Below are opening paragraphs from 3 very different writers:
HORROR, MADNESS, MYSTERY
“I was an old man, but I died hard. It isn’t easy to die. Not even in your own bed. It’s a hell of a lot harder, writhing soundlessly in a fiery mist, seeing it coming and trying to yell until the heat gets to you for good. After that you still fight it, writing like a beetle, long after you don’t know any more. It wasn’t easy to die that way, but I did, and laughed all the time….” Goodis, “Never Too Old to Burn,” New Detective, 1949
SOMETIMES I WISH I WERE HIM
“My first hit was a politician. Major League. I was 24, and felt a hundred. Not the cleanest job. Nearly cost me another contract. … My story travels. It has mileage. It exposes a lot of lies at the top of the tree. Lies that affect you and me. Lies that the people who govern us tell us, while they save their skins and burn our money.” Richard Godwin, Confessions of a Hit Man, 2014
SHOWING THE READER HIS PLACE IN THE NOVEL “You pick up a book and read about things and stuff, getting a vicarious kick from people and events that never happened. You’re doing it now, getting ready to fill in a normal life with the details of someone else’s experiences. Fun, isn’t it? You read about life on the outside thinking of how maybe you’d like it to happen to you, or at least how you’d like to watch it. . . . Oh, it’s great to watch all right. Life through a keyhole.” Mickey Spillane, My Gun Is Quick, 1950
PULP ACCORDING TO DAVID GOODIS by Jay A. Gertzman Publication Date: October 29, 2018 . Buy the trade paperback from the Down & Out Bookstore and receive a FREE digital download of the book! . Also available from the following retailers … Print: Amazon — Amazon UK — Barnes & Noble — IndieBound eBook: Kindle — Kindle UK — Nook — iTunes — Kobo — Play .Synopsis …Pulp According to David Goodis starts with six characteristics of 1950s pulp noir that fascinated mass-market readers, making them wish they were the protagonist, and yet feel relief that they were not. His thrillers are set in motion by suppressed guilt, sexual frustrations, explosions of violence, and the inaccessible nature of intimacy. Extremely valuable is a gangster-infested urban setting. Uniquely, Goodis saw a still-vibrant community solidarity down there. Another contribution was sympathy for the gang boss, doomed by his very success. He dramatizes all this in the stark language of the Philadelphia’s “streets of no return.” . The book delineates the noir profundity of the author’s work in the context of Franz Kafka’s narratives. Goodis’ precise sense of place, and painful insights about the indomitability of fate, parallel Kafka’s. Both writers mix realism, the disorienting, and the dreamlike; both dwell on obsession and entrapment; both describe the protagonist’s degeneration. Tragically, belief in obligations, especially family ones, keep independence out of reach. . Other elements covered in this critical analysis of Goodis’s work include his Hollywood script-writing career; his use of Freud, Arthur Miller, Faulkner and Hemingway; his obsession with incest; and his “noble loser’s” indomitable perseverance. . Praise for PULP ACCORDING TO DAVID GOODIS: . “This was a fascinating read. [Gertzman] appears as an expert not only on Goodis’s body of work but on the pulp era of fiction in general, mid-twentieth-century American history, Philadelphia history, literary analysis, and a litany of other subjects. The book is stylishly written and well designed for reaching a broader, nonacademic audience interested in the pulp’s history, role in American culture, and meaning. Frankly, the crime fiction community needs more books like this!” —Chris Rhatigan, editor, publisher, and writer of hard-boiled and noir literature . “Jay Gertzman is one of those rare maverick critics with the courage to explore the dark alleys of American literature, and to report back with commendable honesty about what he has found. His book Pulp According to David Goodis is a perfect match of critic to author, and it belongs in the collections of universities hoping to be regarded as major.” —Michael Perkins, author of Evil Companions, Dark Matter, and The Secret Record: Modern Erotic Literature . “The most comprehensive Goodis study yet. Gertzman culls the files, brings everything together and then some. Not only essential reading for all Goodis obsessives but an excellent introduction to one of noir’s greatest writers.” —Woody Haut, author Pulp Culture: Hard-boiled Fiction and the Cold War, Heartbreak and Vine, and Neon Noir: Contemporary American Crime Fiction .Click for Website
Jay Gertzman issued the following essays prior to release of PULP. GOODIS IN HOLLYWOOD.The high point of Goodis' career as a Hollywood screenwriter was his work on a project that was never filmed. In 1947, Warner Brothers' top producer, Jerry Wald, described a new film project he wanted Goodis to write. Wald favored socially conscious writers concerned with the political, class, and financial obstacles to progressive change. He had in mind a working-class version of the The Best Years of Our Lives (1946). That popular firm concerned the post-war adjustment of a group of vets, mostly upper middle class and highly educated. Goodis had been credited for the script of The Unfaithful, in which a returning husband was confronted with his wife's affair with a married artist while he was in the service.
