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The Grifters (1964)
The Grifters is my favorite of the Thompson's that I've read so far, though I've liked them all. His pared down, muscular prose and gritty plots make for some of the better noir reading of all time. I haven't read the book in awhile, but the movie remains a fresh memory and summons forth a warning to my readers. My wife and I saw it on one of our earliest dates and I would encourage you single men out there to make a Mental Note: don't take a date to see a movie that features both Annette Benning in the altogether and a mother frenchkissing and then killing her son; dating is complicated enough without these added hurdles.
Both were equally enjoyable, perhaps the book was more introspective, while the movie was more entertaining. And, of course, while the ending is twisted and shocking, it is also completely plausible.
A young man of 25 has been on his own since the age of seventeen. Because his father is out of the picture, and his mother is only 15 years his senior, an obvious lack of coherent and responsible parenting occurs. In addition, the mother is a professional grifter working for a medium level race-track gate fixer. So the son leaves home at an early age and works as a salesman. Having a knack for conversing and being both impressionable and sharp as a tack he meets strangers in the big cities and learns their trades, and favors one, which just so happens to be the short con.
As the story develops the mother and son have a reconciliation, of sorts. It is at this point where Thompson develops his case study of the psychopathology between mother and son and divided selfish interests.
Take the time (about two hours) to read this book, if for no other reason than to enjoy the pleasures of a completely unabsorbed fictional romp through the minds of grifters.
-The Killer Beside Me: The Jim Thompson Resource Page
-BIO: (Vintage Books)
-READERS GUIDE: The Killers (Vintage Books)
-ESSAY: Cigarettes and Alcohol The Extraordinary Life and Work of Jim Thompson (Charles Waring, Crime Time Online)
-REVIEW: of Savage Night by Jim Thompson (Mystery Guide)
-REVIEW: of Savage Art: A Biography of Jim Thompson (Brad Tyer, Hot Wired)
-REVIEW: of SAVAGE ART A Biography of Jim Thompson. By Robert Polito.(Tony Hilfer, NY Times Book Review)
-ESSAY:A Tale of Pulp and Passion: The Jim Thompson Revival (Lawrence Block, NY Times)
-ESSAY: The Gentrification of Crime (Luc Sante, NY Review of Books)
-ESSAY: The Mysterious Romance of Murder: The enduring highbrow fascination with detective stories (David Lehman, Boston Review)
-Crime Fiction as Literature? (Monash University)
-Crime Stories: Criminology and Fiction
-FILM REVIEW: of Coup de Torchon (John Alderman, Hot Wired)
-Hard Boiled: The online reference site for all things noir