Friday, November 07, 2014

A fascinating letter from Dave Zeltserman re Shubin-Goodis

Hi Ed,
Seymour was a good guy. I'm assuming you knew him because Five Star published one of his books?
Anyway, a couple of years ago he told me a poignant David Goodis story that sums up our industry. When he was first starting out he saw Goodis at a Philly pool hall with admirers all around as Goodis was a star then. Some years later when his first book was getting a lot of buzz, a friend introduced him to Goodis, and Goodis wanted to know if Seymour could help him get published.
Hey, I've been tagged to be the keynote speaker this year at the Boucherconn Nero Wolfe dinner!

I met David Goodis Twice
By Seymour Shubin from
I met Dave Goodis twice. No, actually once. The first time I simply “saw” him.

It was a short time after Dark Passage was published, and I was just about ready to leave a “single’s” party in Philly when someone said to me, “There’s Dave Goodis.” Now some people dispute when I say I saw him wearing a nice light-colored suit. Impossible, they say; he always wore dark-brown or whatever, and it certainly wouldn’t be up to style. Still, I think I’m right. But then again there’s a small possibility I was wrong. He was so surrounded by people, mostly girls, greeting him that I may have gotten it wrong. All I remember clearly is that I was envious. I had published a number of short stories, including one in the legendary STORY, but no novel.

Now skip to about 1956--I’m not sure of the year. My wife got a call from a girlfriend of hers that she was house-sitting, that her friend Dave Goodis was coming over, and would we join them. Goodis seemed in an excellent mood, though he told a sad story (with a smile). He said he had suffered a heart attack while surfing and that he was living with his mother. Cheerful. Nothing terribly wrong. Until he asked me:

“Can you help me get a hardcover publisher?”

(Indeed, as I learned later, this was the reason he’d asked to meet me.)

I was jolted, and then immediately flooded with sadness and disbelief, though I only hope none of it showed. I’d had just one novel published at that time, Anyone’s My Name, and though it had made the NY Times bestseller list I was hardly a star with any influence. And he was still this gloried writer in my mind. I told him that I would talk to my editor, and that if he didn’t hear from him he should write to him too, using my name.

Nothing to my knowledge ever came of it. And that was the last time I saw David Goodis.

1 comment:

Dan said...

It seems a lot of writers in that Lion/Gold Medal school ended in obscurity... and often even dire poverty! I sometimes wish I could have been writing back then, but now I'm not so sure.