Warriors B2G1 Free

Special Offers see all

Enter to WIN a $100 Credit

Subscribe to PowellsBooks.news
for a chance to win.
Privacy Policy

Visit our stores


Authors, readers, critics, media — and booksellers.


Earl Thompson and A Garden of Sand

When I was in my teens, I used to spend a lot of time sitting around my aunt's house with my cousins. We'd smoke cigarettes and watch the three channels on the TV and talk about sex and rock and roll and sex and what we were going to do once we left the holler. But it grew boring every so often, all that talk of escape and Blue Cheer and girls we could never have. And during one of those lulls, I noticed a fat yellow paperback that one of my cousins had bought in town lying on the coffee table. Hell, the fact that there was a book in the house was in itself a major event as far as I was concerned. That book was Earl Thompson's A Garden of Sand, and within the next few months I read it at least five or six times. Later, during one of the times I ran away from home, I missed the damn thing so much that I shoplifted it from a drugstore in St. Petersburg, Florida. A Garden of Sand was the first book that made me want to be a writer, something I vowed I would do once I made my final escape from Knockemstiff.A Garden of Sand was the first book that made me want to be a writer, something I vowed I would do once I made my final escape from Knockemstiff. That was in 1970 or '71, and I was around fifteen years old (yeah, it took me a while!).

I had never read anything like Thompson's novel. True, it was filled with sex and lice and grime and alcoholism and mean poverty, but it was also beautiful in its own sad and sordid way. The characters were real, so real that I loved some of them and hated others with a passion. And I'd never read a book that had people in it who were so much like the ones I'd grown up around in the holler (though Thompson's world was far rougher). Of course, you must realize that I hadn't read much of anything before A Garden of Sand except the books stored in the small library at Huntington School, and there sure as hell wasn't anything even close to Earl Thompson on those shelves. I'd read some of my old man's "dirty" books, though I knew, even then, that the writing was atrocious. But Earl Thompson could write, and I entered into that Depression-era Kansas world like I was walking through the flimsy screen door into my aunt's house.

A Garden of Sand was Thompson's first novel, and he would go on to write three more before he died of a heart attack in 1978 at the age of forty-seven in Sausalito, California (one of those, The Devil to Pay, was published posthumously). Today, few people read him, or have even heard his name, and that's a shame. So here's what I'm getting at with all this: a couple of years ago, I decided that I would write a biography of Earl Thompson. Believe me, I didn't even know how to begin, but I somehow managed to get in touch with his literary executor, Gilmer Waggoner, who had also been Thompson's accountant. However, Waggoner, a good man who loved Thompson and his work, was in failing health, and I mostly corresponded with his wife, a fantastic lady who even managed to find me the addresses of one of Thompson's children and an ex-wife. But I also began to discover that I didn't have the patience (or the money) for the kind of research necessary. I also began to discover that I didn't have the patience (or the money) for the kind of research necessary. Many of the facts about Thompson's life weren't easily available, and he'd moved around a lot. So, in the end, I gave up, emailed Mrs. Waggoner that I was going to have to put the project on the backburner while I concentrated on my own fiction (a poor excuse). And ever since then, I've harbored some guilt about that decision, partly because the Waggoners seemed so excited that someone was finally going to bring their friend some of the attention he deserves, and partly because I feel like I owe Thompson big-time. Who knows? If I'd never read his novel, I might not be writing today.

Last night, when I decided I'd write about Thompson on this blog, I discovered that A Garden of Sand is now out of print (the last paperback edition was published by Carroll & Graf in 2001). Granted, it's still fairly easy to buy a used copy, but, Jesus, this isn't a book that should ever go out of printthis isn't a book that should ever go out of print. So today, I urge all of you to buy it before you miss your chance (and if you've still got a few coins left, pick up Tattoo, his second one). And I'd also like to propose that you all think about the first book that really knocked your head off, it was so friggin' good. And heck, while we're at it, let's pray that some brave souls finally begin working on those few biographies that truly deserve to be written.

