Who was Thurston James?

If you work in props, you’ve probably run across the name of Thurston James. He has written both The Theatre Props Handbook and The Prop Builder’s Molding & Casting Handbook, two books which, despite being over twenty years old, remain necessary texts on any prop person’s bookshelf. He has also written The Theater Props What, Where, When: An Illustrated Chronology from Arrowheads to Video Games and The Prop Builder’s Mask-Making Handbook, making him one of the most prolific authors in the realm of props.

Thurston James was born in Lawrence, Kansas, in 1933. He was a descendant of Jesse James, the infamous outlaw of the West. According to his obituary:

Thurston James passed away Friday, August 27, 2005, near his home in Sherman Oaks, California. He was in the process of mailing the latest issue of The James-Younger Gang Journal which he published. The cause of death presently is unknown. Thurston will be interred at Rose Hills Cemetery, Whittier, California.

This obituary also points to an album of Thurston James’ “rap” songs. I’ve posted the Christmas Rap so you can hear Mr. James’ rapping prowess:

In addition to his books, Mr. James has published an article on Chemicals in the Spring 1995 issue of Theatre Design and Technology, as well as a Layman’s Guide to the Chemistry of Theatre Crafts in  the first issue of the now defunct Proptology magazine.

He was also working on a book about lighting effects which he never finished. You can see a whole wealth of photographs from that book at Danny Truxaw’s website.