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Roughneck

3.7  ·  Rating Details ·  513 Ratings  ·  35 Reviews
This is an ebullient hybrid of a literary memoir, where Thompson consorts with corpses and con-men, gets editorial criticism from a big hearted prostitute, writes a labour history for the Workers Party of America, and nearly starts an earthquake while trying to resuscitate a defunct oil well.
Paperback, 192 pages
Published May 26th 1998 by Vintage (first published 1954)
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(showing 1-30)
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notgettingenough
Reviewed in conjunction with link: La Douleur.

Sometimes you read a book that makes you feel ashamed of your life, every time you thought you were unlucky or that you deserve more or that you should get more. Whatever you have suffered, however genuine it be, suddenly becomes as nothing, its place clearly fixed in the universe as the measliest dot the world ever has seen. Roughneck does that. It describes a portion of his life in the pared down, straightforward way Thompson tells all his stories.
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Carla Remy


Jim Thompson wrote this memoir in the '50s about being a young man in the Depression years (he was born in 1906). Thompson had always been a writer, but was distracted during these tough times by the need of food etc. This book covers his life up to writing his first novel (After Dark, My Sweet? It doesnt say, but that's listed as such elsewhere), in his mid thirties. There were great parts in this, but there were times when it felt a bit odd and disjointed.
Adam  McPhee
A series of jobs fall through in a comic manner but things take a bleak turn when Jim Thompson has to work as door-to-door salesman/debt collector just as the depression takes hold of America. He ends up leaving his pregnant wife to ride the rails and live as a hobo, looking for a steady job that might not exist. A short stint of digging ditches as a relief worker might be bleakest moment I've encountered in Thompson's writing. He shows that he's familiar with the desperation his characters freq ...more
Charles
Jul 03, 2016 Charles rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery-thriller
Second only to The Killer Inside Me in Thompson's works. Its not a mystery, but a true life (a true hard life thriller). The details of this book keep popping up in my mind, and occasionally popping up in other author's books. This is good stuff. Gritty stuff, told smoothly.
Raegan Butcher
Apr 27, 2008 Raegan Butcher rated it liked it
Sequel to "Bad Boy" following the author's years as an oilfield worker, among other things.
Brian
Jan 10, 2017 Brian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bad life makes good autobiography.
Daniel
Sep 03, 2014 Daniel rated it it was ok
A kind of memoir told in a series of essays ("Chapters") which amount to various recollections from his early life. Some are funny and many are sad. Most of them are full of amusing characters of the low rent Dickens style. A few favorites:

- the boss who "looked like a demon and talked like a baby" who was always too drunk to stand up, so he'd taken to just turning around in his office chair and pissing out the window rather than go to the restroom. But he also a genius accountant. So good that
...more
Tim Mayer
Jan 03, 2012 Tim Mayer rated it it was amazing
One of my weekly enjoyments is book shopping through the local thrift stores. Every now and then, I will find something good. I haven't found much to sell on Ebay; the competition for those finds are fierce. But it can be rewarding to locate some dusty paperback you've always wanted to read, just never had the time, money or inclination. I really need to actually pull the books out of the pile and start reading The Harrad Experiment, The Sterile Cuckoo, or Death Turns A Smile before they disinte ...more
Bob Mackey
Apr 09, 2014 Bob Mackey rated it liked it
Roughneck, the follow-up to Thompson's Bad Boy (1953), picks up where the first chunk of his autobiography left off by tracing the author's path from hard-scrabble day laborer to paid writer. And just like Bad Boy, Roughneck takes an anecdotal approach, with each chapter acting as a slightly exaggerated Grandpa Simpson-esque tale about getting by during The Great Depression.

While some of these stories stretch the limits of credulity, Thompson portrays himself as a compassionate, understanding m
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Nikmaack
Jun 03, 2015 Nikmaack rated it liked it
A little dated -- okay, a lot dated -- but an interesting series of vignettes about Jim Thompson and his life. A must read for Thompson fans. For everyone else, you probably can skip it. Thompson details riding the rails, working as an oil man, a few odd publishing jobs, and so on. A lot of it reads as bit of a gloss, because Thompson wants to portray his alcoholism and morality in the best light. (Oh, he could have slept with that prostitute, but as married man, not a chance! He started drinkin ...more
Jan Cole
Sep 20, 2015 Jan Cole rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club
This was one of the books I read for the Let's Talk About It book group "Oklahoma--the Thirties." I wasn't excited at all about the book and was glad it was short. Strangely enough, I liked it. Maybe because I wasn't expecting to.

Thompson was a very hardscrabble writer living in the time of the Depression. He took any job he could for survival and most of them were just shy of legal and he stayed one step ahead of the law.

This is a series of short stories about those days before his first nove
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Oklee
Nov 24, 2013 Oklee rated it really liked it
This book was part of the "LET'S TALK ABOUT IT OKLAHOMA EXPERIENCE: THE 1930's" Discussion group. I loved the book but hated the ending. It was actually a collection of vignettes that may have been real or fiction. It was hard to tell. I enjoyed having to opportunity to hear about Oklahoma during the depression. I imagined my father living with the events that were described in this book and wondered if he knew Jim Thompson. The adventures were sad yet funny as told by Mr. Thompson. The writing ...more
Brendan
Jan 22, 2015 Brendan rated it really liked it
Shelves: biographical
Rating: Soft 4.