÷ ÷ ÷

Donald Ray Pollock grew up in Knockemstiff, Ohio. His stories have appeared in the Berkeley Fiction Review, the Journal, Third Coast, Chiron Review, Sou'wester, Boulevard, and Folio, and he has contributed essays on politics to the op-ed page of the New York Times.

Books mentioned in this post

  1. Knockemstiff
    Used Hardcover $9.95
  2. A Garden of Sand
    New Trade Paper $21.00

Donald Ray Pollock is the author of Knockemstiff

32 Responses to "Earl Thompson and A Garden of Sand"

    Patti March 7th, 2008 at 10:20 pm

    Dear Mr. Pollack,

    I want to thank you for writing this blog. I can't begin to tell you how much I sympathize with your plight to bring this man's story to the light of day. I've never run across such a gifted writer who stayed underground. I can appreciate you wanting to write his biography. I too have tried to research the man behind the work, to no avial.

    I found Tattoo in an old dusty bookstore about 27 years ago and it blew me away- his style, the subject and the background of the people just amazed me and deeply moved me. Perhaps it his his ability to describe raw emotion and humanity that appeals to those of unconventional upbringings. I was born in Kansas, and the Norwegians are my people too. This is one of the greatest American writers I have ever read, and I am a very avid reader. I have tried to contact publishers in the past and never recieved an awnser. It wasn't until I found your blog that I found anything about him. I knew he died young but hadn't a clue as to how.I would love to know more of what you found on him in your travels. Every little town I go thru I hit the used bookstore just to see if I could find something of his. Of course I have my copies, but I just want to know if other people know. It is like a conspiracy was put against him to keep his books out of print.

    Over the years I have turned a few people onto his work. And have lost all the copies I've loaned out. Which is fine, spread the word, right.. This past October I sent a copy of Tattoo to my daughters friend, an F-18 fighter pilot deployed in Iraq. You might of heard of him, his name is Major Brian Dennis, he recently made headlines for saving an Iraqi dog. He read it, and had strong feelings about it.

    Don't feel guilty about not completing his bio- if it is any consolation, his novels seem to speak volumes for him. I hope his family finds consolation in that as well and in the fact that he was way before his time as so many great artists are. His subject matter is not for the meek and closed minded and with any justice in the world his books will once again hit the shelves and get his name out there where it should be.


    Neil March 12th, 2008 at 3:05 pm

    I've read " A Garden Of Sand" about a dozen times, and "Tattoo" about fifteen.
    They are easily, easily the best books I've ever read. I would like to know anything about Earl Thompson. Hell, I'd love to see a photo of the guy. In doing some research about him, I found that he gave an interview to Esquire Magazine in 1970. Have you read the article, and if so, was it accompanied by any photographs?

    Thanks for bringing a little much needed attention to the world's greatest unknown author. ~ Neil

    Hank March 30th, 2008 at 5:07 pm

    I was very glad to see this. Tattoo made me want to
    write, too. I found it a bit easier to swallow than Garden of Sand, so I usually gave copies of loaned them to friends in that order. I also read both books several times, and felt I was doing my part to spread the word.

    Several years ago, i read that Caldo Largo, was going to be made into a movie starring (a then young) Harrison Ford. Considering all of the sex in that one (even more than the others) and the downbeat ending, I didn't see how that could happen. I guess a producer or studio head decided the same thing.

    When I read Devil To Pay, I wondered why Thompson gave the hero a different name. Sure sounded like the same boy, grown up. After reading on a book jacket cover that Thompson was no longer living, I wondered how far from fiction those stories were. Hell of a writer. Would really appreciate any more info you want to share from your research. From the looks of these comments, I am guessing there are plenty of people out there who feel the same way I do. Thanks for posting this online!


    Gary Hadley April 1st, 2008 at 3:33 am

    I have read all of Earl Thompson's books but never knew anything about the man until reading these blogs. I am devestated to find out that there was no third book written after A Garden of Sand & The Devil to Pay as I anticipated. I can't remember why I expected there to be a third, possibly because I wanted there to be one.

