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Blood and Money

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Perhaps on a handful of occasions, you come across a story that can paradoxically alter and reinforce your understanding of the human condition. A story so rich in complex and interesting characters, their lives narrated with such vivid detail and telling dialogue, they have to be real people and not the imagined composites of a novelist. A story set so perfectly in a place and time in history that you come away believing for a while that you lived there, traveled the streets, overheard conversations or had supper with the denizens.

Of the hundreds of books I have enjoyed reading, like an endless buffet of delicious meals, there are few and far between the luscious delicacies found in Thomas Thompson’s book, Blood and Money. This sumptuous feast requires slow, deliberate relish in order to luxuriate in every chapter like exquisitely prepared courses served in the finest restaurant. Before I had finished the first chapter of the book, I began to pace myself to allow the rare beauty and satisfying depth of this engrossing experience to linger like the afterglow of fulfilling lovemaking.

Thompson’s masterpiece made him famous, along with introducing the Robinson family to a worldwide audience. He tragically died at age 49 from an illness he acquired while researching another superb work, Serpentine, a riveting and bizarre true story about a serial killer who preyed on tourists in multiple continents. Were not Thompson’s career cut short, I would be happily standing in line for his next offering. As it is, I have read and enjoyed every one of his books. His thorough understanding of human nature, exhaustive research and attention to detail, and his virtuoso ear for vernacular, anecdote and irony vaults his work far above the usual pulp suspense or crime genre into the category of great literature, along the lines of William Faulkner, James Joyce, or Dostoevsky. None of the reviews, dust cover blurbs, or quotes from publishers do justice to this book; there are no superlatives that can overstate its brilliance.

Blood and Money is set in Houston, Texas, from its beginnings as an uninhabitable swamp to its colorful and extraordinary ascension as a major power metropolis in America. Every influential player in the story is traced from childhood to his or her participation in the intricate drama, which at its core is a familiar tale of love, betrayal, murder, money, and revenge. Ash Robinson, a rags to riches hero, indulges his talented and popular daughter, Joan, to virtually anything her heart desires, including private education, champion horses, and three deadbeat husbands, the last of whom, plastic surgeon Dr. John Hill, probably murders her with a mysterious concoction of bacteria. I don’t want to spoil the story, but suffice it to say I believe John Hill facilitated Joan’s demise, if not precipitated it out of greed and expedience. Hill is a portrait of narcissism: self-serving ambition, reckless indulgence, cold and calculating cruelty, and with an overly protective, self-righteous mother who defends him to the bitter end. Some of you, like me, may despise Hill so intensely by the first half of the book, you begin rooting for the “bad guys” to escape punishment.

As in the Shakespearian tragedy, Macbeth, there are quite a few dead bodies before the end of the saga, and by now most of the survivors have passed on to the big oil rig in the sky. Unlike in most crime books, however, the reader is privy to an energetic biographical history of the lawyers, judges, prostitutes, pimps, gamblers, ruffians, cops, oil men, socialites, and even some famous Texan politicians, which could only be accomplished through massive research, countless interviews, and dissecting court transcripts and newspaper reports in an investigative fervor unmatched by many writers. Thompson was a journalist with obvious connections and charisma, in whom nearly everyone confided like a priest at the last rites.

Joan Robinson Hill is the most ambivalent character in the book, followed in a close second by her father, Ash, whose relationship with her was akin to worship. Unlucky in love, Joan is nevertheless adored by her family and friends, if not most of Houston, and represents the quintessential independent woman: talented, passionate, strong-willed, temperamental, philanthropic, and a devoted mother to her only child, a son she shared with the wretched Hill. Joan is no saint, but her failings and flaws are so endearing, she is someone with whom you can imagine being good friends or at least a doting admirer. Her death is only the beginning of a complex series of relationships, crime and murder.

If I tell you anything else, it will ruin the suspense. Buy a copy of Blood and Money. You will want to own this book, and savor every piquant page.

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About Loretta Dillon

Loretta Dillon began her writing career publishing a neighborhood newspaper and handwritten and illustrated books as a child in a Cleveland suburb. Her strongest literary influences were MAD magazine and Mark Twain. When introduced to the internet, Dillon created a blog to showcase her satire that evolved into a popular forum on relationships, recovery and true crime stories, specifically spousal murder. Selected entries were published as a book in 2005 that was honored as a finalist for a non-fiction "Blooker" award. Dillon's comedy play, "The Smoking Diary" was produced off-Broadway in 2009.
  • gemini

    What happened to all of the previous comments / questions??

