Jim Thompson: The Grifters

A few words about Jim Thompson:

He was born above a jail.  His father was a town sheriff, a compulsive gambler, who fled arrest with his family.  He published his first crime story at the age of fourteen.  Some of this may be exaggerated, or outright untrue.  It doesn’t really matter.  He was a man of fiction, an alcoholic, the screenwriter of The Killing and Paths of Glory (two of Stanley Kubrick’s best pictures).  Like many of his kind, he was mostly unappreciated before he died: little to none of his work was in print in the U.S.

The Grifters

It’s all in the ending.

Thompson’s prose isn’t the hard stuff like Stark or Hammett.  Unlike the latter, his plots don’t unfold with brisk action but a slow build, a dive into the characters’ psyches.  At times, he over-explains hard-boiled life, at least in the case of The Grifters.  A character in other pulp novels often acts by impulse and the thoughts behind such actions are never revealed.  Thompson chooses to  define his characters’ philosophies, and for this, the novel suffers.

But it’s all in the ending, the ending straight from hell that comes for grifting son Roy Dillon and mother Lilly Dillon.  That’s all I’ll say.

This won’t be it for Jim Thompson.


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