    I am also saddened to hear of the demise of such a talented & superbly gifted writer.

    I too was inspired by his writing. It instilled in me the desire to write, but found myself setting the bar too high, in as much as I compared my abilities to his. Of all the writers I have read, his books were truly amazing.

    To imagine the depths of feeling he could have continued to evoke in his readers if he survived to continue writing is truly amazing. The world is a sadder place for not having Earl Thompson's abilities as a writer to inspire & entertain others.

    Viva April 4th, 2008 at 10:02 pm

    If you like, enmail me at vivaguerrero@hotmail.com and I can send you a photo of the guy that is on the sleeve of Tattoo.. his Second novel, so yeah, no worries man, he did make a trilogy :)

    Viva April 4th, 2008 at 10:04 pm

    OMG we would LOVE to see Harrison Ford in Caldo Largo........

    Seriously though, any more information about Mr. Thompson would be great.. Mr. Pollock, can you give us any more insights from your research?

    Joe April 8th, 2008 at 9:44 pm

    I read "Garden and "Tattoo" as a teenager, shortly after they came out. The brawling I found a bit unreal, maybe because I'd already been involved in numerous episodes where my older sister's ex had turned our house into something that rivalled Thompson's imagination by then, but otherwise the books made a big impression for their sympathetic treatment of people who were just trying to get by the best way they knew how. One thing that often comes back to me was Jack's respectful treatment of winos and other down and outers, "just in case". With that one image, Thompson probably helped me distill religion into the golden rule.

    Truckerjohn May 9th, 2008 at 9:49 am

    Why doesn't someone who is web savvy make a website devoted to Thompson with pictures and bio and all that jazz and then report back here.

    Greg Martin May 10th, 2008 at 10:41 pm

    I just finished reading,Caldo Largo. I Found the book at a chuch rummage sale.
    Definetly a keeper...I will be keeping a weather eye out for Mr Thompson's work.
    It is interesting to note that the book was published in 1978 long after the Cuban crises had passed. Maybe the anti-estabishment sentiment is the real reason Mr Thompson's work was ignored by the critics.

    JACK CALLENDER February 7th, 2009 at 10:37 am


    Don F March 26th, 2009 at 12:35 am

    I am also from Wichita, and lived two doors down from where Earl Thompson apparently once lived, with his grandparents, as a child. The area is the backdrop for the Wichita neighborhood, in Thompson's second book, "Tattoo". The "no name niggertown alley" [Thompson's words], where he mentions living, with his grandparents, was either Santa Fe Avenue, along the railroad tracks, or the alley out behind. I noticed little errors, perhaps intentional, in Thompson's placement of things, in "Tattoo". For example, Kress' dime store, where he checks his reflection in the plate glass window, in the opening of "Tattoo", was at Broadway and Douglas, not Market and Douglas. The Miller Theater, where he had just seen a picture, was behind Kress'. Also, he mentions a Balls Grocery, which was really called Bells.

    Thompson has inspired me to write, as well. The world Thompson describes was either exaggerated, or had disappeared by the time I was born. Perhaps I was merely sheltered from it. At any rate, I knew the elderly daughter of the woman whose property Thompson's grandparents apparently once had a trailer on. Before she died, I found Thompson's books, and read them. My elderly neighbor lady said that everyone in the neighborhood read "Tattoo". She said that characters, such as the hunchback who worked at Bell's Grocery, were real.

    The real neighborhood from "Tattoo" is a shadow of its former self now. For one thing, many of the homes have been torn down. There had been a homemade house trailer, built from an old streetcar, in lot, next to the neighbor lady I mentioned. I later wondered if it had been the one Thompson, and/or his grandparents had once inhabited. When I was a boy, the trailer was hauled away, and my mother told me that it was going to be turned back into a streetcar, and put in a museum somewhere.

