Archive for May, 2010

David Goodis: The Wounded and the Slain

Posted in David Goodis with tags , , , , on May 27, 2010 by gustravis

David Goodis

He wrote for radio.  He wrote for Hollywood.  He shacked up in Philadelphia with his parents and schizo brother and explored the streets at night.  He died from injuries possibly received while resisting a robbery.

The Wounded and the Slain

The city is a perfect place for crime, for the unhealthy, the ones diseased in mind and spirit, for double-crosses and triple-crosses and shoot-outs and beautiful women made of nothing but meanness.  But the slums of a Third World island aren’t a bad setting either and that is where Goodis takes us in this novel, to the tourist havens in Jamaica, where nearby poverty and crime wait for night to sometimes snatch one of the guests away from their blissful fantasy lives.

Of course, his protagonist James Bevan wants to be taken–he craves escape from the spiral of alcoholism he’s thrown himself into, his marriage to a frigid confused woman, the pointlessness of his American life.  It is the slums, the death, the violence, the betrayal and ugliness of human kind, right in his face like the mud that chokes him when he falls in a ditch, drunk, and can’t get out, it is that ugliness that may spark the last breath of courage in his depraved body and soul.

There is something essential and fitting about a character in pulp/noir work that doesn’t want to live, that in fact wants to destroy themselves.  Charles Willeford nails this type in his novel Pick-Up and so does Goodis here, through a couple hundred pages of pain and suffering.

Hard Case, a publisher responsible for the fantastic revival of many authors, put the book out.  Most of Goodis’ work is still out of print.


Jim Thompson: The Grifters

Posted in Jim Thompson with tags , , , , , on May 26, 2010 by gustravis

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.