Thursday, December 21, 2006

Two Goodis Stories

So far I've read several of the stories in the David Goodis collection, BLACK FRIDAY, but a couple of them really stand out.

"The Case of the Laughing Queen", a novelette that originally appeared under the pseudonym Lance Kermit in the October 1942 issue of the pulp 10 STORY MYSTERY, begins with the death of a man wearing a king's crown whose body is found on a barge towed into New York from the Atlantic. In the ice coating the barge's deck is scratched the dying message, "The queen was smiling." Then a former prizefighter dressed like a priest is found murdered on the steps of Grant's Tomb. The murder weapon is a 500-year-old spear that once belonged to a Spanish conquistador. Put in charge of solving these murders is Ricco Pasquale Maguire, an Italian/Irish millionaire playboy who's also a homicide cop. (Shades of Amos Burke!) Then . . . things get weird.

This story is as crazed and over-the-top as it sounds, and not like anything else by David Goodis that I've ever read. The plot never makes a whole lot of sense, but that doesn't really matter. It's still highly entertaining.

"Caravan to Tarim", although written for a slick (COLLIER'S, October 26, 1943), is very reminiscent of the sort of straight-ahead adventure story that usually appeared in, well, ADVENTURE. Or ARGOSY or BLUE BOOK or one of the other general fiction pulps. The hero is a two-fisted American who works for an Arab merchant bringing caravans of trade goods across desert wastes where Bedouin raiders are always a danger. There are double- and triple-crosses, gun battles, camels, and sand dunes. What else do you need in a story like this? Not much, when it's told in such a smooth, hardboiled style as Goodis employs here.


Juri said...

Hasn't the caravan story been reprinted in a recent anthology? In something by Maxim Jabukowski? I remember reading it and liking it a great deal. Goodis may have been his reputation's prisoner during his later years in writing, as he seems to have been capable of writing many kinds of stuff. Didn't he do westerns, too?

Anonymous said...

I've read the caravan story, too, Jury, so it's definitely in some recent anthology.

James Reasoner said...

"Caravan to Tarim" is also in THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF PULP ACTION, which sits on my shelves still unread. And according to the bibliography in the back of BLACK FRIDAY, Goodis published about a dozen Western stories, most of them under the pseudonyms Lance Kermit and David Crewe. I haven't read any of them, but I imagine he could produce a good hardboiled Western yarn.

Anonymous said...

I've been hearing a lot about Goodis lately. I'm doing an article on Jim Sallis and he was a big fan of Goodis. I'm remiss in not having read him. But I've gotta start looking for stuff.

Juri said...

That's the book I was thinking about.