So I got an email from an old pal of mine who’s using the handle GFS3 (very cool, that – I asked for such a handle once, but everybody started calling me DPSHT1, so I quietly let the matter drop). This guy and I became friends when I was in tech journalism and he was a PR guy.*
GFS3 is running a cool blog these days, Dark Party Review. Kinda literate, kinda noir, with some great social commentary and culture-vulture stuff thrown in. Highly recommended, and now on my blogroll.
GFS3 knew he could hook me with a Dave-Zeltserman-on-Jim-Thompson essay. If you haven’t heard of Zeltserman yet, you will soon enough. He’s written a bunch of good crime books, and his latest – Small Crimes – looks like a breakout, having earned raves everywhere. Dave’s a fellow Massachusetts guy, and I’ve chatted with him once or twice.
Zeltserman’s argument is that Thompson, a crime writer from the golden age of pulp, would have a hard time getting published today – that New York editors would be too timid to publish him.
I read (albeit long ago) virtually everything Thompson ever wrote, and my own take is that he’s overrated. For every The Getaway or Pop. 1280, he wrote two mutts, as far as I’m concerned. Even some of his best books are sloppy and inconsistent. That was the nature of pulp: a penny a word, no rewrites, grind it out. Somebody in the movie biz (sorry, I forget who – it may have been Stephen Frears, who directed the outstanding film adaptation of Thompson’s The Grifters) said he was happy to undertake the project to “give Thompson the second draft he never got,” and that pretty much sums up the way I feel about him.
* Yes, I was friendly with many public relations folks when I was a journalist. Journos who affect disdain for PR types are the worst, dumbest, most self-important hacks you’ll ever run into.