“I have found that violence is strangely capable of returning my characters to reality and preparing them to accept their moment of grace. Their heads are so hard that almost nothing else will do the work.” — Flannery O’Connor

About Phillip Thompson

Photo: Kathryn Thompson

Photo: Kathryn Thompson

I grew up in and around the East Mississippi town of Columbus, birthplace of Tennessee Williams, where I spent a huge portion of my childhood reading comic books (Batman), novels, history and stories from Alfred Hitchcock and Ellery Queen mystery magazines, courtesy of an aunt.

I received a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Ole Miss before serving in the Marine Corps for 12 years, where I served mostly in California and Hawaii, aboard the USS Missouri, and in combat during the Persian Gulf War with the 1st Marine Division. While aboard the Missouri, I began writing my first stories, both fiction and nonfiction, and discovered John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee series, which had a huge effect on my desire to write.

After leaving the service, I worked as a reporter and editor at newspapers in Mississippi (Columbus and Tupelo) and Virginia. My journalistic work has been featured in newspapers across the Deep South and the East Coast. I’ve written as a freelancer for Civil War magazine and The Washington Times, and I worked as a staff cartoonist for 10 years at Marine Corps Times, where I eventually became the managing editor of that paper. I’ve also worked as a defense analyst; media spokesman; consultant; speechwriter and Senate aide.

I’ve written four novels: Enemy Within, A Simple Murder, Deep Blood and Outside the Law, and my short fiction has appeared in O-Dark Thirty, the literary journal of the Veterans Writing Project; Thrills, Kills ‘N’ Chaos; Out of the Gutter Online; The Shamus Sampler II, Yellow Mama, Near to the Knuckle, Mysterical-E and The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature. I attended the Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference as a fiction writer, where my short story, “Fishing,” which became the basis for Deep Blood, was critiqued by Tom Franklin and Peter Turchi, among others.

I also wrote a non-fiction account of my Gulf War experience, Into the Storm: A U.S. Marine in the Persian Gulf War.

I’ve been a lifelong fan of the pulp fiction genre, one that arguably goes as far back as Mark Twain, but is most often recognized for the works produced in the 1940s and ’50s by writers such as the aforementioned MacDonald, Raymond Chandler, James Cain, Ray Bradbury, Mickey Spillane, et al. And many of today’s writers trace their passion for the craft and their influences back to these writers of an era, the pulp fiction or “noir” era.

Why was it called “pulp fiction?” Because most of these novels and magazines were printed on cheap, wood pulp paper rather than the slick, glossy paper of more high-end magazines and books. The cheap price (and feel) of the books and mags seemed to fit the sometimes-sordid tales of private eyes and their propensity for .45s and rye whiskey and gangsters and their molls.

But as significant as the influence of the writers above, and the genre itself, is the influence of Southern writers — Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor (who inspired the title of this blog) and Tennessee Williams to be sure, but also “newer” writers like Larry Brown, Tom Franklin, Steve Yarbrough, Cormac McCarthy and Anthony Neil Smith. These writers write about “rural” folks — working class, poor, socially disadvantaged — with authenticity, wisdom, even a little compassion and a sharp sense of humor. And they do it in such a way that you could call this kind of writing “redneck noir” or “grit lit.” Or you could just call it good storytelling. Which is what I hope to accomplish.

  1. Phil,
    What a classy, succinct blog. I will attach one of the segments/chapters of of my next book: Whiskey, Tango, Foxtrot: Eassys, Opinions and Expletives.” via e-mail with attached biography since we last spent time in the desert of SoCal. The South I find a mixed blessing as I suspect Virginia, in the aggregate, is distinctly more cosmopolitan than Kentucky west of Lakes Kentucky and Barclay. Fraternally and Semper fi!

  2. Mike Pavolko says:


    Hotty toddy! I stumbled on your blog and agree, you can take the boy out of Mississippi, but you can’t take Mississippi out of the boy. I spent 4 years there in Oxford, and even though I was raised in PA and WVA, there is a part of me at Ole Miss. I learned that a sunrise service in Mississippi occurs promptly at sunrise! You taught me that on Easter break! I just wanted to say hello and hope all is well with you.

    Your old roommate,


  3. Thank you for mentioning http://www.deadmule.com in your book Outside the Law.

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