Dark Passage, Nightfall, The Burglar: all film noir gems – but, first, they were novels by David Goodis. No surprise, if you’ve ever read any of his evocative, dark work. I was fortunate enough to read the Library of America collection of five of his novels, intrigued by my familiarity with these films. The novels include all three of the origins for the films cited above, as well as The Moon in the Gutter and Street of No Return. The first two novels listed give you an innocent man caught in the toils of corruption, not just from the criminal but from the respectable sides of society. In fact, those characters who do an end run around legality tend to be the ones who bring any justice, humanity, and integrity into this world. And even the persecuted “innocents” aren’t quite innocent of vindictiveness or self-preservation at the expense of others. The Moon in the Gutter and Street of No Return draw us into the dregs of decaying city landscapes where we become fellows with the crude, despairing, castaways who put to shame our value of respectability as they make one last search for self-value and integrity before they, and we, are pulled down into hopelessness.
Goodis’s prose , neither florid nor aridly spare, nails the emotional and visual atmosphere of dark emotions and decaying cityscape and soulscape. Reading him is like immersing yourself in the noir universes created under the direction of a Lang, Renoir, Siodmak, or Tourneur. Your mind’s eyes visualizes the cinematography of an Alton or a Musuraca. If you crave a haunting evocation of lost souls sinking into the darkness of society’s promises, Goodis is your writer! It’s Cornel Woolrich with better plot continuity and character development.
Check out the web site devoted to him here.