James Myers Thompson (September 27, 1906 – April 7, 1977) was an American author and screenwriter, known for his hardboiled crime fiction.
Thompson wrote more than thirty novels, the majority of which were original paperback publications by houses, from the late-1940s through mid-1950s. Despite some positive critical notice—notably by Anthony Boucher in The New York Times—he was little-recognized in his lifetime. Only after death did Thompson's literary stature grow, when in the late 1980s, several novels were re-published in the Black Lizard series of re-discovered crime fiction.
Thompson's writing culminated in a few of his best-regarded works: The Killer Inside Me, Savage Night, A Hell of a Woman and Pop. 1280. In these works, Thompson became one of the writers who turned the derided crime genre into literature and art, featuring unreliable narrators, odd structure, and quasi-surrealistic inner narratives of the last thoughts of his dying or dead characters. A number of Thompson's books became popular films, including The Getaway and The Grifters.
The writer R.V. Cassill has suggested that of all crime fiction, Thompson's was the rawest and most harrowing; that neither Dashiell Hammett nor Raymond Chandler nor even Horace McCoy, author of the bleak They Shoot Horses, Don't They?, ever "wrote a book within miles of Thompson". Similarly, in the introduction to Now and on Earth, Stephen King says he most admires Thompson's work because "The guy was over the top. The guy was absolutely over the top. Big Jim didn't know the meaning of the word stop. There are three brave lets inherent in the forgoing: he let himself see everything, he let himself write it down, then he let himself publish it."
Thompson was nicknamed as being a "Dimestore Dostoevsky" by writer Geoffrey O'Brien. Film director Stephen Frears, who directed an adaptation of Thompson's The Grifters as 1990's The Grifters, also identified elements of Greek tragedy in his themes.