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Savage Art: A Biography of Jim Thompson

4.09  ·  Rating Details ·  468 Ratings  ·  25 Reviews
Robert Polito recounts Thompson's relationship with his father, a disgraced Oklahoma sheriff, with the women he adored in life and murdered on the page, with alcohol, would-be censors, and Hollywood auteurs. Unrelenting and empathetic, casting light into the darker caverns of our collective psyche, Savage Art is an exemplary homage to an American original. A National Book ...more
Paperback, 560 pages
Published October 1st 1996 by Vintage (first published 1995)
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Mar 20, 2017 Andy rated it really liked it
I don't get all the haters for this book. Perhaps it's because Jim Thompson isn't depicted as an alcoholic/addict Superman like Charles Bukowski or William S. Burroughs, and instead sounds like a whiny drunk. Who cares? He's still the greatest writer of noir in my opinion.

I really enjoyed Robert Polito's analysis of Thompson's psychotic novels (if you're a Spoiler Nazi you'll have a seizure, so stay out) and I also liked reading about his aborted novels and TV/movie script projects, too, and ye
Jul 11, 2010 Quentin rated it it was amazing
In the early '7os, after years of battling the bottle; churning out dime store pulp fiction which barely covered his liquor bill, author Jim Thompson had finally struck paydirt. Hollywood had come a knockin'. Tinsel Town's #1 box office draw, Steve McQueen, wanted the movie rights to Thompson's 1959 crime noir classic, "The Getaway."

Broke, out of print, and unable to write, Thompson stood to make more dough from the film rights to his book, then he'd earned in his entire career as a novelist. A
Bob Mackey
Apr 23, 2014 Bob Mackey rated it really liked it
I had my reservations about diving into another Jim Thompson biography, because the last one I read, Michael J. McCauley's Sleep with the Devil, felt more like a meandering thesis than a true account of its subject's life. Thankfully, Robert Polito did some hardcore research on Thompson for Savage Art, giving us a more direct path into his head, as well as a greater look at the circumstances that shaped his writing. Those looking for insight into Thompson's existence during his most prolific per ...more
Graham P
Jun 25, 2010 Graham P rated it really liked it
An exhausting, revealing and cumbersome biography of one of the greatest (and at times, most uninspired) American crime writers. Polito doesn't hold back detailing the Thompson family prior to the writer's birth, and painstakingly moves ahead into his troubled childhood (no, not as wretched as some might expect). It becomes clear to the reader that Thompson was a sensitive observer with an eye towards the gutter, whether working at a seedy hotel in Texas, or later, when he became involved with t ...more
Brent Legault
Nov 18, 2011 Brent Legault rated it liked it
More than a little exhaustive. I could have done without much of it, especially his early life, which I found to be a yawn. But later, when the novels and their circumstances were discussed, things perked up. And then, there was the picture of him with the cat. That alone was worth working through countless yawns.
Mariano Hortal
Publicado en

“Arte Salvaje. Una biografía de Jim Thompson” de Robert Polito. Perfecta conjunción biográfico-crítica.

Uno de los motivos para pasarme este año por la Feria del Libro de Madrid era, sin lugar a dudas, adquirir la obra que os traigo hoy. Óscar Pálmer, traductor y alma de la editorial Es Pop Ediciones ha decidido centrarse en el ensayo; vengo a honrarle por su decisión, porque si el material que va a traer tiene la mitad de calidad que este, va
Mar 16, 2016 Robert rated it really liked it
Incredibly exhaustive biography of the now-celebrated author of great crime noirs like The Grifters, After Dark My Sweet, The Getaway, and The Killer Inside Me (those are the only four I've read). While the early chapters go waaay more into his grandfather's and father's lives than I really cared about, this is a well-written and more often than not interesting account of a conflicted, rather tragic man–a writer of genuine cult status who was simply not appreciated to the extent he deserved duri ...more
Raegan Butcher
Apr 19, 2011 Raegan Butcher rated it it was amazing
Jim Thompson's life was like one of his books. Bummer for Jim Thompson.
David Coleman
Mar 03, 2008 David Coleman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Jim Thompson wrote such classics as THE KILLER INSIDE ME, NOTHING MORE THAN MURDER and THE GETAWAY, amongst so many other great works.

