phone in St James’ Hospital. Don’t despair though, I am feeling rather better now and expect to be out of here tomorrow. Also, the new episode of Play Therapy is online via Tak Tent Radio! https://taktentradio.com/ben-jack-your-body-robinson-play-therapy-37

  7. Steve Erickson

    Is this the Thompson novel that ends with him using several fonts?

    Have you been following Eurovision this year? I browsed the competitors’ videos today and thought it was pretty disappointing. No Lordiii, Hatari or Go_A; just lots of “look how well I can sing” sad bastard piano ballads and awkward attempts at mixing European pop with hip-hop or reggaeton.

  8. David Ehrenstein

    R.I.P. Such a Babe

  9. Robert

    Hey, sort of a delay since my last comment so not sure if you’ll remember me. Yeah, hopefully one day I’ll be able to get Jelinek better. I liked Lust for probably the first 150 pages or so and then I sorta just got burnt out. I get the individual passages in her books (I think) but I never got a very good sense of what they all amounted to. And I love Concrete, there’s a line in there something like–“I have always said that in creating a child parents create a monster that destroys everything it touches”–that I’ve always remembered for how hilarious it was.

    I’ll put Frisch on the list. And I think I’ve heard you mention the French avant-garde writers in an interview somewhere but I can’t remember specifics. Which ones ought I be reading?

  10. Kurt McGill

    A scintillating blog! Incisive analysis of Jim Thompson. I’ve been following some of your events at After 8. Your new book: “I Wished.” Maybe you remember discussing my noir novel, “Night Pictures” (protagonist ~ a deceased Phil Sparrow) at Balice Hertling. The book was published recently and reviewed by Jay Gertzman (author: “Pulp According to David Goodis). Check it out if you feel like it: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/59780579-night-pictures

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