Thursday, June 06, 2013

'Dimestore Dostoevsky' offers glimpse at journalism's past

JIM THOMPSON tells a great story.
The noir writer produced several novels turned into films, including "The Getaway" and "The Grifters." His own film work included collaborations with STANLEY KUBRICK on "The Killing" and "Paths to Glory."
I am currently reading "THE NOTHING MAN," a 1954 novel by the writer nicknamed "THE DIMESTONE DOSTOEVSKY."
The protagonist, Clint Brown, is a newspaperman seemingly caught up in a series of murders. I say "seemingly," because Thompson's brilliant plotting often means things aren't always what they seem in his works.
The novel offers a bonus to me. As a journalist, I enjoy reading Thompson's descriptions of the newspaper business from the middle of the last century. Thompson provides a glimpse at how many things have changed.
Brown's own position at the paper has become an anachronism. He serves as a REWRITE MAN, an office-based journalist who would receive telephoned reports from the field and type them for preparation of publication. In the era of laptops and smartphones -- not to mention copy and paste functions -- such a role need not exist today.
Reading "The Nothing Man" is like taking a trip with an unknown final destination, populated by forgotten scenes of journalism's past.


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