Tuesday, August 05, 2014

A Finnish Finish

James Thompson, the Kentucky-born crime-fictionist who over the last half-decade composed four novels starring Finnish homicide inspector Kari Vaara (including 2012’s Helsinki Blood), died unexpectedly on August 2 in his hometown of Lahti, Finland. Either 49 or 50 years old (he was born sometime in 1964), Thompson was married and had resided in Finland for about 15 years.

In his interview with Thompson from 2010, fellow novelist J. Sydney Jones explained that the creator of Inspector Vaara had been a “bartender, bouncer, construction worker, photographer, rare coin dealer, soldier, and wrestling announcer” at various stages of his life. However, he embarked on a writing career after winning “a publishing contract with northern Europe’s largest publisher, WSOY, for a series of political thrillers and crime stories. His first novel, Across the Green Line, appeared in 2008, in Finnish, under the title Jerusalemin veri. His second book, the crime novel Snow Angels (Lumienkelit), was released in spring 2009. Another thriller, The True Name of God (Jumalan nimeen), was published in March 2010.” Adds Jones:
Thompson has gone on to become one of the big guns in Nordic crime fiction. His 2011 [novel], Lucifer’s Tears, is, according to Publishers Weekly, “Stellar. … Thompson elegantly threads Finland’s compelling national history with Vaara’s own demons in this taut, emotionally wrought novel.” Booklist declared it “impossible to put down.” And Kirkus Reviews got over its snarkiness to note, “Nazi collaboration, government cover-ups, kinky sex, a baby daughter waiting impatiently to be born and a vigilante-minded hero who talks back to his boss more irreverently than Dirty Harry. What more could you want?” And the Washington Post thought that “the haunted, trouble-prone Vaara is an intriguing character, one who recalls Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch and Ian Rankin’s John Rebus.”
In addition to penning the Vaara books, Thompson was the editor of Helsinki Noir, a short-story anthology scheduled for publication by Akashic Books this coming November. His fifth and latest series novel, Helsinki Dead, had been set for release by Putnam in fall 2015, but reports say it was left unfinished at the time of his demise.

We offer our condolences to Thompson’s family in this difficult time.

(Hat tip to The Gumshoe Site.)

FOLLOW-UP: J. Sydney Jones writes in this new post that “According to one Finnish source, James [Thompson] was apparently killed in an accident.” He adds as well that the late author was born on October 16, 1964, which would make him 49 at the time of his death.

READ MORE:Jim Thompson’s Last Walk,” by Gareth Rice (Belfastnomad); “James Thompson, 1964-2014” (Book Reviews by Elizabeth A. White); “Finnish-American Writer Jim Thompson Is Dead,” by David Cord (The Helsinki Times); “About James Thompson, Author of Snow Angels, My Ex-husband, Who Died Last Weekend” (Tenaciousbitch); “Jim Thompson, Novelist and Essayist,” by Christopher G. Moore (International Crime Authors Reality Check).


Naomi Johnson said...

I am very sorry to read this.

Betty said...

I loved his books and frequently recommend them at the library where I work. This is sad news indeed. My condolences to his family, friends and fans.

Buster McNamara said...

any story links to the cause of thompson's death?

J. Kingston Pierce said...

Thank you, Buster, for inspiring me to look for more news about James Thompson's too-early demise. I just found this blog post from the author's ex-wife, Ohio resident Lynne Logan:


In it, she writes about the accident that evidently took Thompson's life in Finland:

"Unfortunately, Jim had suffered with severe migraines for years, and the medication he was taking made him drowsy, and it can also cause dizziness. The night he died, he took a walk after dinner by a lake near his house, which he’d done many times before. From what I understand, he lost his balance on the pier bordering the lake, and he drown.

"He also had a head injury, so he either struck his head on the pier as he fell or he might’ve hit a rock or something in the water. They’re not really sure. However, he had always been a strong swimmer, so he had to have been unconscious, or he’d still be with us today."

If anyone else reading this comment thread has more information, I hope you will share it with the rest of us.