Thursday, January 25, 2007

David Goodis

Millepede Press, which thus far has not made a single mistake in the way it has selected, packaged and marketed its books, has now issued two David Goodis novels just in time to join in the attempt by two or three different groups to repair Goodis' reputation and make it equal to that of Jim Thompson's. There was recently a David Goodis convention. Not many writers, living or dead, get a tribute like that.

The two novels here are NIGHTFALL and STREET OF NO RETURN. I prefer the former because it's a damned good story and because Goodis controls it throughout. And, if I might be allowed to sound suburban here, because it features a protagonist I don't mind identifying with. There's an excellent introduction by Bill Pronzini with key biographical information about Goodis.

STREET OF NO RETURN is more typical of Goodis' work for Lion and Gold Medal, the jinxed protagonist, the almost Lovecraftian darkness. STREET also makes clear the difference between Thompson and Goodis. Much as we might at least theoretically feel some compassion for the typical Thompson protagonist, he usually is, and make no mistake, a predator. The typical Goodis man is a victim.

I've always felt that if Goodis' books lacked that quintessential incandescent moment you find in the best of Thompson, he compensated by being a better craftsman. He turns Philidelphia into a city Dante would have appreciated. Robert Polito, in his fine introduction, also points out how Goodis varied his style and language, using in STREET, a "snaky diction" (nifty phrase) to create this particular take on his helltown.

Important books, and emminently readable ones. Millipede scores again.

2 comments:

Dave Zeltserman said...

Ed,

The beauty of Thompson was outside of "Killer Inside Me", his noir protagonists tended to be both victim and predator, although in "After Dark, My Sweet", the protag was more pure victim, although one who turned out to be much brighter than those trying to take advantage of him.

--Dave

Dan said...

It is impressive that Goodis wrote as well as he did while probably being suicidally depressed. If he wasn't depressed then he was an even better writer than I thought.