Re: RARA-AVIS: Grifters

From: Paul Miller (
Date: 23 Feb 2002

I just sent in this review of "The Grifters" to Amazon and I thought I would share it here as well.

Grift is money made dishonestly as in a swindle or a confidence game. The grifters in this masterpiece by Thompson are Lilly and Roy Dillon and Moira Langtry. Lilly and Roy are mother and son and haven't seen each other for seven years as the book opens. Moira is Roy's girlfriend, a prostitute, and a former grifter. Roy has a steady sales job and he makes the grift on the side. Lilly does her grifting for the mob, betting down the odds on long shots at the horse races so her boss won't take too big of a fall should one of those long shots come in. This novel has beautiful description, great characterization, and even some subtle jabs at consumerism and the corrupting aspects of the modern world. Moira and her former grifter partner Cole laugh at and make fun of advertisements. Moira in a bar after ordering a sidecar feels "that the times were out of joint with themselves, and that the most emphasis was put on the least worthwhile pursuits". "She can no longer hear it. It was lost, the music which each person had inside himself, and which put him in step with things as they should be". Dillon is the name Thompson used on his Communist party Identification card. Many artists at the time were interested in Communism because of their concern for social justice for the poor and didn't know much about the larger Communist world. There is an Oedipal atmosphere that develops in Roy's love hate relationship with Lilly. This novel builds at a slow crescendo pace and the ending is a shocker. This is Thompson's best work!

Paul Miller

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