Tag Archives: Anjelica Huston

Book review: The Grifters

Most people probably associate The Grifters with the 1990 film directed by Stephen Frears and starring John Cusack, Anjelica Huston and Annette Bening. But the script, penned by veteran crime writer Donald Westlake, was adapted from a story by Jim Thompson, one of the most influential writers of the golden age of noir that stretched from the late 1940s to the 1950s.

Thompson was an expert at depicting an amoral world dripping with cynicism and desperation. He also wrote fierce, clean prose that told stories better and in half the words of many writers who followed him.

The Grifters is a good example. Clocking in at just 129 pages, this 1963 story may be a minnow length-wise but it’s one of the best pieces of fiction ever written about the world of the con artist.

The story focuses on Roy Dillon, a successful “short con artist’, a grifter, and his relationship to his mother, Lily and his attractive girlfriend, Moira.

When a routine attempt to cheat a shop assistant out of twenty dollars goes wrong, Roy receives a blow to the stomach with a wooden club. As he makes his way back to his apartment, the pain gets worse. He receives a surprise visit by Lily who, discovering his condition, gets him rushed him to hospital.… Read more