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The Grifters

4.03  ·  Rating Details ·  7,039 Ratings  ·  302 Reviews
Roy Dillon seems too handsome and well-mannered to be a professional con man. Lilly Dillon looks too young--and loves Roy a little too intensely--to be taken for his mother. Moira Langtry is getting too old to keep on living off the kindness of male strangers. And Carol Roberg seems too innocent to be acquainted with suffering.
Paperback, 189 pages
Published October 3rd 1990 by Vintage Books (first published 1963)
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The Big Sleep by Raymond ChandlerThe Maltese Falcon by Dashiell HammettThe Long Goodbye by Raymond ChandlerFarewell, My Lovely by Raymond ChandlerThe Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain
Best Hardboiled PI & Noir
20th out of 538 books — 662 voters
Forrest Gump by Winston GroomThe Devil Wears Prada by Lauren WeisbergerJurassic Park by Michael CrichtonJumanji by Chris Van AllsburgMary Poppins by P.L. Travers
I Only Watched the Movie!
391st out of 971 books — 5,659 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Mar 15, 2012 Stephen rated it really liked it
For all you Petey Positives and Betty Bright sides out there peering around corners looking for humanity’s better angels, Jim Thompson is slinging a sledge hammer ready to shatter your shiny happy illusions. His message: people well and truly suck. Personally, I’m enough of a cynic regarding my fellow humans that Jimmy’s words don't choke me going down. They're like 18 year old scotch warming up my cockles.

In this “slice the vein of life” story, Jim introduces us to 3 peas in a seriously fucko
Dan Schwent
Sep 10, 2015 Dan Schwent rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
Salesman Roy Dillon has a secret life as a top shelf grifter. When he has the opportunity to go legit, how will the women in his life take it? Will his downfall be at the hands of his girlfriend Moira Langtry, or his mother, Lilly?

Here we are, another noir tale of self-destruction by Mr. Happy, Jim Thompson.

"Don't trust anyone ever" seems to be the moral of The Grifters. Not surprising since most of the main characters are shady croooks and grifters to some degree. Roy runs short cons. Moira Lan
There was one thing about playing the angles. If you played them long enough, you knew the other guy's as well as you knew your own. Most of the time it was like you were looking out the same window.

Roy Dillon, grifter extraordinaire, was always playing the angles. Though Roy is undoubtedly our protagonist, this really is more of an ensemble piece. While The Killer Inside Me and Pop. 1280 are meditations on (if you can call such depraved tales "meditations") the existence of one twisted mind
Moira Russell
If people have read or even heard of this book, it's probably because of the movie -- which is a shame. I only bought this book because a movie tie-in was on sale for five bucks at a local Half Price and there was an evil character named Moira, which amused me, and it would take a far stronger character than mine to withstand those twin temptations. (I have not seen the movie, mainly because an evil John Cusack would throw my hard-wired Say Anything/Grosse Pointe Blank fangirl brane into disarra ...more
Jayaprakash Satyamurthy
Jan 04, 2012 Jayaprakash Satyamurthy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: noir
Noir? There's got to be something darker than that to describe Thompson's books. Something that doesn't just imply the absence of colour or light but the impossibility of their ever having existed in the first place. I liked this one a lot, even better than The Getaway though perhaps not as much as The Killer Inside Me.

Roy Dillon, like most of Thompson's protagonists, is young, charming and crooked. The son of a similarly charming and crooked con woman, he's been living in Los Angeles and worki
Jun 03, 2012 Tfitoby rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: black-as-night, lit
I find myself quite surprised at having never before read a Jim Thompson novel, I've known who he was and I've seen a lot of the movies based on his work, I've even owned a handful of his books for at least a year but still it took the pulp fiction group choosing it as the June read for me to actually pick one up.

Thompson has this reputation for being beyond dark, holding up a circus mirror to life that only reflects the ugly, uncomfortable and depressing and that is why I've found myself readin
Jun 22, 2016 Laura rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Crazy people, that I hope I never run into in real life! If I do, I am turning the other way and running! This author's works are kind of addictive. Already looking forward to the next one!
Jun 23, 2012 Josh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, pulp, read_2012
As a grifter, Roy learnt from the best with his mother who was a master of the long con. For Roy, the short con has been prosperous, however its not without perils as we're shown quite early on in the story. It's this incident which brings back his mother, Lilly, and kicks off a chain of events which culminates in an ending nothing short of spectacular.

In order to reinstate his deteriorating health, Lilly commissions home nurse Carol which serves as a means to demonstrate Roy's mothers need to i
Richard Vialet
Ok guys, here goes. I started to read The Grifters and got about 70 pages in until I began to wonder whether or not, I was reading the right book. Like maybe it was a novelization of the movie (which I haven't seen)? Because not only did I love the two other Jim Thompson books I've read previously, so many people are fans of this particular book and it couldn't possibly be the one I was reading, right? I was expecting an entertaining con man thriller at worst, or another masterpiece of noir at b ...more
The Grifters is the story of Roy Dillon con-artist specialising in short, quick scams, the son of Lilly, who is a con-srtist of a different type, working on horse betting, long-term scams.

