Jim Thompson, The Legendary American of Thailand

sorabji.com: Last book you read: Jim Thompson, The Legendary American of Thailand
By Sorabji on Tuesday, February 17, 1998 - 10:21 pm:
    How I came to be in possession of this book I do not know, though I assume it dates from when i lived in the same building as the Bryn Mawr Used Bookstore on the upper east side of Manhattan.

    it is by William Warren.

    Not to ruin the ending, but it's worth knowing in advance that the author was a close friend of Jim Thompson.

    Jim Thompson was an American living in Thailand throughout the 1960's. He was so well-known and "beloved" among the Thai population that mail addressed to "Jim, Bangkok, Thailand" would get to him.

    In America I'm told that mail addressed to "The Man" will reach the president of these United States.

    Wonder if "Bubba" would also work.

    Anyway, the Jim Thompson story interested me right off because I and my family lived in Laos, across the Mekong River from Thailand, in the early 1970's. When I saw a book titled "The Legendary American of Thailand" I thought thought that surely I would have heard of this guy.

    There were not very many Americans living in southeast Asia in those days, and I'm told that if there were Americans out there, particularly non-military Americans (a real rarity) then they knew about each other.

    We did not necessarily know each other personally, but we knew about each other's existence, just because Americans over there were so relatively rare.

    So, anyway, Jim Thompson. His claim to fame (why does that suddenly not sound like such a cliché?) in Thailand was that he founded the Thai Silk Company. He abandonded his life as an architect in New York City to chase some random mid-life dream of starting another life in another land far far away.

    To cut to the chase, one day in late 1967 Jim Thompson disappeared. Vanished, or so it seemed. He walked away from his house in the Cameron Highlands of Thailand and was never seen or heard from again.

    And to this day, as far as I have been able to learn, there has been no trace of him, no clue as to where he went, what happened to him, why he disappeared...

    According to this book the story received world-wide publicity (But, again, the author is not very objective about it all). The New York Times wrote about the story, and the BBC talks about it once in a while.

    Aside from this book I know nothing of Jim Thompson. My mother and father, who knew southeast Asia from an American perspective quite well, particularly Laos and Thailand, never heard of the guy.

    I am sending the book to my father, though, so he can read it and tell me if any of this story comes back to him.

    If this book is to be believed then there is at least one unsolved mystery in this world.

    i am inclined, unlike the author of the book, to believe that Thompson walked off into the jungles of Thailand and destroyed himself.

    All the things the author says about Thompson's composure before the disappearance are so typical of the things friends say about people who have ended their own lives.

    "He was in such a good mood."

    "He was more upbeat than ever."

    These are not quotes from the book...

    Anyway, I am now intrigued enough to research what information there is about this extremely interesting case. I can not even begin to describe it all here, it is too complicated a plot.

By Martin on Friday, June 26, 1998 - 10:49 am:
    thanks for posting that; I've been looking for a copy of this.

Martha on Friday, April 26, 2002 - 11:12 pm:

    did you do more research/ i am curious about this whole thing. my uncle lived in bangkok in the late 50s and early 60s and used to send silk to my mother but i don't know if it was jim's. my uncle is dead, unfortunately.


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