Mugs, cons, dames. Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall. Noir from the '40s and '50s. This is the stuff from which classic dark dreams are made.
David Goodis was prolific. He died young (age 49 in 1967) but left a large body of work, only some of which has been widely circulated and preserved. The Library of America is doing its part to spread the word with Five Noir Novels of the 1940s and 50s.
Goodis' novel Dark Passage was written in 1946. Bogart and Bacall starred in the movie in 1947. "The Fugitive" went on TV in 1963. Goodis began a lawsuit against United Artists and ABC, claiming "The Fugitive" violated his copyright of Dark Passage. The case was not resolved until after Goodis died, and then only for a pittance paid to his heirs.
In his lifetime, Goodis wrote primarily for pulp magazines. Dark Passage was one of his first books. Although many of his books sold very well when they were first published, it has not been until the past decade or so that interest in him as a representative of the golden age of noir has been revived.
Film noir immediately brings to mind high-contrast back-and-white images, dark tales of men and women whose morality is muddied and who seem only to get more desperate. A happy ending certainly isn't guaranteed. But, man, oh, man, they had style and a high cool factor.
This is about a story. A dark story. Dark Passage by David Goodis. It starts with a man. This is how it begins:
Vincent Parry makes a break for it one day. Then he's on the lam and luck finds him in the guise of the shapely and rich Irene Janney. But it's not even about Parry and Janney. It's not about whether Parry's wife was murdered. It's not about how Parry survives while on the run. All those things are interesting and essential to the story, but what is most important is how Goodis tells these things.
Here are a few quotes. Listen to the rhythm and humor and leanness:
What a voice Goodis had. What a wonderful, wry, dark voice. It was full of emotional stasis and arrested movement while charging forward at the same time. Goodis is an undisclosed party in his scenes -- his aesthetic, his punchlines, his poetry, his deliberate style.
Bogart's laconic portrayal of Parry matches Goodis' writing exactly. Game, set, match.
There are five books within this volume, including Dark Passage. It's a deal at $35.