    Brian September 16th, 2009 at 7:30 am

    I picked up the British edition of Tattoo at a used bookseller when I was on liberty in Perth Australia in 1983 (the cover jumped out at me---a tattooed hand giving the bird). It was a revelation. I subsequently have picked up and read his other books, and agree with the above posters that this guy is one of the best writers I have ever come across. Too bad he died so young. I regret you weren't able to track down enough info for a substantial biography of this guy, that's something I would definitely be interested in.

    andy September 25th, 2009 at 2:45 pm

    A Garden of Sand and Tattoo are my two favourite novels. I've read them and re-read them several times. I start on one and then have to read the other and find them just as enjoyable and fresh as the first time. I discovered Tattoo when I was sixteen (1993). I found a copy in the family bookshelf when I was bored and wanted something to read. I guess I was intrigued (as a rebellious teenager) by the big "up yours" on the cover. Though at first thinking it was quite thick, I started reading and was hooked within pages and subsequently flew through the book. As soon as I finished it I was down to the local used book store where I was relieved to find a copy of A Garden of Sand. Though I love Tattoo immensely, Garden is my fave. The rough and unforgiving world, seen through the eyes of an innocent child who is very quickly losing that innocence, is compelling. The narrative is quite breathtaking. The characters too real that you feel they are there with you, perhaps living next door. As for Thompsons' style, unbelievably brutal and honest, and not to mention brave. An honesty such as his just sucks you completely into his world as if you are there living it with him.
    I really liked Caldo Largo but must admit, after Garden and Tattoo, The Devil to Pay left me cold. I dont know if that was because it was unfinished or what. I enjoyed it but after the brilliance of the first two, my expectations were high and I found it a dissapointment.
    It's a great shame that all we have is four books from such a great writer, but i will always cherish them and enjoy them.
    I certainly know what to say if questioned about who my favourite author is.

    Grazi October 1st, 2009 at 12:43 pm

    I am so glad Earl is being remembered through this blog.I met him in 1973, when I lived in a fishing village in Greece for six months. Earl had rented a house for the summer and was hard at work on his second book. He was very handsome, so it wasn't hard to fall for him, though I was much, much younger.
    I saw him once more in Switzerland, where I spent a night reading the final draft of Tattoo. We correponded until a week before his death. Too bad Mr. Pollock abandoned the idea for a biography. I had considered writng a book about my experience with him but felt it was too personal.

    Ray December 1st, 2009 at 2:12 pm

    I was pleasantly surprised to find this blog, to say the least. A voracious reader at a young age, I stumbled upon "Garden Of Sand" as a teenager, and was blown away. A few years later as a college student, I again stumbled upon "Tattoo" in the University of Tennessee undergrad library stacks. I started reading it casually and was thrilled to realize this was the next chapter of the kid from "Garden." Eureka! I spent hours reading it right then and there in the library, probably blew off a kegger in the process. I realized that I had always wondered what happened to Jack, and I was quite eager to pick up the story, and I was most definitely not disappointed. Then, again a few years later, I somehow found "Devil To Pay," and while it was great to again connect with Jack, this one didn't pack the punch of the other two. Similarly, "Caldo Largo," while a fine yarn, didn't hit me where I lived like the first two.
    I sort of forgot about Earl Thompson as I grew up (I'm now 49), but these days I think about him often and remain curious about his life. I'm a journalist, author of a non-fiction book, and am currently writing a biography of a famous musician. I totally understand Mr. Pollock's urge to write a biography of Earl Thompson and accordingly I understand why the project got derailed.
    But Earl Thompson remains a fascinating figure to me, and by reading these posts, I see I'm not alone. I haven't re-read these books in many years, and I wasn't informed enough at the time to pass any sort of literary judgement on Thompson's work (as some of these essayists appropriately have). But I can think of no writer who effected me so strongly, whose work was so potent for me at a particular time in my life. What characters! The grandfather was a tough ol' bastard, dealt a bad hand by life, and he never rose above his circumstances. Thompson never allowed his characters the easy way out, people failed, they got their ass kicked, they rarely found redemption, they indeed had the devil to pay. The mother, what a wounded, weak soul. The narrator, what an unrepentant rascal; but he truly loved women. Again, I was totally intrigued to read the post from Wichitans who validate Thompson's settings. I feel more than ever these works were biographical to a high degree.
    Sorry to prattle on, but I enjoyed writing this about Thompson. What a man, what a writer. It ain't for everybody, but it sure made an impression on me. He should always be remembered.