  • Carol, another Houston Native

    I grew up in Sharpstown in the early 60’s & early 70’s, and moved to a rural area of Texas in early 1973. There was a kid I recognized from Jr High (now called Middle School). I asked him if he remembered me. He looked scared to death, and next thing I knew, he had moved. A few years later, when I read ‘Blood and Money’, I recognized him as one of Ann Kurth’s sons. I was wondering if anyone knew whatever happened to her boys?
    Also, by chance, I just saw a segment today on ‘Behind Mansion Walls’ about the death of Joan Robinson Hill. After all these years, the story is still fascinating.

  • Leah Lumpkin Pierpoint

    I personally knew Ash Robinson. He was a very kind man. He used to come to the barn every time we got our report cards and gave us money according to how many A’s and B’s we received. He also had his own copy of Blood and Money which in the margins he had marked what was true and what was not. In his home he had all of his daughters trophies which were tarnished because he would not let anyone touch them after she was murdered. Joan’s horse was buried there at the barn in front of the house. I really miss Mr. Robinson!!!!

  • Stan

    Read this book and low and behold I see the name the Heart Beats…They started back up in the 70’s but changed their name to the Jazz Medics, Unbelievably they still have the music from the Heart beats they play regular gigs and have a facebook page. Most have passed away but 1 or two are still active. New members know the story very well. My father is the band leader

  • W. MAYO


  • molly

    I’m also a great longtime fan of Joan and this saga and have done some research I will share:
    Robert Hill is a States Attorney in Montgomery County, Maryland. He and his wife, a DC lobbyist have a young daughter, Linden Joan Hill. They are “horsey” and endow trophies at several shows.
    I can’t remember all the ins and outs of my reseach, but I believe Connie Hill is now Connie Calaway of Carbondale, Colorado. She and her husband Jim are very civic minded and she’s been very involved in music philanthropy. Check it out.

  • darrell

    O.K. I just got the dvd copy of MURDER IN TEXAS!
    And it was a very good copy, It has some uneven wear on it from the first 5 minutes mostly but as i said before you cain’t find a copy but for very old used copies from amazon.com and they probly cost alot because the people think they only have copies so they want alot for them!
    The sound was ok too remember this was made in 1981 before dolby sound was used in tv movie’s and looks like it was transferd from an original vhs tape so back when this came out again before dolby was used
    and stereo vcr’s too !
    I still say it’s the best copy you will find out there and it’s on dvd so you realy cain’t beat it !
    I stayed up all nite to watch the whole movie and loved it as much as when first aired now want to find a copy of prescrition murder to re-read again!

  • darrell

    I also was looking to find a copy of the miniseries MURDER IN TEXAS but only very old vhs tapes are out there!
    But i did find this great site called TV CONFIDENTIAL DVD that has it’ I first orderd two other made for tv moives from the 70’s and they came out great and they are transferd to dvd, sound was good and picture was good too’ now i too started to re-read my old copy of murder in texas and realy wanted to see the movie again i have just orderd it so when i see it i will post another writing about how the dvd copy was ?
    This site also has many old miniseries from 70’s an 80’s and lots of made for tv movies many great things to look up on this site !
    When you go to TVCONFIDENTIALDVD.COM go to docudramas and scroll down there you will see it listed it’s only around $20 dollars and thats a great price for somthing that is almost impossible to find.

  • LS in Houston-another native

    Debbie in KS: you mention a URL that others rave about but after re-reading everything above, I can’t see it. Can you reply with it again? I also read Blood and Money every few years- I had long since given away or lost my copy with all the pictures so I ordered a reprint recently from a used books website hoping to get the same version, however, no pictures in this one! As the others above also stated, got hooked AGAIN and went online to familiarize myself again with the way the people in the book looked- it thrills me that there are still others as fascinated as I am with this story. In 1969 I was 12 and can only vaguely recall hearing the names Joan Robinson Hill and John Hill, but when the mesmerizing book by Mr. Tommy Thompson ( a truly brilliant author and grand storyteller) was published, I read it and became instantly addicted, as did my sister. I remember we drove past these homes regularly to try to see the “music room” from the street. Of course by this time different people lived there and the last time I drove by, about a month ago, I hardly recognized the house- it looks very, very different from how it looked back in the 70’s. I must try to get a current picture of it and post for all the other people on this site.

  • David in Houston

    Question….I read that Connie and Robert(Boot) sued Ash Robinson a year os so after Dr. Hill’s death…..so how did Ash and Robert get along after that? Did they make up later on?

  • loretta

    Wow, Debbie. That was a great thread and those pictures of Joan were fabulous. I remember for about six months after I read the book, I wore my hair in a pony tail in honor of her, even though it was almost 40 yrs after her murder. I highly recommend that URL you posted to people fascinated with this case. Thanks!

