Some critics have said that David Goodis’s novels read like book-length suicide notes. That’s certainly an apt description of THE WOUNDED AND THE SLAIN, originally published by Gold Medal in 1955 and recently reprinted by Hard Case Crime. This one even opens with the protagonist, James Bevan, contemplating doing away with himself, even though he’s on vacation at a luxurious Jamaican resort with his beautiful young wife. Bevan’s wife is his problem, though, since their marriage is one of the most corrosive you’re likely to encounter in fiction. Like other Goodis characters, Bevan seeks refuge from that unhappiness in booze, which leads him into an encounter with violence and death.
Then, yep, you guessed it, Things Get Worse.
THE WOUNDED AND THE SLAIN is somewhat unusual among Goodis’s novels, in that it takes place in Jamaica rather than Philadelphia or some other large American city. It veers away from the noir stereotype in another way as well, with many of the scenes taking place in hot, bright sunshine rather than dark alleyways. The interior of James Bevan’s mind is plenty dark on its own, though, and ultimately the streets of Kingston, Jamaica, are just as mean as those of Philadelphia or New York. The motivations of some of the characters may seem a little clichéd today, but Goodis’s writing still makes them ring true. The headlong pace carries the reader along to a very satisfying conclusion. All in all, and not surprisingly, this is an excellent novel and comes with a high recommendation from me, for whatever that’s worth.
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