    andy December 4th, 2009 at 8:28 am

    Spot on Ray, for those of us who had the experience of reading his work are by far the more richer for it. An enourmous talent that seems to have been forgotten. I agree with Donald Pollack, these books should never go out of print or be forgotten and left to some shelf in a dusty old used book store.

    wayne December 23rd, 2009 at 9:27 am

    It's great to read a dialogue about Earl Thompson. Heart warming to know there are foks like myself who appreciate his work. My take on Devil to pay is that he may have been writing in the present without the advantage of having lived far enough past what he was trying to express - sort of taking notes. Had he lived longer he would have distanced himself enough from that part of his life to write about it with the same depth, feeling and detail that he displayed on Garden of Sand and Tattoo - assuming they were autobiographical. I have to say that I've read Tattoo 3 times (first time in 1976-read it first) and am about to read Garden of Sand for the third time too. I guess Earl's biography has already been written - by Earl!

    andy May 30th, 2010 at 8:26 am

    I think that Tattoo was quite a popular novel. I live in Australia and as a regular visitor of used book stores and op-shops, I never fail to find copies of that book, and Caldo Largo also pops up occasionally. Lets just hope someone will pick them up, pay a dollar, and be taken on an amazing journey that they will never forget.

    wade November 7th, 2010 at 10:42 am

    It seems Earl Thompson once owned the former Ships Lantern Casino in Marin County California (once owned by the Jefferson Airplane) and sold it shortly before moving into an apartment in Sausalito, where he died of a heart attack on Nov.9,1978. Seems passerbys saw him slumped in a doorway and thought he was just drunk.
    Hm. Guess it was time to pay the devil. Too much hard livin', I'd say, like all the best writers.

    Grazi January 13th, 2011 at 5:47 pm

    Yes, he did live in the Jefferson Airplane house. A freak accident (his babysitter's 2-year old son fell into the swimming pool and drowned) was part of the reason he sold it. He did not die of a heart attack but of a brain aneurism, like his mother. He also suffered from extremely high blood pressure, at one point he underwent experimental therapy with snake venom to bring it under control.
    In his forties, when I met him, Earl was an extremely disciplined, hard working writer, not at all high-living like he might have been in his youth. He rented houses in Greece and Switzerland to complete his novels and was always worried about money and the future, he did have three children to support. He had hoped to make real money by having his books turned into movies. Only one was optioned, but nothing ever came of it. He dreamed of buying a boat when he got older and sail around the world with a woman he loved. I have a number of vivid letters from him, some decorated with his delightful drawings.He had been a graphic artist and ran a company in Brooklyn with his wife.
    Perhaps because of a premonition, he wrote a loving farewell letter to his family and friends which was found after he died and was mailed to everyone in his address book.

    Freewheelin’ Bob! February 2nd, 2011 at 8:49 am

    Donald, thanks for this post; thanks also to everyone else for submitting their personal remembrances.

    I would really like to see a Thompson biography and, after reading Knockemstiff, I think you would be an ideal candidate. Perhaps you could collaborate with someone from a university in Kansas, or other organization with a connection; think grad student. Your collaborator could do a lot of the research, freeing you to focus on writing.

    Financing might be possible through kickstarter.com; take a look and see what others have done there. The university angle might be an avenue to grant funding (what would Earl have thought of that?).

    Thanks again. Looking forward to 'The Devil All The Time'.

    Tat2d June 25th, 2011 at 1:29 pm

    Grazi, could you shoot me an email at tat2d@cableone.net. I would love to correspond with you or others that knew Mr Thompson. I stumbled onto Tattoo as a 17yr old marine in 1975 and have worn out multiple copies of all his books. His work has seared a hole in my soul
    and I feel a need to know more about his life. I've read countless books and nothing has had an impact or affected me as much as Garden or Tattoo.