After leaving home and traveling the country picking up money by the time the story kicks in Roy is based out of L.A. having successfully staying in one place long-term while still being able to run his cons. After a near brush with death Roy begins reconsidering his chosen life. At the same time he's dealing w
Jul 06, 2016 Jim rated it did not like it
It was well written & read, but I never wanted to listen to it because it was so depressing. Everyone sucked & I couldn't find a character to connect to, to root for. Something bad would happen to one of them & my mind just said, "OK, now wander off & die, jerk." They didn't. They kept hanging around being miserable, living for no other reason than dying would have put me out of their misery, so I stopped about 2/3 of the way through. Haven't missed it & don't wonder what hap ...more
There is a reason they call Jim Thompson the Dimestore Dostoevsky; his works really spotlight the moral dilemma his protagonists and main characters face, so I was really looking forward to reading The Grifters; I’ve seen the movie so I was interested in seen the inner thoughts of the characters. 25-year-old short con operator Roy Dillion suffers an injury when a simple con goes horribly wrong, he finds himself in hospital recovering from an internal haemorrhage. This brush with death has led hi ...more
Aug 12, 2015 Pamela rated it really liked it
Most of the time, when I get a book off of my to-read list/shelf, I don't really remember why I put it on there in the first place. The Grifters must have gone on when I was on my Raymond Chandler/Dashiell Hammett kick. Thompson's novel makes those other noirs look like fluff. Not that Chandler and Hammett's noirs didn't have their fair share of human nastiness in them--they did. I always found them to be first, and foremost, about atmosphere and style. Thompson's book teems with the nasty, gras ...more
Apr 23, 2015 Julie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I admit I watched the movie version of this book starring John Cusak a long time ago, well before I ever picked up the book, making me perhaps one of the last people on the planet to have read it. But, I found a copy in a used book store one day and couldn't resist it.
It sat on my shelf for a good long while, but I eventually got it read. This is not a very long book, and once I started it I could not put it down!
This a true noir classic, with more twist and turns than you can imagine. This s
Apr 28, 2014 notgettingenough rated it it was amazing
Shelves: crime-fiction
I have never read anybody who comes close to Thompson for his descriptions of violence, descriptions which in most books I skip for their tedium. He makes you feel like you are there, being buried alive, having your throat cut. He really is remarkable. But this is hard stuff to bring to the screen, the visual impact will never be the same as the written one. It isn’t the only problem with the movie version. The commentator introducing the movie to us, part of a crime noir weekend, said the Donal ...more
Dec 09, 2012 Jonfaith rated it really liked it
The Grifters is an exercise in animal behavior, specifically the reptilian overtures of homo sapiens. It is a feral book. What saves it, what elevates the narrative from the primordial is its kinetic codes of communication. The novel triumphs through its five or six principal conversations. The characters expand outside of type and blur our ready verdicts. There are human truths being issued from the mouths of vipers: assassins, certainly, but ones with souls.

The film adaptation reveals the cent
Aug 22, 2008 Dfordoom rated it it was amazing
Shelves: crime-mystery
The Grifters, published in 1963, is one of Jim Thompson’s later works. To say anything about the plot would be to risk spoilers, so I’ll just say it’s about a young con-man, Roy, and his mother, who works for a big-time racketeer. While his plotting is extremely skilful the characters matter much more, and in this novel he creates three memorable and exceptionally complex characters. Even the nurse, a relatively minor character, has a depth and complexity you don’t expect in crime fiction. The d ...more
Ed [Redacted]
Mar 04, 2012 Ed [Redacted] rated it it was amazing
Man, I really did like this book a lot. It's not Thompson's best work but it is so, so well done. Thompson was, along with Cain, a genius at writing broken, amoral people that you can't help but root for. He was the pied piper of human misery and self destructive nihilism.

The plot of the book is more or less followed by the movie. I saw the movie a decade or so ago and liked it. I held off on reading the book for a long time because I had seen the movie. That was an unfortunate decision on my pa
Oh wow. I didn't even realize how much I had missed Thompson. I read a few of his short stories a while ago (they were mostly not that great), but it's been ages since I've gobbled up one of his novels. He really does handle noir well, the punch-in-the-stomach kind that leaves you gasping for air, but also simultaneously tickles you a bit with splashes of great writing.

The Grifters isn't the blackest or the craziest Thompson, and probably not even his best (despite the amazing rating on Goodread
If you like novels primarily composed of exposition, an omniscient perspective and little dialogue than this would be a good book to read. In fact Jim Thompson not well recognized during his lifetime is now one of the most highly rated Black Lizard novelists around. Some say he surpasses Chandler, McCoy, and Hammett in writing books far more harrowing.

