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The Alcoholics

3.40  ·  Rating Details  ·  615 Ratings  ·  42 Reviews
Dr. Peter S. Murphy runs a clinic to cure alcoholics. But his charges believe that the only thing that will fix them is another drink. To this bitter struggle of wills, add an orderly who doubles as a quack practitioner, a nurse who is both alluring and ingeniously sadistic, and a misplaced patient whose main problem is his lack of a frontal lobe, and the result is one of ...more
Paperback, 128 pages
Published January 4th 1993 by Vintage (first published 1953)
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The Grifters by Jim ThompsonAfter Dark, My Sweet by Jim ThompsonCockfighter by Charles WillefordFast One by Paul CainThe Getaway by Jim Thompson
Black Lizard
15th out of 73 books — 6 voters
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Best Jim Thompson Novels
19th out of 22 books — 2 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,108)
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Aug 13, 2007 R. rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2006
Chapter One:

"They're going to shut down our clinic!"
"Oh, no! Whatever shall we do?"
"Let's put on a show!"

Chapter Two:

"Nurse, you are a cheap, blonde whore!"
"Like ya likes 'em, doc!"
"Not only that, but you're also stealing drugs!"
"You're a fine one to talk, chum!"

Chapter Three:
"The show had a modicum of success! We saved the clinic!"
"Let's have a drink to celebrate!"

Chapter Four:
"You may be cheap..."
"You may be a whore..."
"You may be
Paul Toth
Jun 16, 2008 Paul Toth rated it liked it
I give this one three stars because Jim Thompson's like a diner: He's no five star restaurant, but if you want to see the other 99 percent of America, read Jim Thompson. Here he is describing a "successful" American: "It was [his success], rather, because of an attribute which many claim, but which, happily, very few possess: the trait of making no move which did not somehow contribute to his personal advancement."

Also, some fantastic insight into the condition of patients in rehab. I know; I l
This is one messed-up book. I see why it is almost forgotten except by die-hard Thompson fans. It is so freakin' weird and is not a crime novel at all. Rather, it's sort of a Gothic, but without a satisfying payoff, which is what makes it even more twisted. It's just freakin' bizarre. It's just sheer weirdness like a Fellini movie or David Lynch. In fact, structurally it reminded me kind of a lot of Eraserhead. I'm quite sure it's based directly on Thompson's experiences; in fact, the author him ...more
Isaac Cooper
Jul 30, 2014 Isaac Cooper rated it it was ok
Started well enough, didn’t it? The Alcoholics did indeed have promise. I just picked this from a Goodreads recommendation. Doing that is interesting, because it’s essentially a random dice-roll chance of getting a good book. The Alcoholics isn’t a good book, unfortunately. It’s not horribly written, nor does it start poorly. The book simply has too many sub-plots that go absolutely nowhere and not enough substance to sustain itself.

