Re: RARA-AVIS: Goodis

David F Schmid (
Sat, 7 Aug 1999 21:01:13 -0400 (EDT)

Dear All,

With reference to the recent postings on David Goodis, it may interest list members to know that I have just finished writing a reference article on Goodis that will appear in the forthcoming Dictionary of Literary Biography volume on American hard-boiled crime writers. I am a huge fan of his work, but I must say that writing some parts of the article was a pain in the neck. Goodis is a notorious bibliographic nightmare. Apart from the Garnier biography and James Sallis's 'Difficult Lives,' there is very little substantive critical work on Goodis. With that said, I found the following pieces useful and informative:
  Meredith Brody, "Missing Persons: David Goodis." Film Comment, 20.5, Sep-Oct 1984: 42-43. William David Sherman, "David Goodis/Dark Passage." Sight & Sound, 38.1
(Winter 1968-69): 41. Mike Wallington, "Introduction." *David Goodis: Nightfall, Down There, Dark Passage, The Moon in the Gutter.* (London: Zomba Books, 1983). Adrian Wootton and Paul Taylor, eds. *David Goodis/Pulps Pictured: For Goodis' Sake!" (London: British Film Institute, 1989).

The Sherman piece is especially interesting, as it contains excerpts from a letter Goodis wrote to Sherman in 1966, just a few months before Goodis's death. Sherman quotes what must be one of the most self-deprecating authorial self-judgments in the annals of literature. Referring to his first novel (Retreat from Oblivion), Goodis wrote:
"It was nothing, and the same applies to most of the sixteen others since then."

In terms of Goodis's uncollected short fiction, there is a mountain of it, in a variety of genres. Goodis once boasted that he wrote over five million words in five years (1939-1944) while working for the pulps. A fairly extensive list of this material appears in the 3rd edition of
*Twentieth-Century Crime and Mystery Writers", edited by Kathleen Gregory Klein (Chicago and London: St James Press, 1991): pages 446-447.

For what it's worth, let me just mention in closing my two favorite things about Goodis's work: his huge gallery of entertainingly violent women, and the fact that his protagonists always choose to believe that they can resist their fate, even though they simultaneously know that they can't.


David Schmid University at Buffalo

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