3:30 pm: “Good night” he said, and with the wave of a hand he disappeared in the Malaysian forest …
Many times eyebrows rose, and I’ve been ironically asked: “Are you a spy?”
If it has happen to you too, you might be familiar with the sensation: usually I feel quite bad I ain’t none, so I like leaving the suspense in the air, and lingering in silence for two more seconds before confessing I’m just another ordinary mortal.
If two seconds can expand, and apparently they can,
it’s sufficient for the interlocutor to fly in Story-Land where even I can be a spy.
…if I’d be a spy…I’d like to be the feminine version of…
Jim Thompson (James Harrison Wilson Thompson) born on March 21, 1906 in a family of rich textile manufacturers. He graduated from Princeton University in 1928.
During the 30s he practiced architecture in New York City with Holden, McLaughlin & Associates, designing homes for the East Coast rich and a band shell in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.
With a sparkling social life in the 1930s he even sat on the board of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo.
In 1941, he quit his job and enlisted with the Delaware National Guard regiment. He became a commissioned officer shortly after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. In the midst of the Second World War, Thompson was recruited to serve in the Office of Strategic Services (which in 1947 was disbanded in place of the newly formed Central Intelligence Agency).
Following assignments in North Africa, Europe, and Sri Lanka, he arrived in Thailand shortly after the Surrender of Japan, and organized the Bangkok OSS office.
He left the army in 1946 and proved to be not only a fine connoisseur of cultural patterns, but also of silk patterns. Being fascinated by the hand woven silk, he devoted himself to bring it out from poor Thai cottages, where it was slowly dying, to the fashion scene in New York, London and Paris. In 1948, he partnered with George Barrie to found the Thai Silk Company.
The establishment got a dah of Hollywood glam in 1951 when the designer Irene Sharaff used their fabrics for the Rogers and Hammerstein musical, The King and I…and a prosperous outlook was layered ahead…
Jim Thompson is internationally recognized as having saved one of the historical art crafts of Siam, and having brought thousands of Thailand’s disfavored people out of poverty. He actually organized the production on the cottage-based system that created a huge change for the women worked for the enterprise: by allowing them to work at home, they retained their position in the household while becoming breadwinners. The Thai Silk Company abandoned home-based weaving in favor of factories only in the early 1970s, after his death.
Of course, he was an art collector.. Chinese blue-and-white Ming pieces, Belgian glass, Cambodian carvings, Victorian chandeliers, Benjarong earthenware, Thai stone carvings, Burmese statues and so many others, all exhibited in his architectural paradise, built in one year from the reassembling of six ancient Thai houses, in the midst of a luxurious garden with orchids and palm trees.
On March 27th 1967, Jim Thompson disappeared while on a visit to the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia. Not a single certainty has turned up in the following years as to what happened to him.