We’ll start at the – start. The beginning of the book sets up
Felix Zilich
Mar 18, 2014 Felix Zilich rated it liked it
Необычный для нуара сеттинг: вместо психиатрической клиники лечебница для алкоголиков. Каждый пациент с утра няшный и вполне адекватный субьект, но уже ближе к обеду ему совершенно нельзя верить. Чуть ближе к вечеру он обязательно отыщет и хряпнет дежурные сто грамм, после чего мгновенно превратятся в кусок лживого и озлобленного говна. Знаешь чем отличается алкаш от простого смертного, спросит доктор Питер Мерфи у своего утреннего гостя, алкаш никогда не врёт, он только искажает реальность и в ...more
Feb 20, 2009 Andy rated it it was ok
Shelves: pulp-fiction
Sordid yarn about a writer who dries out in a sanatorium and gets bullied all through the book by a mean nurse. The doctor is named Murphy, just like Randall McMurphy, you suppose Ken Kesey swiped just a little bit of this stuff for his book "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest"? Thompson should've sued. He could've used the money!
Ian Hamilton
May 31, 2016 Ian Hamilton rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The Summer 2016 Jim Thompson binge continues...The Alcoholics. The three-sentence synopsis on the back is sadly one of the few engaging things about this novella; otherwise, there's really nothing that's memorable. In traditional Thompson-fashion our narrator is a slimeball, but rather than a sociopathic figure of authority or a down-and-out fringe-type, he's a short-tempered psychiatrist struggling to keep the doors open at a beachside residential clinic for alcoholism that's seemingly seen bet ...more
Feb 17, 2014 Joe rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The title tells you exactly and entirely what this story is about - the difficulties and frustrations inherent in dealing with or being an alcoholic. If, like me, you enjoy a well-told story, that keeps tightly to its theme, and manages to restrain itself from wandering into unrelated digressions, then you'll enjoy this book; if not, try something by James Ellroy or Raymond Chandler, both of which writers Jim Thompson produces material very similar to [sorry about that awful sentence constructio ...more
Jason Yavor
Feb 11, 2016 Jason Yavor rated it liked it
I'm a big fan of Jim Thompson's dark and disturbing form of crime novels but this book threw me for a loop. This is not really a crime novel and it has what I guess you would call a happy ending. This is not what I expect to find when reading a Thompson novel.

The book takes place in an alcohol rehab center and focuses on a doctor who is struggling financially and mentally with the crazy assortment of characters he has to deal with. I guess much of this book was probably somewhat shocking back in
Jul 31, 2016 Kenneth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a good, quick read; however if you are looking for true noir, this isn't it. Set in an alcoholism rehab center in the Los Angeles, CA area around 1950 or so, the main character, Dr. Peter S. Murphy, is in financial trouble and also has to deal with both his problem patients and an ornery staff. Interesting reflection of the ethos of the era it was written in - some things would probably be considered politically incorrect today by some. The other thing I found curious about it, there was ...more
Peter Stampfer
Mar 15, 2014 Peter Stampfer rated it liked it
Not one of my favorite Jim Thompson novels. The bad guys weren't very bad in this one.
Kirk Smith
Aug 30, 2015 Kirk Smith rated it liked it
Shelves: top-noire
More cheerful than you might think. ;)
D. B.
Jan 06, 2015 D. B. rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I read a handful of James Thompson novels last year, because I'd always heard he was great and wanted to give him a try. The Alcoholics was my second, selected because I thought he did such a good job of capturing alcoholic behavior in my first exposure, After Dark, My Sweet. I should have read the reviews here and on Amazon; this book is Dullsville, and only of interest because of its descriptions of outdated methods for "curing" alcoholism.
Sep 14, 2015 Jeff rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Eh, wrong book at wrong time, or maybe just not a great book. Apparently this book was a bit out of genre for Jim Thompson, and out of genre for me too. A creature of its times 1950s farce, many characters right out of central casting, just did not work. Sorry.
Christopher Beckett
Bailed out roughly halfway. The first Thompson that not only didn't delight me, but didn't even attain my interest at any point. May be my fault, the only stories I find less interesting than ones about addicts are ones about porn actors.
What even was this?

It's like if One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest had a baby with Disney's Song of the South, and it burst out of the womb talking double-time dressed as a noir detective.

Dec 30, 2014 Diane rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
My long overdue introduction to one of the originals. If you haven't read Thompson, time to get him in your stack. Put some ice in your beverage of choice and start reading.
Sean Hoade
Jan 24, 2016 Sean Hoade rated it it was amazing
A gritty insider's story of an asylum for the hopelessly alcoholic, but one that ends up being rather positive and even sweet. Thompson is the best.
David Harris
Mar 22, 2013 David Harris rated it it was ok
Jim Thompson's The Alcoholics was first published in 1953. The paperback copy I checked out is a Canadian edition from 1993. This guy is a crime writer (well, he was, he apparently died in 1977) with a supposedly (according to the New York Review of Books) literary bent.