    RC July 14th, 2011 at 9:04 am

    My mother gave me 25 bucks to go and by a light jacket. I went up to Harvard Square, walked into a bookstore and say a yellow paperback on display, with a piece of a review on the front cover: “A blistering sexual odyssey in the down and out days of the thirties…”. It was “Garden”.

    I was 16, and on my own (hopeful) sexual odyssey. I bought it, and a couple of other books, and returned home later sans light jacket, to face a pissed off mom.

    I read it. I began rereading it the day after I finished it. Not because I was a sex-starved 16 year old male who pored over the sex scenes… but because I lost myself in it, and because I was moved by it… profoundly. I was an avid reader at the time, and had read hard hitting novels… but nothing like “Garden”. It had a heartbreaking pathos to it, but was also inspirational… and filled with both subtle and overt humor. Old man MacDeramid must have been a sight to behold.

    Eight years later, I stopped one evening at a local watering-hole for a beer, and because I was on the make for a gorgeous bartender. It was a snowy night, business was slow, and we talked books. She mentioned that one of her favorite books was set in WWII about a young guy, and that his hard life and experiences were fascinating. She mentioned that at one point, he has sex with his mother, more for her sake, than for his own sexual pleasure.

    I asked her what his name was and she said “Jack”. I asked her if the title was “Garden”, even though her descriptions were ‘off’ timeline-wise. She said “Tattoo”. I realized it was the sequel, and told her about “Garden”. We both didn’t know about the existence of the ‘other’ book.

    Two nights later, on her next shift, we arranged to meet. I brought “Garden”, she brought “Tattoo”, and we exchanged. We both were thrilled with the results. As often happens, time slips by, we both moved, and we both never re-exchanged the books. But that too, often happens with books, and people.

    A thorough biography on Earl Thompson would be most welcome, it seems, by more people than I would have guessed.

    Anne De Chasse May 20th, 2012 at 5:45 am

    My husband found this blog for me as i had been moaning i could find no information on such a great author. I fist read Tattoo at eighteen (in the early 80's) then quickly found the other books in second hand shops. They had the amazing effect of making me feel life. I cried many times at the heartbreaking life Jack led and rejoiced in his pleasures. It was only in the three years ago that I read the last of his books after a long search on the internet. I do agree that his anti-establishment views rubbed some people up the wrong way and that was the source of his not becoming more renowned. I would love to see his books as films because I think people can handle the subject matter more now. I would to see them tastefully and artfully done.
    Like many others I have had an urge to write ever since reading them and have succeeded in writing three books. I just hope when I put them out there in cyber space they will please someone as much as Earl Thompson pleased me.

    Jon September 8th, 2012 at 5:33 am

    I read "Garden of Sand" and "Tatoo" in the early 90's. The scene from "Garden of Sand" that I remember vividly was at the end after Jack had his final encounter with his abusive Stepfather and decided to go back to Wichita. Went something like: Wilma "It wasn't all bad times and heartache..." without missing a beat, Jack replies, "Pretty much so Mom," without anger, just matter of fact and brutally honest, like the whole novel.

    denis October 19th, 2012 at 1:39 pm

    Wow, it's so good to see that others have loved Earl Thompson's work: Garden of Sand is a book Ive read many times and wondered about where the writer's life and career went. Im definitely on the lookout for Tatoo and the other books. Read Dos Passo's USA trilogy with Reginald Marsh's illustrations to get another sense of low down life in America. Also Elmore Leonard, Dreiser, Roth (also touches on the incest theme)and Woody Guthrie's autobiography (and novel about to be published for the first time). Write the book Mr. Pollack!

