Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Lost Classics of Noir: Criss-Cross by Don Tracy

Lost Classics of Noir: Criss-Cross by Don Tracy

So this is the next in my line of posts where I’m going to write about an underappreciated vintage noir novel, and in so doing, discuss a movie that was made from its story (sometimes it’s the other way around, but you get the idea). Robert Siodmak’s 1948 (referenced as ’49 in some places) film Criss-Cross, which stars Burt Lancaster, Yvonne “Lily Munster” DeCarlo, and Dan Duryea, is an example of film noir of which most aficionados of that genre are likely familiar and appreciative.Don Tracy’s 1934 novel of the same title is less known but as worthy of recognition.
Tracy may not have been James M. Cain, but judging by this novel, he wasn’t all that terribly far behind. Honestly, if someone new to the world of classic hardboiled fiction asked me for a good example of such a book, I would be perfectly comfortable pointing them in the direction of Criss-Cross. Likewise, I’d gladly tout the book to knowing noir heads who haven’t read it.

There are some differences between the book and the movie and I’ll get to those, but for now a rundown of the tale as it plays out in Tracy’s novel: The story centers around and is told by a guy named Johnny Thompson. Johnny is a 23-year old Baltimore denizen.  There are people who lead harder lives than Johnny’s as we see it at the outset of the story, but his could use some improvement. He’s a boxer who isn’t doing any boxing at the moment. He was never all that great in the ring – a disfigurement he received at the hands of a victorious opponent earned him the nickname “Flat Nose” – plus the local boxing action in Baltimore isn’t drawing the kinds of crowds it once did. With Johnny’s dad having kicked off some time back and Johnny left to take care of his mother and 19-year old brother (who stutters a lot and whom Johnny badly wants us to know is not as dimwitted as people make him out to be), he needs some type of income. So he gets a job as a part of an armored car delivery team, as a non-driving guard.
for the rest go here:


pattinase (abbott) said...

Saw the movie but have never read the book.

Dan said...

The book ends much differently than the film, but both are equally memorable.