Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Shooting Pool with David Goodis

David Goodis, noir's bad luck poet, is that rare kind of crime writer who inspires real obsession in readers. Maybe that's because his books were so seldom about the mechanics of crime and more often about people. Sad, defeated people, yes--but people. This makes him rare among post-war crime writers. Unlike Spillane, he rarely wrote about tough guys. And unlike Thompson, he even more rarely wrote about psychos. Goodis wrote about losers. Where Spillane was a sadist and Thompson was a nihlist, Goodis was postwar noir's premiere existentialist. In the end, he seemed to say, we all lose. If that sounds depressing, what makes Goodis's novels snap is their rich humanity. He seemed to love his characters. A warm humanity in the face of encroaching oblivion--what more could you want?

These reflections were inspired by a new piece over at davidgoodis.com concerning Goodis's marriage to Elaine Astor. Go check it out, and then stick around to root through the website. It's a treasure trove for fans of Goodis's work. Be warned, though, that it may very well make you dash out to buy some of the great man's books. I suggest starting with Street of No Return.


Cullen Gallagher said...

Did you ever see the movie Sam Fuller made of Street of No Return? I never saw it myself, but was curious if you had.

As much as I love Fuller and Goodis, it doesn't seem like an obvious pairing.

Jake Hinkson said...

I have indeed seen it, and you can find my review of it here on the blog. Pretty damn awful, I'm sad to say.