Posthumously Famous Authors

The following blog post is dedicated to two authors, who became more famous after they died.

Jane Austen

Jane Austen

 (December 16th 1775 – July 18th 1817)

Notable works: Sense and Sensibility (1811), Pride and Prejudice (1813), Emma (1816), Persuasion (1818)

Though Jane Austen achieved a degree of recognition during her lifetime for her prodigious literary talents, she received little personal renown, due in part because she published anonymously.  After the author’s death her books became steadily more popular though none of them achieved best-seller status during the 19th Century.

It was the 20th Century that saw Jane Austen meteoric rise to iconic status.  During the early decades of the century there was an increase in the academic study of her books and then in 1940 came the first film adaptation of one of her works, the MGM production of Pride and Prejudice, starring Laurence Olivier and Greer Garson.  From the 1970s The BBC were making dramatisations of her books, the most successful being the 1990s adaptations of Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice.  These only served to fuel Jane Austen fever, which to this day shows no signs of abating.  Not only are her books adored by readers around the world and studied in schools, but her fame has transcended the literary world, evidence of which is her being ranked as the 70th out of ‘100 Greatest Britains’ of all time.

All of which would no doubt have made the bashful author blush if she were still around today.  However there is normally a down side to fame, in this instance this may come in the form of the latest adaptation of her work, the soon to be filmed, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

Jim Thompson

Jim Thompson

(September 27th 1906 – April 7th 1977)

Notable works: The Killer Inside Me (1952), The Getaway (1959), The Grifters (1963)

The American novelist and screenwriter is best known for his paperback pulp novels.  Jim Thompson started writing for magazines as early as the 1920s and later turned to crime fiction in the 40s’.  Despite his prolific output (wrote 20 books in the 1950s alone), he also worked as a journalist to support his family and prodigious alcohol intake.  Thompson became well known for The Killer Inside Me (1952), which remains to this day probably his most acclaimed work.  He later wrote and co-wrote Hollywood screenplays for prestigious directors, including the iconic Stanley Kubrick, as well as having two of his books adapted for the cinema during his lifetime.

Jim Thompson’s success was however only fleeting and when he died in 1977 he was largely forgotten, his work out of print in his home country and his legacy appeared to be little more than a footnote in the history of pulp fiction.

Today Jim Thompson is widely regarded as one of the greatest crime writers of all time.  Not only are his novels back in print but two of them have been adapted for the silver screen, The Getaway (1994) starring Alex Baldwin and Kim Basinger and The Killer Inside Me (2010) starring Casey Affleck.

It appears that Jim Thompson may well have been anticipating future success when he asked his wife to look after his manuscripts and copyrights shortly before his death.

Click on the links to read reviews for The Killer Inside Me and The Getaway


Leave a comment
  • Nice profiles. I am always amazed that the great ones (authors) seem to have a problem with alcohol. Jim did write well and you have to wonder how he did it. Nice about Jane getting a city in Texas named after her. 🙂

    • I too wonder, you’d have thought Jim would have been too hungover most of the time to do much writing. Just finished reading Burroughs’s ‘Queer’ today and I am amazed he managed to write so much considering his drinking and opiate addiction. Thanks for the comment.

  • I wish Jane could have enjoyed some of the financial success her works have brought to others. I live in the Texas city named for her, and I feel it only right to apologize for the misspelling. Our founding fathers probably refused to spend extra money for a proofreader. 🙂

    • So Austin really was named after Austen. I thought it was a joke when a comment was left on my blog to that effect. A proofreader would have been a good idea, LOL. I hear you are in for a very hot summer this year! Thank you for the comment Kathy. Guy

  • Your blog is a delight to those interested in literature (and movies, for that matter).
    What a waste the posthumous fame is. I’m sure you will agree that having one’s books as a pre-humous moderate success is preferable by far to them being posthumous classics!

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