Wald wanted Goodis to study the distrust of democracy among men and women who could to find jobs or opportunities for a better life. In 1946, many had returned from the service to find strenuous competition for jobs, high food prices, and wartime-subsidized factories no longer producing goods or jobs needed to win the war. The Fascists and Communists were working hard to take advantage of the disillusion. He submitted six versions of a script from February to May 1947. The working title of the screenplay was Up To Now. This is Jerry Wald, premier idea-man and producer. For Goodis to be asked to write for him was an honor. The writer was well prepared. He was planning a novel to be called Brotherly Love, a story of the protagonist and his ill-fated brother (Goodis's own brother had emotional problems), and to the hard-won revival of faith in self and loved ones in the warren of row houses, small stores, and churches and factories of industrial Philly. The story: Ralph, Dippy, Ken, and George, back from the war, are hanging around Silver's corner candy store on a cold Saturday night. Handsome, affable Johnnie, Ralph's kid brother, drives by. So does a Communist organizer, while a Fascist lurks in the shadows of a row house porch. Thus Goodis introduces his characters, and their milieu, one the writer himself had probably experienced in the pool halls, restaurants and clothing stores in his Logan neighborhood.
Ralph's job in a stock room was all he could get despite heroic service at Anzio and Normandy. His situation recalls, and also contrasts with, that of Fred Derry in Best Years. Fred, born in a shack and uneducated, seems to have no future, which is why Al, one of Fred's war buddies, does not want his sister to marry him. (See above: Dana Andrews as Fred--a character similar to Ralph). Both men did to take advantage of the GI Bill, because they did not feel they could succeed at college. Many working-class vets felt this way. They also were embittered by the betrayal of the Taft-Hartley Bill, dubbed the "slave labor bill" for its treatment of unions. Johnnie joins a proto-fascist group, but when he refuses to take part in a terrorist at, he is killed. His father berates Ralph, who he thinks had Commie leanings, for not protecting Johnnie. The murdere, fearful of revenge, tries to push Ralph down an elevator shaft. Ralph saves himself by grabbing the cables. We have here a brief outline of those typical situations in Goodis novels: stored-up hostility, uphill struggle, and iron-willed perseverance despite physical suffering and emotional confusion. Resolution is effected by Ralph's inamorata, Ruth, a patient, spiritual, sensible woman. A "decent," "intelligent" working girls, she also has a practical and forward-looking nature and rock-solid self-respect. Jane Wyman was Jerry Wald's choice to play Ruth. Bogart and Bacall (recently starring in Goodis' Dark Passage) protest HUAC's "Red Scare." Jack Warner permanently selves the film in 1947, when the House Committee investigating "Unamerican Activities" opened its Hollywood hearings. Members of the Screen Writers Guild were prime targets for commie-hunters, and some did inform on colleagues, afraid that if they did not nae names, they would be fired and blacklisted. President Truman signed the bill requiring a loyalty oath in March. J. Edgar Hoover lent HUAC his bellicose support. Up To Now's "treatments" (Goodis wrote six of them) contained ones such as "The State belongs to the people." A similar line of dialogue, "share and share alike--that's democracy," would be, to HUAC, another example of the film studios' "propagandizing." Up To Now's sympathy for working men in itself was cause for alarm. Neal Gabler, in An Empire of Their Own, how one day Warner, nervously pointing to various writers he had hired to write socially conscious, progressive pictures, said he could do without them.