This searing, non-holds barred account of his life and death is at once tragic and inspiring. It's a downer because Thompson never received the acclaim he deserved during his lifetime; it's a lift because if ever a writer spewed his psyche onto the printed page and lived eternally because of it, Jim Thompson is The Man.

If you love Thompson, this is a 'must read.'
Joe  Noir
Feb 19, 2013 Joe Noir rated it it was amazing
One of the best biographies I've ever read. Even the early slow parts are interesting. I would wager that everything you would ever want to know about Thompson is in this book. Some might say it would make an interesting film, but no, it has to be a book. Read it and you'll see what I mean. I was going through a tough time back when I read this book, and it helped pull me through. The photos included are excellent.
Ryan Jackson
Nov 15, 2007 Ryan Jackson rated it really liked it
A long tough read, but well worth it for any fan of Thompson. His life was as hard, mean, and interesting as those of the lives of his characters. A greater appreciation of his novels is the result of this exhaustive look at the writer's life.
Mar 17, 2008 Mark rated it really liked it
Drunk at 12, Thompson established his sense of the noir and blackened it with venomous prose. Polito covers all the bases, empties all the closets to portray Thompson, one of Oklahoma's greatest, and least sung, writers.
Patrick Vargas
Dec 29, 2007 Patrick Vargas rated it really liked it
not (nearly) as great as thompson's books, but a dang interesting biography.
Larry Webber
Jan 12, 2008 Larry Webber rated it it was amazing
An interesting assessment of JT
I've had to put reading this on hold because it gives away a lot of the plots of his books and I haven't read them all yet.
Leonard Pierce
May 22, 2008 Leonard Pierce rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
Swell biography of the master of literary noir. Thompson's life was extremely fucked up, and Polito pays him the respect he deserves without ever letting him off the hook.
Sheldon Russell
Dec 07, 2012 Sheldon Russell rated it really liked it
Carefully researched & well written.
Sep 07, 2008 Kate is currently reading it
good so far
Feb 11, 2012 Phillip rated it did not like it
Love Thompson, hated the biography.
Feb 02, 2009 Margaret rated it liked it
Shelves: biography
Cumbersome collection of all things Thompson. An impressive but overweight work.
Jeffrey Powanda
Mar 01, 2017 Jeffrey Powanda rated it it was amazing
Great literary biography. See my full review here:
Apr 17, 2016 Jay added it
When I first started reading crime novels, I went through them pretty quick because they were pretty straight forward. All right, so someone gets murdered. Someone gets cheated. Someone gets betrayed. There is always the guy who realizes either he has one chance to make things work in his life, or there is the other guy that 19s already thrown everything away on that one chance. There was a structure that you were familiar with that made for comfortable reads.
Not so with Jim Thompson. His narrat
Feb 12, 2015 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Only for fans of Jim Thompson or hard-boiled fiction
Recommended to David by: Just browsing the thrift store
A solid 4+ stars for this seriously well-researched and well-written biography of a seriously flawed and talented writer. Polito opens the book with a valuable dozen pages summarizing Thompson's work and career -- this section was worth rereading after I'd read the rest of the book. The one weakness, and one cited by at least one other Goodreads reviewer, is that the next 15 percent of the book wades through Thompson's childhood and youth and his troubles with his father and mother and extended ...more
David Long
Nov 03, 2009 David Long rated it really liked it
Monumental literary bio of noir titan Jim Thompson (The Getaway, The Grifters etc.) by pre-eminent noir editor-anthologist Robert Polito (Library of America Noir volumes.) Rich in detail. Deep in research. Thompson was enormously prolific and the quality of his work could vary, but no one can truly understand the American hard-bolied genres in all its variants and successors without knowing his work. A true touchstone.
Heath Lowrance
Heath Lowrance rated it really liked it
Feb 22, 2012
Shainna.Davidyahoo.Com rated it it was amazing
Feb 16, 2017
Grgry rated it liked it
Aug 27, 2012
Daniel rated it it was amazing
Jan 15, 2012
Travis Gulbrandson
Travis Gulbrandson rated it really liked it
Jul 17, 2013
James Wheeler
James Wheeler rated it it was amazing
Dec 17, 2012
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Robert Polito (born 1951) is an American academic, critic and poet. He has been Director of the Writing Program at The New School since 1992. He received the National Book Critics Circle Award and an Edgar Award for Savage Art: A Biography of Jim Thompson.
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