    Jay Patterson November 26th, 2012 at 4:30 pm

    Why oh why hasn't there been a movie made on ANY of Earl's books? Too brutal and violent - Look at the Wild Bunch and Strawdogs. Too much illicit sex - The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.
    Maybe the case is that there are not any screenwriters/book adapters, film executives or actors with a set of balls big enough to tackle it.

    gord patterson June 16th, 2013 at 9:09 am

    In 1972 Earl Thompson’s book “The Garden Of Sand” was published, I was working for New American Library as a salesman. I had read the book before it’s published date. It was the kind of book you could not be put down, each page smoothly turned. I loved selling this books, I had many copies I would give out to my friends and buyers. When I checked my buyers stock I always made sure Garden Of Sand was in stock. The same when “Tattoo” came out. I remember the reviewers were not kind to Earl Thompson’s books. I remember one reviewer on the radio asking him about Jacks sex with his mother, Mr. Thompson answered the question of why and how it fit in the story, this reviewer would not stop at his answer, but kept up with that theme. I could tell by his questions he had not read the book. Our editor at N.A.L. told us that we had in Earl Thompson an author who will write great books, he speculated that book four or five would be the one to breakout. Then in 1978 at the young age of 47 we lost Earl Thompson, I believe the world lost the possibility to great books by a gifted writer. This blog was a nice gesture, it show appreciation to a fine writer, well done.

    Sheryl Powell August 14th, 2013 at 3:51 pm

    Of the three little boys growing up together, Jackie (Earl), Jimmie and Jerry, Jerry was my father, the first cousin of Earl. He was very angry when Garden of Sand first came out and ranted about what a no-good liar Earl always was and none of the book was true. Many years later, I asked my dad again how much of the book was true and he finally replied, "I think all of it." Many of the little things Earl wrote about were spot on correct as Jerry remembered. We have the letter Earl wrote to his Grandma telling her he was going to be coming into some money (meaning his first published book) and how things would be better.

    Patricia August 17th, 2013 at 11:31 am

    I am glad that Earl Thompson's books are able to be found somewhere on the globe. I find it beyond belief that this amazing writer is so unknown and his books are so hard for me to come across. I think it was the incest theme that scared a lot of potential, but close-minded readers away.
    Once a decade or so, I will re-read Thompson's books, The Garden of Sand, Tattoo and The Devil to Pay. Always I'm blown away by the raw reality and the sheer genius found in Thompsons works. Thompson was way before his time, and his writing style is unmatched in any of the thousands of books I've read.
    Many years ago I tried writing to a publishing house for info, but received no answer. Please Mr. Pollack, help find a way to let Mr. Thompson live again.

    Owen November 12th, 2013 at 5:49 pm

    I have read both novels, A Garden of Sand and Tattoo, several times just to remind myself what a fine talent we had in Mr. Thompson. In the dedication section of Tattoo Mr. Thompson writes, "To Mai Zetterling, whose existence is an inspiration and whose personal alchemy so helped keep me alive in a mean time." Who is Mai Zetterling? Best regards.

    Tamara November 24th, 2013 at 10:40 pm

    Tattoo is a book I have read many times over the years. It was kept in the back of the hall closet, hidden from prying teenage eyes, residing next to Valley of the Dolls and The Exorcist. I am now 49 and still have that 1970's era paperback. The poor cover is long gone. At the moment, I am reading Garden of Sand and enjoying it thoroughly.

    I appreciate the raw honest writing of Mr. Thompson and was deeply saddened to learn that he is gone. Jacky has crawled deep into my brain and resides there with other characters I have grown to love.

    Thank you so much for this forum in which to express my admiration for Zmr. Thompson's work.

Post a comment:

Get Your Gravatar

  1. Please note:
  2. All comments require moderation by Powells.com staff.
  3. Comments submitted on weekends might take until Monday to appear.
PowellsBooks.Blog uses Gravatar to allow you to personalize the icon that appears beside your name when you post. If you don't have one already, get your Gravatar today!
  • back to top


Powell's City of Books is an independent bookstore in Portland, Oregon, that fills a whole city block with more than a million new, used, and out of print books. Shop those shelves — plus literally millions more books, DVDs, and gifts — here at Powells.com.