  • Above I posted a URL for a site I discovered while surfing for news/info related to the Joan Hill murder case. I found a Houston architectural site that has a thread on a message board that “morphed” into its own life as a thread about the case. There are several pages complete with photos. People interested in the case all posting info. For those of you who, like me, want “more” and updates, this site provides some information.

  • “B a M” Fan

    I spent the summer near Houston, traveling with my husband while he attended some medical duties.
    I too have been so interested in this story and all the characters for years… anyway, we saw the Hill’s home on Kirby as well as Ash’s. I met (by phone conversation) the cousin of Dr.Jim Oates, friend and fellow musician of John Hill. Very interesting. There are still ALOT of people in the Houston (and surrounding) area who love talking about this story! One interesting video can be borrowed from the Vanderbilt University Archives of T.V. news stories. Its from the early 80’s and shows some courtroom footage of John Hill, also Connie, Robert and Ash. Its only about 8 minutes long, but riveting! Go to vanderbilt university.com and then search for Joan Robinson Hill and you should find it.

  • Julie in Corpus Christi

    I have just finished Blood and Money and though this was an old book I ran across at a garage sale it was so interesting I had a hard time tearing myself away to do other things. It was so well written. My question is….I saw where Ann Kurth died. When did she die and how?

  • Rebecca, somewhat related.

    Connie lives near the rest of her family in another state. Her name is different.
    Robert is somewhere on the east coast.
    I have never met him.
    Why is this strange?
    Connie is my aunt.
    I picked up this book, and the characters and names seemed a bit familiar. Then I asked my father about it. It was crazy.
    In Regards to Bill’s comment,
    Ash and Robert get along, he inherited quite a bit of wealth from Ash. Connie speaks of Robert sometimes. He is doing well.
    And the mystery isnt unsolved.

  • Bill in Dallas

    In regard to Debbie’s post I also have wondered what happened to Connie Hill, and to the son, Boot. I have always assumed she had guardianship although that is not a given when you consider Ash’s obsession with John Hill, among other things.

  • debbie in kansas

    Don’t remember the Lou character in the book but I will scan next time I pick it up. As to Connie Hill I have wondered what happened to her and whether she is still involved at all with Boot. I have done some Internet searching for a “Connie Hill” with no recent results. Perhaps she has also changed her name.

    In regard to a post above on downloadable video or a program on tv about this, couldn’t find anything on it on the site.

    Too bad there’s no segment on Unsolved Mysteries about this. Would bear looking into with all the new technology.

  • Clara

    Does anyone know what happened to Hill’s third wife?

  • David

    Question: In Blood and Money, there was a very minor figure named Lou something or other. Can anyone please tell me his full name? I’d be grateful!

  • Anna Vogt

    What investigations have been done about the deaths of John Hill’s brother, his father, friend and friend of Ann Kurth?

  • Sharon Hawkins

    I couldn’t sleep the other night at my mom’s house and I picked up two books off her shelf. One was Prescription: Murder, and the other was Blood and Money. I am a Houstonian fascinated by Houston’s inner loop, and used to live in the Heights, very close to River Oaks. I have driven down Kirby Drive many times. I read John Hills mistress’ book first (Ann Kurth’s) and now I am on Blood and Money, and can barely concentrate at work as I am dying to pick it up again. I can’t believe I haven’t read it before now! I too was fascinated by whatever happened to their son Robert, and found a clipping on the web from the Laredo Morning Times in the State section from 1999 stating Robert Hill is a prosecutor (then 38 years old, so 46 by now)on the East Coast, and he rides horses competitively, of which he is very proud. As a lawyer I imagine he has extra abilities to make himself elusive, and the article stated he has no desire for his exact location to be disclosed, nor is he interested in granting a proper interview. Most people you can google and find something on, but I notice very little comes up on him. He has succeeded in getting his privacy, which is killing me, because I am sure he has some opinions on the matter. How did you others find out about “Boot” not wanting to have anything to do with Ash? Poor old Ash! I bet that hurt a lot.

  • dot

    I, too reread this superb book every few years and savor each page as if it is the first time .
    Also find myself surfing the internet to learn more tidbits about the characters their past and present.#1 favorite book of mine of all time,I’m so sad Mr Thompson died so young,would love to know his life story,too.
    Great Book Great Author

  • A Houstonian

    Ash died in Florida. His wife died of Cancer in hospital in NY. I’m told Robert is an attorney now. I don’t know where.

    Most of the other folks are all in or around Houston still. Several have died, of course.

    GREAT book by a GREAT author.

