Denis D. Gray at the AP has a rundown on a new book out about the fascinating exploits of alleged spy Jim Thompson in Southeast Asia. A well known titan of the silk industry, Thompson disappeared in 1967 after going for a walk in the Malaysian highlands. Rumors abound about his death, including that he was eaten by a tiger or killed by the CIA. If those are the rumors surrounding your death, there's a good chance your life was pretty eventful.
From the article:
Credited with the revival of a now booming silk industry, Thompson attained legendary status, enhanced by a bon vivant lifestyle at a time when Thailand was still truly exotic - and by his mysterious death. But little has been known about Thompson's intensely political, darker side - his freelance backing of Asia's insurgencies, clashes with Washington's Cold War warriors and his connections to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, which to this day reportedly refuses to release his complete file.
Thompson is something you don't see anymore, a larger than life character straight out of a Hemingway novel who was born into a rich family, graduated from Princeton and spent time partying in New York City before volunteering for the army. He soon found himself in Southeast Asia, where he grew enamored of Thai, Cambodian and Laotian insurgencies.
"Jim was an idealist, a romantic, an anti-imperialist and there was no more idealistic time than just after the war," a former US diplomat is quoted as saying in the book, authored by Joshua Kurlantzick, a Southeast Asian expert with the Council on Foreign Relations.
He reportedly grew disaffected with American efforts in Southeast Asia in the 1960's, and at a time when clandestine government actions in Southeast Asia were abundant, is alleged to have had his hand in many a pie. Somewhere along the way he found time to start "The Thai Silk Company, reviving a largely moribund industry, helping thousands of poor villagers in the process and introducing Thai silk to the world," the article states.