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He was a good realistic painter, and he was offered a show in New York City.However, the offer was based on the condition that he paint more abstract paintings, which he also had a talent for, and which by the mid-to-late 1950s were becoming all the rage.More exposure indeed: Not long after the book was published the film rights were sold for 0,000 (equivalent to 4,000 in 2016) to Hal Wallis (1898-1986), a high-profile film producer of such classics as .Thornburg worked on the screenplay for the film, but it was never made.
Ranching in Missouri left a profound impression on Thornburg, according to his son Doug: "I think Dad learned a lot out there about people which helped him be a better writer" (Dougherty interview). The story of two buddies from California who hatch a scheme to blackmail a rural Missouri tycoon, it captures the dejected spirit of mid-1970s America in a tale of two lost souls trying to find the big score.Doug Thornburg explained, "It was important to Dad that his characters be believable, just regular guys.He based a lot of his characters on people he met" (Dougherty interview).His son Doug recalled, "He'd go to church and hear a sermon on 'love thy neighbor' ...but when he'd leave church he'd hear the same people slamming their neighbors" (Dougherty interview). I'm an atheist and that is certainly a pretty bleak and hopeless outlook" (Cornwell).