  • kiki Beavenhousen

    I literally just put the book down and as I always do after reading such a story I went in search online for more titilating details. This book was compiled in a very easy to read way that kept me interested throughout-so much so that my husband now hates the sight of it since he gets ignored everytime he sees it. He often references the names in the book in our normal everyday conversation as if they have become a part of his life vicariously through me reading the book. I as well wonder what happened to ol’ Boot. Hopefully he reads into these things and will know his mom’s legacy continues and what a wonderful person she seemed to have been. I was born and raised here in San Antonio and I enjoyed all the refrences to TX as I am familiar with all that were mentioned. I started this journey into Blood and Money while on the road back from South Padre Island deep in the TX south valley where Ash came from and it was so neat to be passing by the very places I was reading about. I will definetly make some time in my life to go pay my respects to Joan as she has sure made a lasting impression on my memory. I looked up her grave on the website that debbie referenced and her grave looks just as Thompson described it sunburned and bare. Looks like there is commercial property behind it-certainly not where Ash would have wanted her. I am though curious what ever happened to ol’ Ash. My search continues…

  • jake

    i found a tv episode on Book TV available for download at http://www.mobovivo.com on this book and others like it. nice to see.

  • ricky barra

    I, too, am enjoying the book, Blood and Money. Recently, I found a hardback copy of it at a resale shop on West Alabama, and one of the volunteers said that she know Joan while both were growing up in River Oaks. I am still amazed as I drive by River Oaks Elementary School where Boot attended and would like to find out whatever happened to him. I was one year younger than him when tragedy struck his homelife.

  • Miss Phoebe

    Like Debbie in KS, I reread Thomas Thompson’s masterpiece, Blood and Money at yearly itervals or so. I never cease to be amazed at his skill as a writer. I have a hardcover I got at the time of publishing and for some reason also got three paperbacks–I think they had different photos than the original, for curious people like myself. I just put one of my paperbacks in the mail to a friend in England and told her it was my favorite book of all time and I have also read his others. I lived in Texas for twenty years, and one of my sorority sisters, knew a guy in Houston that had ridden around with Joan in her
    car in her glory days. Another sorority sister had a bit part in the TV movie of Celebrity. Parts of it were shot in Dallas. Thompson’s writing truly captures the flavor of the varied
    layers of society. When I moved near Dallas in the 60’s as a thirteen-year-old I was agog at the
    customs and folkways that a “state” could have.
    I was small-town midwest and it was quite an experience for a little ol bug-eyed kid. It is truly “Old West,” it is also “Deep South.” There is Southwest desert and swampy bayou. A great emphasis is put on social class. The woman are truly beauties, and they emphasize this by taking care of themselves and dressing to the hilt. Times have changed but in the 60’s Neiman Marcus was “everything.” Dallas and Houston have always had a friendly competition, with Dallas having more of the old money and Houston kind of
    showing off to make up for it. It has always nagged at me also, what happened to poor Boot. I felt he would do well, but the inner turmoil he must have suffered. My heart goes out to him. If you have not read Blood and Money I highly recommend it. The writing of this book spawned several immitations that are also very good. If you are interested in true crime of the elite in Texas or elsewhere, you already know the ones I mean.

  • Debbie in KS

    A truly magnificent book, Thompson’s, “Blood and Money”. In the early 80’s I included this book in my sophomore lit class. The moment I read it, I too, parceled out the chapters to make it last. Each character’s lineage and history is carefully drawn out and the flashbacks weave an intricate story together. I have a hardback and several paperback copies. I am curious as to the whereabouts of Boot, the son and some of the other characters. John Hill’s second wife, Ann Kurth died. I read her book, but it of course was no “Blood and Money”. There are some interesting tributes to Joan Robinson Hill at the website “search for a grave” or “celebrity graves” or something like that. I believe that the son Robert, “Boot” is an attorney in the eastern states, lives quietly, and also rides horses. Anyhow, my favorite fabulous book of all time. I reread it every few years and continue to marvel at the magic of Thomas Thompson.

  • farah hirsi

    in my 33 years,never before had i read a book so true and grand like thomas thompson`s blood and money.suffice to say,it is to me,a motion picture that will stick in my mind forever.it took me nine months to realise that the great author is dead.i only wish i could have seen his face.please anyone tell me how i can be able to see a picture of Thomas Thompson.

  • there are no superlatives that can overstate its brilliance.

    I guess you liked this book! [grin]

    You might want to add some other Thompson titles to the ASIN list: 0446300950 (Lost); 0440174015 (Richie [a brilliant novel about the tragedy of teen drug use, IMHO]); 0446302384 (Celebrity); and of course, 0786707496 (Serpentine).