Charged as an accessory to robbery after being in a car with the robber, Thompson was sentenced to 60 days in Kentucky's Jefferson County Jail. Whilst he was in jail the school superintendent refused him permission to take his high school final examinations, and as a result he did not graduate. A week after his release, he was enlisted in the United States Air Force
While serving at Eglin, he took evening classes at Florida State University.After the Air Force, he worked as sports editor for a newspaper in Jersey Shore, there he attended the Columbia University School of General Studies part-time on the G.I. Bill, taking classes in creative writing.