I've read a number of Jim Thompson's excellent crime noir novels, but for some reason I'd never gotten around to reading The Grifters. I saw the movie when it came out (screenplay by Donald Westlake!) and enjoyed it, so when I found the book at a free book exchange in Rio Verde, Arizona a couple of weeks ago, I grabbed it. It's an extremely bleak story, but it's also enthralling.
The story focuses on Roy Dillon, a short con artist in Los Angeles. He's in his early 20s and maintains an impeccable appearance. People like him. He keeps a pair of loaded dice in his pocket to rip off drunk sailors, and he knows how to trick bartenders and shopkeepers into giving him $20 in change instead of the dime he's owed. He's amassed a small fortune this way, and he keeps a straight job as a door-to-door salesman so no one can get suspicious.
Roy's mother, Lilly, is only about 15 years older than her son, and she works for a creepy mobster who keeps her on a short leash. Roy hasn't seen his mother for years, because she was a rotten mother and Roy doesn't want anything to do with her. But when a dimestore clerk punches Roy in the gut with a sawed off baseball bat and sends him to the hospital, mother and son are reunited and the relationship takes a new turn.
That's just the beginning of this hardboiled, noir story. I was fascinated by Roy's life -- Thompson does a great job of following Roy around as he goes about his daily business, struggling with urges to drop the grifter life and become an honest man, but always falling back into his role as a short con artist. Roy's sort-of girlfriend, Moira Langrty, is just as interesting. She's a former long con artist who relies on her stunning good looks and rapidly-shrinking treasure to pay the bills. She's becoming increasingly aware that her beauty is fading, and that she needs to come up with a plan to set herself up for the rest of her life. Lilly takes an immediate dislike to Moira, and cooks up a scheme to drive her and Roy apart.
If you've seen the movie, you know how it ends, but don't let it stop you from reading the novel, because Thompson's writing is terrific.
For the past couple of years, I’ve been making the case, at HILOBROW and in the UNBORED books I’ve co-authored, that the Sixties (1964–1973, according to my non-calendrical schema) were a golden age for YA and YYA adventures. In no particular order, here’s my list of the Best YA and YYA Lit of 1967. Happy […]
Fletcher Hanks comics are incredibly violent, incredibly stupid, and incredibly beautiful. His first published work appeared in 1939, only months after the first Superman story ran, and his last work appeared in 1941. Then he disappeared.
All 53 of his batshit crazy tales have been reprinted in “Turn Loose Our Death Rays And Kill Them All!: The Complete Works Of Fletcher Hanks.” They are likely to pop your eyes, blow your mind, and leave you speechless. Shortly before his death, Kurt Vonnegut wrote that, “The recovery of these treasures is in itself a major work of art.”
Rules for Revolutionaries: How Big Organizing Can Change Everything is a book by Bernie Sanders advisor Becky Bond and netroots pioneer Zack Exley.
Looking to upgrade your weekend? Here are three randomly awesome products on my mind this week.#3 FRESHeBUDS Pro Magnetic Bluetooth EarbudsAs more and more phones and gadgets switch to Bluetooth-only compatibility, you’ll need to get Bluetooth headphones like the rest of us. I’ve been super impressed with these affordable magnetic headphones. Pull the magnetic earbuds apart to auto-connect […]
Traditional folding wallets are designed for paper bills—but these days, carrying cash is rarely a necessity. More often than not, I don’t carry cash at all. This Bogui Clik Wallet is the best answer I’ve found for avoiding the hassle of those tight-fitting credit card pockets.This attractive, minimalist wallet features a protective lip, so my cards don’t […]
Using my iPhone while it’s charging is always a hassle. With tucked-away outlets and the meager length of included lightning cables, comfortable scrolling while plugged in is annoying. These 10-Ft MFi-Certified Lightning Cables are super convenient and probably the best iPhone accessory purchase I’ve made.At over three times the length of normal cables, these reach anywhere you […]