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The Grifters

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  11,542 ratings  ·  495 reviews
To his friends, to his coworkers, and even to his mistress Moira, Roy Dillon is an honest hardworking salesman. He lives in a cheap hotel just within his pay bracket. He goes to work every day. He has hundreds of friends and associates who could attest to his good character.

Yet, hidden behind three gaudy clown paintings in Roy's pallid hotel room, sits fifty-two thousand d
Paperback, 189 pages
Published October 3rd 1990 by Vintage Books (first published January 1st 1963)
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Average rating 3.86  · 
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 ·  11,542 ratings  ·  495 reviews

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May 18, 2011 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 02, 2015 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
Glenn Russell

Millions of people know The Grifters from the 1990 blockbuster film starring John Cusack, Anjelica Huston, and Annette Bening. The film is great, no doubt about it.

Jim Thompson's 1963 novel on which the film is based also rates five stars and deserves classic status for a number of reasons, a few of those reasons (please see below) not necessarily on display in the film.

The story revolves around Roy Dillon, Roy's mother Lilly and Roy's girlfriend Moira. All three are, in their own way, grifters
Dec 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
I'm not a big Jim Thompson fan. When it comes to American crime fiction, I prefer the novels of Charles Willeford and Charles Williams over the ones by Thompson. I am often irritated by Thompson's lack of attention to detail, over the top dialog and faux vicious and corrupt characters. I hated The Killer Inside Me and only enjoyed parts of The Getaway.

But The Grifters was quite impressive.

Roy Dillon is an undercover conman who is trying to escape from the incestuous clutches of his mother Lily
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 twis
Jul 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio, overdrive
This is the story of a small time con man and the three women in his life. His young mother who has been absent most of his life is also a grifter, as is his sometimes girlfriend. These are not nice people. The “good girl” in the book is a nurse. This book is ice cold, just like the movie although the movie slightly softened the mother’s character at the end. Maybe they thought audiences couldn’t handle a mother who was that remorseless. I am going to work my way through the rest of Jim Thompson ...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
Dave Schaafsma
“A confidence trick is also known as a con game, a con, a scam, a grift, a hustle, a bunko (or bunco), a swindle, a flimflam, a gaffle or a bamboozle. The intended victims are known as "marks", "suckers", or "gulls" (i.e., gullible). When accomplices are employed, they are known as shills”—Wikipedia

To grift is to engage in petty swindling.

Until this week I had never read The Grifters (1963), but have seen several times the film with Jon Cusack, Annette Bening, and Anjelica Huston and loved it,
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, but 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 a ...more
Jayaprakash Satyamurthy
Jan 04, 2012 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 02, 2016 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. ...more
Sep 26, 2011 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
May 31, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, read_2012, pulp
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
``Laurie Henderson
Apr 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pulp-fiction
After reading that wonderful book That Quail, Robert I don't quite understand why The Grifters by Jim Thompson was so tempting to read. Yes, The Grifters is the exact opposite of that classic book but in it's own unique way is another 5 star book.

If you've never read a book by Thompson this would be a good place to start.

Master of the short con, Roy Dillon, is handsome, charming and very intelligent, so why would he choose to be a two bit grifter?
Jim Thompson explores the psychology behind his
Dec 09, 2012 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
Sep 22, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
"The grift's like everything else. You don't stand still. You either go up or go down, usually down."

The Grifters is a tidy hard-boiled book, dark and twisty and full of existential questions. Roy Dillon is the grifter son of a grifting woman, and the question is whether he's beyond redemption. Can he go straight? Can he fall in love and join the world? Jim Thompson is the darkest of the hard-boiled writers, so you know the odds are against him. But Thompson's also a master writer, so he sets it
Nov 25, 2012 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
Mar 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Through spot-on characterizations, thoughtful introspection and sharp dialogue, Thompson tells one hell of a story. While certainly dark, and with some disturbing themes, this ultimately comes off as an entertaining and oft-times amusing read. There is no honor among thieves, family and other relationships be damned. Grifters live on the edge, sucking off society for whatever they can get while keeping up appearances, and inevitably digging themselves in too deep. My only knock is that it was to ...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
Apr 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Mike by: Tara

"Why shouldn't he take a job that he wanted to take? Why shouldn't a man want a friend, a real friend, when he has never before had one?"

The language in this novel is a pleasure. The descriptions, the dialogue. There must be something about the surname Thompson. This fella had a real way with words, as did Hunter.

They called Thompson, Jim that is, "the dimestore Dostoevsky" in his day, or so I hear, and in my book that's very high praise. On the strength of this novel, though, I'd have to say th
May 18, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2012
The characters are laced with just enough humanity for you to feel really bad for humanity. The writing was perfectly tuned. The plot was sharp. The characters are all twisted, warped and beautiful. I haven't wanted a shower so bad since I watched a movie by David Lynch. Hell is Los Angeles at night. The ONLY thing that would make this book better is if Gustave Doré or William Blake could have done the illustrations. ...more
Sep 27, 2009 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
Christopher McQuain
****1/2 The sharpest, most twisted, most Thompsonian of this recent run of Thompson novels I've delved into. L.A. noir with a vivid, sardonic sense of place, and an existentialism to rival the French batch with which Thompson simply must have been quite familiar. ...more
Jul 30, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who want to get back to the bare bones of a crime novel and be surprised, over and over.
Book 16 (out of 250-and my favorites, all rated 5 stars, are coming up!)
First, I gotta get on my soapbox:
"For a fearful shadow lies constantly over the residents of Uneasy Street," Thompson writes. And it's the author capitalizing the "U" and the "S". McCarthy's communist hunt of the 50's, ruining many careers and people, was the start of a problematic USA. Two Kennedy assassinations followed, then Nixon's impeachment, then the horrible treatment
Carla Remy
Mar 17, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
From 1963
One of Thompson's more intelligible novels. Ends with a striking conclusion. Dark and tangled plot, but interesting and satisfying.
I have read this many times, because I first read it when I was 14 and the movie came out. It was the same orange striped Black Lizard paperback I read in 1990. I mean I have only see that copy.
Phillip Thurlby
Jun 13, 2013 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'
Dec 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Noir fans, movie critics
people who want action without deep psychological understanding should probably skip Thompson, at least until they're had more experience of life, because that's what he's writing about, not tricks and shoot-outs. one of his later but not lesser works. he was 57 when he published GRIFTERS in 1963. the story of a Mother with a capital M for malevolent. such stories are rare but earthshaking. a triangle between a man, his older girlfriend, and his Mother, whose hearts are dead. short, fast read, b ...more
Sep 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I saw the movie all those years ago and thought it was amazing. Blew my mind. I had no idea it was based on a book. In my defense it was 1990. I was deep into my fantasy only phase. I am glad to have read the "source" material. I think it is darker than the movie. That is why books tend to be better, we get into the characters heads. I felt as I was reading there was a timeless quality. It could take place at almost anytime in history. People are people. My only issue with the book was Carol. I ...more
Mar 02, 2014 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 happened to them. Could ...more
Okay, I think I am officially noir'ed out. Not even sure why I listened to this right now, after so much other recent noir stuff...maybe just available from the library? I forget.

But anyway...The Grifters, The Reviews.

Not much of a real plot here, more like a character study of some consistently horrible characters. The only sympathetic person in the whole story is Roy's innocent Jewish nurse, who luckily gets herself extricated from the whole thing mid-story, although no
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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.” 29 likes
“He was his own victim, his own slave. He had made personality a profession, created a career out of selling himself. And he could not stray far, or for long, from his self-made self.” 28 likes
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