I found it interesting enough to read through to the end, but it seemed quite contrived and simplistic to me. I would imagine that's probably just a result of its being a product of its time, though. In any case, if real people w
Timofey Peters
Nov 09, 2014 Timofey Peters rated it did not like it
После просмотра фильма «Убийца внутри меня» по роману Томпсона решил ознакомиться с другим его творчеством. Дочитал с трудом. Фигня.
Feb 05, 2013 Anders rated it liked it
A goal of mine is to own and read all of Thompson's work. this one is funnier and way lighter than say pop. 1280 which is utterly brutal and amazing. Who knows, he may have been thinking up a play in his mind when writing this book, it seems theatrical to me. Humorous way of writing like some dialects sound (can't remember the term for that right now...). he writes compassionately about the misery of hopeless alcoholism which gives the story heart. was hoping he'd vamp on that even more. on to t ...more
Mar 30, 2013 Ensiform rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
Different from the typical Jim Thompson thriller, this book is more funny, less dark, and with a much more sympathetic hero. Plus, it was ahead of its time (1953) in more ways than one --- competent, capable black characters, for one thing, but also in its whole treatment of alcoholism, before A.A. was a well-known concept. In parts, it read like a warning tract against alcoholism written by an old-timer A.A. man, but it was mainly very good.
Eve Kay
Aug 23, 2016 Eve Kay rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, suspense
Ah, the beauty of Jim Thompson: Take a seemingly simple idea, give it layers and lather it with a fun plot.
I kept waiting for a murder until I realised that this one was more about a great twist and the oh-so-excellent ending (and wow was I proud of myself when I figured out how this would end).
I didn't give it five stars because I've read a few of Mr Thompson's that have been even better, and yeah, maybe I prefer a murder.
Dec 23, 2009 Kasandra rated it it was ok
Completely implausible. Mildly entertaining. A product of its time (1953), the writer displays a fair bit of both racism and misogyny -- the people of color as well as the women in the story are cartoonish. The biggest bit of praise I can give is that the author does seem to have true empathy towards, and understanding of, the plight of the alcoholic.
Lukas Persson
Nov 06, 2013 Lukas Persson rated it liked it
This was tedious as fuck, almost like a handful of stories about drunks and nurses in a crappy sort of rehab, all woven together loosely with the doctor of the joint. Would have given this book two stars, but the final few chapter really started coming together in an interesting way.
May 28, 2013 Grant rated it really liked it
One in which Thompson's humour surfaces at its' blackest. It's like one long very bleak joke tho not exactly of the lovable shaggy dog story variety. True to a fault in its depiction of human psychology at the more warped end of the spectrum.
Feb 02, 2015 Donald rated it it was ok
A strange story. A struggling, frantic doctor, Dr. Murphy, runs a struggling, weird clinic to treat alcoholics. With a sadistic nurse. And a pregnant woman. And a man who is essentially a vegetable. Just a weird, strange story.
Mar 20, 2010 David rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: noirboiled
Q: How would The Alcoholics be different if it had been written by any noir writer of the 1950s other than Jim Thompson?

A: It would not be in print!

First reading: circa 1999
Second reading: 20 March 2010
Benoit Lelievre
Jun 26, 2011 Benoit Lelievre rated it really liked it
That was...odd. And short also. Very pleasant read nonetheless. The loveable losers of The Alcoholics are just trying to survive, but they are far too entrenched within themselves. Agreeable surprise.
Jul 22, 2013 Clint rated it really liked it
Jim Thompson's The Alcoholics takes an absurd and sometimes comical look at the many faces of alcoholism and the curious characters who have the knowledge and patience to try to get them help.
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

James Myers Thompson was a United States writer of novels, short stories and screenplays, largely in the hardboiled style of crime fiction.

Thompson wrote more than thirty novels, the majority of which were original paperback publications by pulp fiction houses, from the lat
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