Title: The Grifters
Author: Jim Thompson
Genre: Pulp Noir
Rating: 3.5 of 5
Jim Thompson has a knack for writing sleazy characters who provide a glimpse into the thoughts and lives of the corrupt and criminal. In The Grifters we get to meet a con man who is skilled in the short con; his estranged, manipulative, criminal mother (only 14 years his senior); his trampy femme fatale mistress; and a sweet nurse with a dark, traumatizing past.
Some books and movies about con men present them as likable anti-heroes (The Music Man, Oceans 11, 12, 13). However, this book gives us a more believable look into the paranoid life of “grifters,” filled with loneliness, danger, and destruction (of self and others). By the end of the book the only likable character is Carol the nurse, though you may feel a touch of pity for some of the others.
The plot is a fairly standard downward slide into tragedy that you expect from this kind of crime noir with some creepy oedipal stuff in the mix. Overall, I’d say that this is well-written and perceptive in regard to human nature, but it’s the kind of pulp that leaves you feeling a bit gross at the end.
I am using this for my Classic Crime Story over at the Back to the Classics Challenge 2018.