Wednesday, March 02, 2011
EVERY SHALLOW CUT; FORGOTTEN BOOKS-NIGHT SQUAD by David Goodis
EVERY SHALLOW CUT Starred PW Review
Ed here: As I said here when I reviewed it, Every Shallow Cut is my favorite piece by Tom Piccirilli and that's saying something. Buy it now!
EVERY SHALLOW CUT received a starred review in Publishers Weekly
"Lovers of gritty noir will devour this stand-alone from Piccirilli (Shadow Season), a pulse-pounding account of a writer's descent into despair and violence. The unnamed narrator's wife has left him; he feels guilty about their decision to have an abortion; and his once-promising literary career, which netted him several awards, has petered out. As the story opens, he's a homeless drifter, alone except for his dog, Churchill. When three punks attack him on a Denver street, something snaps and he fights back, seriously injuring his assailants. He pawns his few remaining possessions from his late parents and uses the cash to buy a gun, before traveling across the country to seek out his brother in New York. On his tortured odyssey, he revisits parts of his past in an effort to tease out some sort of meaning. Piccirilli makes his fall from grace utterly convincing and his emotional rage all too understandable. (Apr.)"
Forgotten Books: Night Squad by David Goodis
If Philip K. Dick had written crime fiction he probably would have sounded a lot like David Goodis. Or if David Goodis had written science fiction he probably would have sounded a lot like Philip K. Dick.
Think about it. The precursor to Dick's dystopian future worlds resemble in many respects Goodis' 1953 world of down-and-out Philadelphia. Worlds of poverty, violence, despair. And protagonists whose well-earned paranoia often lapse into almost hallucinatory reactions. Cloying, claustrophobic worlds where death is often a mercy.
In the case of THE NIGHT SQUAD we have another example of the Goodis-Dick connection, that of the utter isolation of a man in society. Here though, unlike Dick's protagonists Corey Bradford is not innocent. He's an ex-cop who shook down everybody in the neighborhood called the Swampland. The slum neighborhood where he grew up and has lived out his life. After he got bounced from the force, a kind of shunning took place. The people here hate him so much they generally refuse to acknowledge him.
His luck changes when he saves the life of Walter Grogan, the gangster who runs everything in the Swampland. Grogan likes him and puts him to work with the promise of fifteen grand if Bradford can find out who the two men were who tried to to kill him. They tried to make it look as if it was just a mugging but Grogan knows better. Somebody in the Swampland is trying to kill him and take over his territory.
Goodis puts a twist on this twist. Soon enough an angry cop hires him to double-cross Grogan; Bradford will report back everything he learns from the gangster. Or will he?
I'm not an expert on Goodis (hell I'm not an expert on anything) but I read a few reviews after I finished the book and the impression I got is that it's not considered one of his best mainly because of how he handles the moral dilemma faced by Bradford.
I admired the book. It's the equivalent of somebody holding your head under water until your lungs start to burst--that grim, that frightening. But man I kept flipping those pages because this was a guided tour of hell and I was hooked. Goodis is at his best here dealing with a wino named Carp, the only honorable person in the book except maybe for Bradford's ex-wife. Nobody created the lost angels of the underclass more vividly than Goodis. He broke your heart with them.
I recommend this novel because of its bleak, Phil Dickian power. This is noir cast in phantasmagoric terms.