I recently finished David Goodis' book Somebody's Done For and have finally
finished the entire Goodis catalogue. An interesting book that ranks with
Cassidy's Girl, The Burglar, Down There and Black Friday. I believe it's
only been reprinted once, in the Blue Murder series (circa 1993), since it's
original publication as a PBO from Banner in 1967--after Goodis' Death.
Like many of Goodis' novels it starts out with the protagonist contemplating
his imminent death, although not by suicide, but by drowning. He's in the
middle of Delaware Bay too far out to see the shore and about to give up
treading water due to sheer exhaustion. Although he eventually makes it to
shore, he spends the rest of the novel, the timeframe of which is a period
of three days, facing imminent death.
All of the Goodis hallmarks are there. The bitch/evil woman/women vs. the
angel in need of saving, the suicidal thoughts, the unbelievable
coincidences and the backdrop of Philadelphia. Although, in this, his last
novel he seems to address the issue of implausible coincidences, by delving
into the Freudian belief that there are no real coincidences. The
machinations of our subconscious lead us to a point that only to our
conscious mind seem coincidental. Mind you, I'm not saying he does this
convincingly, but at least well enough to hold your interest and momentarily
believe the implausible.
I wouldn't consider myself a Goodis scholar (I appreciated the invite to
Goodiscon, though) or even a fan of his, but his writing is compelling
enough to have spent years tracking down obscure, out-of-print volumes. It's
evident after reading the novels and a lot of his short stories that his
writing at its best was a mirror of his own meager tortured existence and,
at worse, Walter Mitty-like flights of fantasy that were far removed from
his own humble life. When he talks about firearms it's clear he's out of his
realm. His description of the workings of a shotgun show that the guy was
never close to one in his life, let alone ever having fired one.
I know he had has his fifteen minutes of fame and fortune with the
serialization of Dark Passage in the Saturday Evening Post, the subsequent
film version and the brief Hollywood screenwriting career that followed, but
I don't think he crammed enough living in those good years to give his
novels the necessary verisimilitude before retreating to the oblivion of the
poolhalls of Northeast Philly. Hemingway, by contrast, actually ran with the
bulls he wrote about and was in the First World War as well as the Spanish
When you read any of the dozens of flying ace stories he cranked out in the
early forties, you realize just how apt the Walter Mitty analogy is. I'm
sure the guy could count on one hand or two hands the times he was even in
an airplane. Someone please correct me if I'm wrong here.
Some interesting notes about his novels: They are all crime novels. All but
four of them are set in Philadelphia. About half of them have the main
character contemplating suicide at one point.
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