Book 285: The Grifters – Jim Thompson

Thompson, Jim - The GriftersI hope you never get tired of hearing it, but books like this are why I’m so glad Caroline and I took the chance and joined the random book group at our local library. I know I would never have picked up this book (and most of the books we read). They’re so different and I’ve enjoyed almost all that we’ve read! Sometimes, I’m not so sure about the book or I’m hesitant about the movie, but this book was great and I can’t wait to see how they adapt it to the film!

Like usual going into this month’s book I had no set expectations and knew very little about it. I vaguely knew it was about con artists, but that was about it. When I picked up my copy from the library I was tickled to see the pulp-fiction cover, who wouldn’t be? But that cover definitely made me seriously look forward to reading it, not to mention it was under 200 pages, and I blazed through the book.

The introduction of the novel talks about Jim Thompson is this amazingly under respected and read writer, how he’s super famous in France for the noir writing and how, even though some of his novels have been turned into films, he’s still undersold and under-read in the US. I can definitely understand why, having read this, there’s something super simple and yet incredibly complex in his writing. It definitely reminded me a bit of the cheekiness of Dashiell Hammett’s writing in The Thin Man, but this was cleaner and more grim than playful.

The most enjoyable aspect of the novel was the who is playing who feature. The novel is clearly about grifters/con artists so you know there’s some sort of backstabbing and double or triple playing going on. It wasn’t hard to work out the first part and if I put my mind to it there were enough hints for the second part, but the third and final even though I expected the cross I was completely stunned by the ending. I hope they don’t change it in the film, if they do I will be VERY mad.

Recommendation: If you want to read a brilliant crime novel, that’s incredibly minimalist and well written then this is one I’d recommend. I don’t have much to compare it to, but I can see why Thompson wouldn’t have been wide read, but could have a very strong following.

Opening Line: “As Roy Dillon stumbled out of the shop his face a sickish green, and each breath he drew was an incredible agony.”

Closing Line: “And then she went out of the room and the hotel, and out into the City of Angels.” (Whited out.)

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