For myself, The Grifters (which has resulted in a film based on the novel) fell short both in terms of plot and style. I do see Dostoevsky's style
Phillip Thurlby
Oct 25, 2013 Phillip Thurlby rated it really liked it
As much as I cling to the insurmountable brilliance of Raymond Chandler, there is no doubt that the master of existential crime fiction is Jim Thompson.

His grasp and view of the human condition seems unnaturally sensitive and profound for someone who writes about such gritty environments populated by such edgy people.

The Grifters is a fascinating tale about Roy Dillon's life of grifting at a significant turning point in his life. Within its limited number of pages we are led to first accept Roy'
James Spina
Oct 07, 2008 James Spina rated it it was amazing I'm heading for Las Vegas for a trade show and I need something to get me in the mood. I hate Vegas. It is a sin city that has evaporated. It should be all noir and dank with wicked relationships and cheap tricks and guys in sack square suits with white shirts skinny ties and sickly sickly women. So I reread one of the best Noir novels of all time by Jim Thompson. He is easily one of America's best kept secrets in terms of master novelists unheralded, unwanted and now dead right.
Start wi
Aug 05, 2009 Kate rated it really liked it
Shelves: noir
I should've known better than to expect a happy ending -- in true noir style, Thompson threw me for a loop and the twist at the end is classic. Each character's backstory is a puzzle piece that connects to another's, and the writing showcases the utter desperation that governs the character's actions. A fast-paced read, and hard to put down.
Jul 17, 2011 Debra marked it as to-read
Stephen King recommended author. “He was crazy,” Stephen King, a long-time admirer of Thompson, says. “He went running into the American subconscious with a blowtorch in one hand and a pistol in the other, screaming his goddamn head off. No one else came close.”

Nate D
Oct 15, 2009 Nate D rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Nate D by: Jake, Nate
Shelves: noir, read-in-2009
I was expecting bleak, but this strikes hard and true: deep into the Death of the American Dream. Formidable.
Oct 20, 2012 E. rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites, reviewed
The Grifters is one of relatively little-known crime novelist Jim Thompson's best tales of confidence trickery, brutality, depravity, alcoholism, and theft.

It's odd how little Thompson is known, given how many film versions have been made of his books. In 1990, this 1963 book became a movie starring John Cusack, Anjelica Huston, and Annette Bening -- and a good movie, at that. It perfectly captured the tone of a typical Thompson story: grim, twisted, and hilarious in much the same way that Maupa
"The Grifters" is my favorite Jim Thompson novel. This superably crafted book is character driven, provides a riveting plot, and gives us a rich picture of the culture of con men (grifters) during the 1940s or 1950s.

It is another of those novels that is begging to be interpreted using "Being and Nothingness" as a guide.

Roy Dillon, Lilly Dillon, and Moira Langtry do not engage in Bad Faith regarding the con. Their work is to deceive and to take advantage of the greed and carelessness of others fo
Aug 18, 2015 Bobby rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For those expecting a plot-point-a-minute heist or caper tale, keep looking.

The real con, and the art of the con, whether you're running the long or the short con, is getting those emotional hooks in your mark. Once they're in, you can run whatever scam you want on them and take them for every penny. That's the heart of The Grifters by Jim Thompson. Everyone is someone else's mark. There's a reason that a con is short for confidence.

Roy Dillon is a master of the short-con, plying his trade in
Jul 10, 2016 Piker7977 rated it really liked it
Shelves: crime-mystery
Roy Dillon is a small time con-man whose legitimate job is as a salesman. Talented but reckless, he suffers a ruptured gut as a money changing trick turns violent. To help ease his discomfort are the two women in his life. Moira is Roy's girlfriend who only knows of his job as a salesmen. Like Roy, Moira has a back story of her own and is no stranger to working angles. There is also his mother Lilly. Lilly has been around the block and when she makes a significant error working for a criminal it ...more
Jon Ball
Jan 14, 2014 Jon Ball rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
With a title like "The Grifters", I expected a story about confidence men in action. What I got was a flat story about a confused young man with some deep-seated mommy issues and two self-absorbed women. This is a story about small time criminals doing small time (and uninteresting) things. At no point in this story does anyone do anything more criminal than a two-bit hustle and even that was scarce. (To be fair, there is a bit of murder. Without spoiling anything.. even that was a grave disappo ...more
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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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“How to make her run? No problem there. For a fearful shadow lies constantly over the residents of Uneasy Street. It casts itself through the ostensibly friendly handshake, or the gorgeously wrapped package. It beams out from the baby's carriage, the barber's chair, the beauty parlor. Every neighbor is suspect, every outsider, every period; even one's own husband or wife of sweetheart. There is no ease on Uneasy Street. The longer one's tenancy, the more untenable it becomes.” 6 likes
“Anyone who deprived her of something she wanted deserved what he got.” 4 likes
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