Set in 1980, The Rat Machine travels to Los Angeles, Palermo, London and Mexico with Alex Law and Butch Nickels in their first assignment as newly-minted CIA officers and partners.
The two are sent into the Los Angeles underworld to pose as heroin dealers for reasons that are, at first, unclear to them. What they discover is a highly organized criminal enterprise spanning the globe with long-standing connections to Western Intelligence agencies-and some very nasty characters. The two friends must fight, not only to stay alive, but to keep from being corrupted themselves.
The Rat Machine, based on historical facts, weaves a complex story of the international heroin trade, the Sicilian Mafia, and the use of ex-Nazi spy rings by Western Intelligence services during the Cold War. This story cuts deep.
So, you were expecting the cover of my book? This is Delaware Bay, on the edge of the Pine Barrens, where Somebody's Done For takes place (see below). Evening or morning? Rising or setting sun?. Three novels have crucial scenes in the Jersey Pine Barrens, a place of thick vegetation, wildlife, isolated houses and dirt roads. Legends exist of misbegotten souls (the Jersey Devil), ghost towns, and isolated inbred families. In Down There, it is where the protagonists’ criminal brothers hide. In The Burglar, on a highway made nearly undriveable by rain and wind, a panicked thief shoots two cops. In Goodis’ final story, Somebody’s Done For, a man named Jander becomes enthralled by a ghostly, remote female who is herself in the clutches of an incestuous father.JUMP TO: The Burglar Shoot the Piano Player Somebody's Done For PS
InThe Burglar, the point beyond which there is no turning back is a rainy night on the Black Horse Pike, as it enters the Pine Barrens with its soaking, wind-bent trees. One of Nat Harbin’s gang of “honorable” (no violence) thieves suspects an ambush. He kills a traffic cop who was just warning the driver to slow down. The shooter was upset b/c Nat, the boss, had told his guys he was thinking of quitting. Suspicion of betrayal moved in. Driving on Black Horse Pike in a nor’easter becomes a dark wet path to the unknown. The final stop on that path is the Atlantic Ocean, the only place where the hero and heroine can be together, in a classic of screwy father-son obligation and doomed romanticism.
In Shoot the Piano Player, piano player Eddie’s brothers’s hideout is in South Jersey, “deep in the woods.” Rt 47 is named, which passes by southern NJ near the Pine Barrens highway. The hideout is so isolated that there is no post office nearby. Mail has to be picked up in a small town nine miles away. The house has no electricity or water pipes, and no connection to outside world. The furniture is "scraggly," with stuffing hanging out. Also present is the piano Eddie learned on. He is back where he started—with his criminal family. But the piano, instrument of escape, is replaced by a gun. Due to the brothers’ thievery, they are cornered by thugs who want their dough back.
"It ain't a house, it's just a den for hunted animals." He has to keep his girl friend Lena away from it, though he wants desperately her to be with him. And yet she’s found her way there. It is another example of doomed romanticism, a point from which one returns, if at all, further trapped in a psychic dark wood symbolized by the isolation and indifference of a world barren of justice.
Goodis’ final novel, Somebody’s Done Foris set on edge of South Jersey’s Delaware Bay. The isolated setting of water, cloud, and marsh is ideal for testing resolve and perseverance to the point of death.
