Sunday, September 28, 2008

Don Westlake on Jim Thompson

I don't know if Bob Randisi remembers the day we met and had lunch with Patrick McGilligan up there in the wilds of Wisconsin--twenty-some years now I suspect--but Patrick has gone on to become a major writer on the subject of Hollywood. His collections of interviews with screenwriters called Backstory are now staples in film schools. I was reading #4 today and ran across an extraordinary interview with Donald Westlake who not only articulated my feelings about Jim Thompson but also made me think about all of us who started in the 60s, 70s and early 80s writing for downmarket men's magazines and long ago forgotten paperback lines. Sure I can get it you by Monday--it's only Friday afternoon isn't it?

Donald Westlake on adapting Jim Thompson to the screen (The Grifters):

"(Thompson) always wrote from his guts--too fast but from his guts. He was usually doing stuff for too little money in secondary markets. Every one of his books was published one draft too soon...

"I did some of that in my early days of writing, so I know how it happens. You're going along until you get to a point in the story where you say -`Oh my gosh, this story isn't going to work unless she was married before...' You can solve it two ways: you can go back and put the marriage in where you should have put in the first place, or you can just stick right in: "She was married before' and keep going. That's what Thompson does."

Ed here:

Long before there were computers we only had White Out!

1 comment:

Brian Drake said...

Ed, I hear you on the white out! I had a computer crash once that wiped out an entire manuscript, so I dug grandpa's portable Royal out of the closet, paid a shop $200 to restore it, and now my first drafts go through the Royal via my two index fingers. Only after that does it go into the computer. This way I have a hard copy always nearby in case the computer hiccups. Mistakes are indeed hard to correct, but I feel like Peter Rabe when I'm typing on that machine.