Thursday, February 11, 2016

Review: "The Grifters" by Jim Thompson

The Grifters is really a departure from what I am used to from Jim Thompson. It doesn’t have the bite or immediate brutality of The Killer Inside Me or Pop. 1280, although it shares the latter’s dark sense of humor, nor does it have the sense of total spiritual annihilation of one of his lesser works like Savage Night, but again, it does share a similar kind of ending. I never felt like there was a lot at stake in this story of greed selfishness and a not so hidden undercurrent of incestual longing. With the exception of one scene involving a disturbing incident of male on female violence and the aforementioned ending, this book is rather funny, with crisp dialogue, corny love scenes and a characters as lost as you would expect in the Thompson universe. The novel begins on one such hilariously ironic scene, where in the midst of a simple con, which fails, our main character Roy Dillon is hit in the stomach by a sawed-off bat and almost dies due to internal bleeding. This brings his mother Lilly to town, who had Roy when she was only 14 and has not seen him in 8 years. She cares for him as best she could despite her emotional decay, but senses that his mistress Moira is bad for him. She enlists the help of an innocent nurse named Carol to fall for Roy and steal him away, but once motives are revealed as well as hidden desires, things go hell. Besides these four, the other characters are a bit weak, including Bobo, who punishes Lily in horrific fashion, and Roy’s boss Perk at his one straight job. The plot is as well until the final confrontation in a dingy hotel room which ends with one dead and one worse than dead. There is something very sincere about Thompson’s novels, which transcend the genre as all really great books do. He believes in better world, but doesn’t know how to get there, so we are left with these fascinating character pieces of real people on very real journeys. 

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