Friday, March 23, 2012

Forgotten Books: Black Friday and Selected Stories - David Goodis

(This post originally appeared in somewhat different form on January 12, 2007.)

This British trade paperback from Serpent's Tail reprints one of David Goodis’s noirish crime novels, BLACK FRIDAY (originally published by Lion Books in 1954), and a dozen of his novelettes and short stories from the pulpsNew Detectiveand 10 Story Mystery Magazine, the legendary digestManhunt, and Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine. In addition, there's a good introduction by Adrian Wootton that talks at length about Goodis’s pulp career, where he was best known for his aviation and air war stories.

I’d read a couple of Goodis’s novels (CASSIDY’S GIRL and NIGHT SQUAD) but none of his shorter work, so I was a little surprised at the wide range of the stories. Most of them aren’t as dark and bleak as his novels, and a couple of them, featuring homicide detective Ricco Maguire, almost qualify as screwball comedies. The later stories, mostly from Manhunt, get darker as they go along.

The novel BLACK FRIDAY centers around one of one of Goodis’s typical down-on-his-luck loser heroes, a guy named Hart who is on the run from a murder rap when he accidentally gets involved with a gang of professional thieves in Philadelphia. Not everything is as it seems, though, because Hart is a man with secrets, which are gradually revealed in the course of the book. This is a novel with a great opening – the first forty or fifty pages are some of the best stuff I’ve read recently – and a very suspenseful ending, but the middle of the book meanders around some and drags compared to the rest of it. Still, I enjoyed it quite a bit and will read more of Goodis’s novels. Overall, this is a fine volume and well worth having if you like hardboiled crime fiction.

1 comment:

Sergio (Tipping My Fedora) said...

Been ages since I last read any Goodis and this sounds like a valuable collection - thanks for the refresher. The screwball-ish titles sound really unusual! I went to a talk Wooton gave a decade ago (or more ...) when he was writing a biography of Goodis - no idea if he ever finished it.