Tuesday, May 19, 2015

David Goodis: The Wounded and the Slain

I first heard of David Goodis probably ten years ago. I’d never read anything by him but I heard he was a noir writer, generally lumped in with folks like Jim Thompson. Most people who knew of him seemed to like him. I finally found a book by him at a bookstore, The Wounded and the Slain, and picked it up. This last week I finally read it.

Unfortunately, I was pretty disappointed. I probably won’t be reading any more Goodis unless something falls into my lap. The book was billed as a Noir/crime novel but I'd classify it largely as a romance. It’s certainly not even in the same species as Thompson’s work, which I like quite a lot. There is one criminal act shown in the book, and the plot does turn in part on it. However, the story is really about a marriage on the rocks. A man is drinking himself into oblivion because his wife is frigid. He loves his wife and she loves him, but something that happened in her childhood makes her unable to enjoy sex. That is all resolved in the end, but in a very simplistic fashion that bears no relationship to the actual psychology of such cases.

The main problem, for me, though, is that the book is almost all introspection. There’s almost no action outside of one bar fight. We see the man drinking in this bar or that bar. We see the woman alternately wondering about where her husband is and appreciating the manliness of another man. This is all done through internal monologue. The worst part of it is that the internal monologues didn’t seem very realistic to me. At least in this book, Goodis didn’t seem to have much of a feel for the way real people think and act.

I see from reviews on Goodreads that quite a few people enjoyed the book, and it was well enough written for what it was. It certainly wasn’t my cup of tea but who knows if it might be yours.


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17 comments:

R.T. said...

This is not a variety of tea that I would sample, so thank you for offering your perceptive, clear assessment. With too many books and so little time, I rely upon reviews like yours. Well done!

Erik Donald France said...

I like Jim Thompson, too. This one sounds a lot less interesting than wild real events like the Waco biker gang imbroglio. Thanks for the heads up!

Charles Gramlich said...

R.T., glad to be of service

Erik, absolutely

sage said...

It isn't a genre that I normally read but I seldom writer bad reviews because I don't review books I haven't read and if they are really bad, I stop reading... Congratulations for reading and earning the right to write a review.

Greg said...

I've never heard of that author, but I definitely won't be seeking him out now. Hopefully his other books are better.

Charles Gramlich said...

Sage, I generally finish everything I start, although sometimes I speed read parts of a book.

Greg, I'll have to check with someone more familiar with him.

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Charles, I have heared of David Goodis though I have never read anything by him. I don't like it when books leave me disappointed.

Charles Gramlich said...

Prashant, it doesn't happen all that often for me. I love all kinds of books, but this one sure did.

Charles Gramlich said...

Prashant, it doesn't happen all that often for me. I love all kinds of books, but this one sure did.

jodi said...

Charles, don't you just hate it when you dedicate the time in a book you have anticipated and then are disappointed? It's awful!

Charles Gramlich said...

Jodi, for sure.

Riot Kitty said...

I like some action, too. (Oh wait, that sounded naughty.) All introspection does a dull novel make.

Victorian Barbarian said...

I read his "Down There" (source for Truffaut's "Shoot the Piano Player") in a Library of America collection of five noir novels. It didn't make much of an impression on me. The other four books included some better stories.

Aimless Writer said...

I can be guilty of this. That's when the editor yells, "SHOW DON'T TELL."
I think internal dialog is good to a point, but we need to see the action or the characters get stale really quick.

Charles Gramlich said...

Riot kitty, yes, especially when it doesn't seem very accurate introspection.

Victorian Barbarian, I was hoping for something really good.

Aimless, I think we learn more about characters from what they do than what they say, even if it is internal dialogue

Anonymous said...

Charles, Goodis is highly revered by fans of noir books and films. You might want to see if you can catch The Burglar with Dan Duryea and Jayne Mansfield. It shows up on TV or you can catch it on Amazon for a buck. Goodis wrote the screenplay from his own novel. Set in his hometown of Philly. A real pressure cooker of a movie. Street of No Return and Cassidy's Girls are pretty good books. But they are depressing. He usually writes about weak men caught between a good looking dream girl and a fat shrew who dominates him. Cassidy's Girls is aout a bus driver who was once an airline pilot who was blamed for an airliner crash and now drives a bus on the streets of Philadelphia. How's that for a comedown? Weird stuff and not to everyone's taste. Goodis himself was an odd character who went to Hollywood on the basis of his book The Dark Passage which became a Bogart/Bacall flick. They say he wore the same dirty suit all the time, drank a lot, and usually ended up sleeping on a friend's couch.

John M. Whalen

Charles Gramlich said...

Anonymous, Thanks for the info. Much appreciated.