As a previous reviewer mentioned, it's reminiscent of On the Road. I'll add George Orwell's Down and Out In Paris and London to the comparisons.

It's a bit like a short story collection, with the parts being better than the whole. There's an unevenness to it, from chapter to chapter, but it's still easily readable. I've chosen to classify it as biographical, but not as non-fiction. Infer from that what you wish.

Note: I have read a few of his novels. If he had just been a random w
...more
Gregg
Dec 30, 2008 Gregg rated it it was ok
Shelves: biography, noir
Part biography, part fiction, but it's tough to tell where he draws the line. This is pulp writer Jim Thompson's sort-of-life story, where he works in a variety of jobs (mortician's assistant, newspaper writer, oil fields, etc.) and trying to keep his and his family's heads above water while continually writing and trying to make it big. Engrossing, although the ending wasn't so much of a conclusion as just a dead stop. I think his out-and-out fiction is much better.
John Gilbert
Gives the Thompson fan a little insight into the kind of life that enabled the author to write as he did. Without setting out to, he lived through a succession of events & jobs that provided a unique background for the consummate crime writer. Not essential for the casual fan, but a quick read and recommended for the Thompson completist.
Emma Lynne
Jun 16, 2010 Emma Lynne rated it really liked it
oh Jim Thompson you never seem to let me down. This collection of "semi-autobiographical" stories was a quick read. Thompson has a way of making the insane & absurd seem so normal, believable, and true, that I found myself wondering how much of this was actually embellished and how much of it was understated. It's interesting to see the seeds of other novels in these stories, as well.
Francis
Jul 19, 2012 Francis rated it really liked it
Jim Thompson lays out his life in short terse sentences without apologies and very little moralizing, just trying to make ends meet in very tough times along with a cigarette a drink and a touch of humour here and there.

Highly recommended.
Benoit Lelièvre
Jun 03, 2011 Benoit Lelièvre rated it liked it
You get what you pay for I guess. "Selected Stories from Jim Thompson's life, told by the author". Some are downright hilarious, some are ordinary and borderline miserable. Still, great insight on how a man like this came to revolutionize noir. I appreciated it, but I'm sure his novels are better.
Grig O'
Aug 27, 2013 Grig O' rated it really liked it
Shelves: kindle
At the end of Bad Boy i was left wanting more, and this is it. By the end of Roughneck you have a general picture of Thompson the man - he doesn't let you see more than you need to, but there are many moments of surprise. Together with Bad Boy they make a 5-star life story of a 5-star man.
Ian Hamilton
A mildly-entertaining Thompson autobiography...though it may in fact be pure fiction. Who knows and who cares; it reads like a Thompson novel, and that's good enough for me. Engaging enough to keep me for the duration of its 180 pages.
Andy
Jul 02, 2008 Andy rated it liked it
Recommends it for: hard working stiffs
Shelves: pulp-fiction
Kinda sorta the sequel to "Bad Boy" and reminiscent of Bukowski's "Factotum" where he recalls all the crummy jobs he had to toil at before penning his brilliant noir classics. I worked a lot of similar gigs that he did = misery loves company.
Liz
Oct 08, 2007 Liz rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: lovers of noir and hard boiled mysteries
You read a Jim Thompson novel and wonder why he is so dark, then you read his autobio and say oh, that's why. Incredible story of (barely) surviving the depression as a writer and a ne'er do well. Intense. (and short!)

I just re-read it, which is unusual for me. As good the second time.
Zach
My library suggested Jim Thompson's mysteries. I grabbed this and only later realized it was an autobiography. A good read. Now looking forward to reading his fiction.
Arpad Okay
Apr 07, 2008 Arpad Okay rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: thompson fans
Shelves: fiction
this is the semi-true semi-passed on autobio bio book. read this after you are done reading thompson books, because it kind of has the seeds for a lot of his other books in it.
Gerard Milewski
Feb 15, 2013 Gerard Milewski rated it it was amazing
The only thing better than his novels, which are universally enjoyable, is reading this autobiography and realizing that his real life was far more interesting.
Ethan
Dec 10, 2014 Ethan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This one reminded me of "On the Road". It seems like Thompson inspired Kerouac or Kerouac inspired Thompson.
Thomas
Sep 16, 2010 Thomas marked it as library
So far, this book feels shockingly like John Fante's "Wait Until Spring, Bandini" and "The Road to Los Angeles" in tone. Maybe it's a generational thing.
Jon
Aug 26, 2010 Jon rated it it was ok
It's an autobiography, and surprisingly ho-hum, considering the author's manic way-up, way-down, hardscrabble life.

Read all the fiction, and if you still need the cure, this'll do it.
Shane Baker
Jul 15, 2009 Shane Baker rated it really liked it
The 2nd memoir after [ book: bad boy]. Jim Thompson was a hardboiled pulp writer, and these books are the story of him barely surviving during the great depression.
James Athey
James Athey rated it really liked it
Apr 30, 2015
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

James Myers Thompson was a United States writer of novels, short stories and screenplays, largely in the hardboiled style of crime fiction.

Thompson wrote more than thirty novels, the majority of which were original paperback publications by pulp fiction houses, from the lat
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