The Grifters
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The Grifters

4.02 of 5 stars 4.02  ·  rating details  ·  4,971 ratings  ·  216 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 Noir
17th out of 468 books — 508 voters
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Best Crime & Mystery Books
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Community Reviews

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Stephen
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...more
Mara
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...more
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
Tfitoby
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...more
Jayaprakash Satyamurthy
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...more
Josh
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...more
Kim
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...more
Michael
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
Jim
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
notgettingenough
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
Jonfaith
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...more
[Redacted]
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...more
Harry
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...more
Dfordoom
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
Pamela
I had a lot of good ideas for my review of this book while I was walking my dog. Now they've all gone away--frustrating!

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 di...more
James Spina
OK...so 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...more
Juuso
Well in one sense this is defenately one of Big Jim's best writing jobs: the plot. For a change, the plot of this Thompson-novel is not just a one huge mess. The storyline actually makes sense and works! But hey, don't let that fact scare you away: the gritty attitude is there also.

Maybe The Grifters lacks the craziness of the writer's more appreciated novels, but as a hustler-story this is one of the best and sharpest ever written.
Kate
Aug 05, 2009 Kate rated it 4 of 5 stars
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.
Cheri
Does every American teen go through a phase of reading pulp novels and wanting to grow up to grift? When I actually did grow up, I met, and spent a few days with, a couple of real grifters. They were so totally amoral and devious that they made the characters in this novel seem like lovable Dickensian wastrels. A fun read.
Debra
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 3 of 5 stars  ·  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.
Phillip
"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...more
Hudson
If Elmore Leonard and Carl Hiassen somehow had a baby (I know, but just work with me here for a moment) and that baby was brought up in grim, miserable" abused step child" like fashion and then traveled in time back to the early 1900's to write, you might have Jim Thompson. "Life is a bucket of shit with a barbed wire handle." That's classic Jim Thompson right there......dark and gritty and if you don’t like it, then you can go to hell. His stories, which take place in the 1930's up through the...more
Phillip Thurlby
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'...more
Nicholas Pell
This is one of my favorite books of all time and the only re-read that I have done since challenging myself to read 50 books this year.

This is the story of Roy, Lilly and Moira, three criminals. Roy is a grifter (short-con operator) out of Los Angeles, while Lilly, Roy's mother, is a low-level operator for the Baltimore mob. Moira is a long-con artist looking to get Roy into the world of more professional, big-score cons. When Roy is nearly fatally injured during a round of "the Twenties" (one o...more
Alex Mills
A pretty strong effort by Jim Thompson that is let down by what I felt to be a somewhat scatter-shot plot. I actually had a moment two-thirds of the way through when I realized that whatever big scheme or plot payoff I had been sort of dimly expecting was never going to develop.

The atmosphere and scene details are fantastic, especially when the actual grifting is going on, and even the characters are pretty well fleshed out and interesting - again, I just felt like the plot was banging around a...more
Charissalee
I guess my biggest complaint with this book is that I am sick of reading stories from the perspective of a not terribly interesting man. I mean, Roy is kinda, you know, every guy ever. Fucked up mommy issues, can't commit, waaaaaaahhhhh. But he's surrounded by three women who appear far more complex and mysterious. We hear just enough about their stories to want to hear more before they are shuffled off to bit parts in some other man's tale (or into the ground (Spoiler!)). I guess I shouldn't be...more
Erik
More charming, conniving characters. More dangerous dames. More bestial bad guys. Plain and simply, more killer Thompson... Jim Thompson is a writer with fan boys in waiting. The people who enjoy his books love every one of his tropes and wouldn't see them changed for the world. Every fringe-dwelling, nihilistic protagonist manages to get himself into the same sort of mess. With the Grifters, there are some even creepier undertones, (sexual attractions between mother and son, and a pretty brutal...more
Owain Lewis
Kinda sloppy but also kinda brilliant. There's something oddly domestic about this that makes it feel like a melodrama - The Grift is portrayed as briefly exciting but also kind of a drag, more an addiction than an occupation. And then there's the whole oedipal thing that make it feel a bit like a Greek tradgey too. The violence is bleak and sickening and sparsly applied, as it should be, and there's very little actual crime than happens. Like much of Thompsons work it is a portrait of the damma...more
Elizabeth
How do you rate a book that you appreciate but don’t necessarily like? The Grifters is a well crafted noir style story about three grifters making their way through life lacking a certain moral compass. The story is well-constructed. I enjoy Mr. Thompson’s writing style. But I so don’t like these characters and don’t care that much what happens to them. What to think? It’s worth a read though.

I've rated it at 4 because I think the quality of writing is excellent. I may change my mind later thou...more
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Pulp Fiction: June 2012 - The Grifters 37 72 Nov 13, 2012 05:11PM  
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7621
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...more
More about Jim Thompson...
The Killer Inside Me Pop. 1280 The Getaway After Dark, My Sweet (Crime Masterworks) A Hell of a Woman

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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.” 5 likes
“Anyone who deprived her of something she wanted deserved what he got.” 3 likes
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