This is a map used as part of an unidentified robbery scheme hatched somewhere in the Barrens. I use it here because it shows pine trees,and a car driving through the snow, just as Eddie and Lena did to reach the hideout. It embodies a mystery almost beyond words, except for those of a writer like Goodis. It also applies to Somebody's Done For . There is another hideout in this story: "seemingly crouched there in the darkness like something alive, the black hulk revealed itself to Jander."The action of Somebody's Done For is played out about 50 miles to the south of the Pine Barrens, where Eddie meets his obligations to his criminal brothers. Calvin Jander saw Vera dancing at a bizarre night club, The Amethyst (all the performers wear purple, the color of the semi-precious stone). The club is near the decrepit house (see image above) that Vera shared with her murderous “father” and vindictive “mother.” She had been kidnapped as a child; the ransom scheme fell through.
My last chapter of Pulp, According to David Goodis discusses the creative strength of his last novel. SDF is about the never-ending human conflict between desire for happiness and the forces that oppose it, chiefly the power of family and state obligation. Vera is like Lena (Down There), Celia (Street of No Return), Edna (The Blonde on the Street Corner), Myrna (Black Friday), and other ethereal females whom the protagonist yearns after. Fate, and the femme fatale, intervene—which to say, certain characteristics in the protagonist’s psyche doom the romance. Goodis uses the Amethyst myth imply purity, spirituality, and ancient blood. All that, and obsessive belief.
BTW: One of the biggest U.S. deposits of amethyst is in Delaware County
Goodis' first pulp story, 1939 ("Mysteries of the White Slave trade," Gangland Detective Stories:"Dink Bauer didn't know [that floozie's] vengeful passion would turn him into a chopper-ridden corpse."Jump to: It's a Wise Cadaver The Plunge Professional Man
Goodis’ short stories span the entire range of his career from 1939 to about 1960. Therefore, the incidents, plots, and responses to fate and betrayal are similar in both his stories and his novels. Pulp magazine writers use crime, detective, horror, war, exotic adventure, and any combination of story that exploits a sinister atmosphere. That is due to the way these genres imply panic, fear, hatred, aggression, vengeance and venality as what seem to be survival strategies. The best stories comment on the entanglement in and resignation to a bureaucratic system that ignores corruption, taxes regressively, and demands war-time preparedness. "It's a Wise Cadaver," New Detective (1946) has hints of Goodis' major themes. Poverty (Greenwich Village tenement) makes a father desperate. His son has lied to him and not given him money for his part in a con scheme. Considering his son worthless, he kills him with an axe. Goodis leads us to wonder if the father feels remorse. But he kills himself by jumping out of a window – whether for remorse or b/c he knows a gang boss whose money was invested in the scheme will find him and torture him to death (“know what he will do to you”?). A title Goodis may have used earlier—“The Laughing Trap”—might have been better applied to this story, if the person laughing was the same indifferent force—a street, the moon-- that that sneered at the protagonists in The Moon in the Gutter, Behold This Woman, or Night Squad.
In The Plunge" (Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine, 1958) the detective Roy Childers, with a solid family life, is unfaithful b/c he has fallen for a classy center city apt – dweller, who is the mistress of a criminal whom the cop knew as a kid in a tough neighborhood. The criminal has been nothing but kind and frank with the young woman. He is now being hunted, accused of murder. Childers wants to be with her regardless of the agony that awaits him as a betrayer of the police force, his wife and children, and his community. He has shut himself off from the “sane,” “responsible,” part of himself, in order to save his soul by being honest about his spontaneous but deeply real needs. “It didn’t make sense . . . it was a kind of lunacy.” But for Roy Childers there is no turning back. In the white heat of a moment of blazing recrimination and gunfire, the lieutenant kills the mobster. Now, the woman cannot trust Roy. A moment later he finds out that his professional adversary was not guilty.. At this point, he is cut adrift from his deepest self, from his soul. There is nothing beyond his double-barreled guilt and single-minded self-loathing but a void. He opens a window, speaking into the indifferent universe, begging forgiveness of a wife from whom he had kept his disloyalty. He had “tried so hard to be clean” but had “got[ten] himself all dirty.” As he plunged to his death, “He began to feel clean again.” That sacrifice hurts his family terminally, and his colleagues as well.
The one second of wrong decision is like Eddie or Cassidy – fate, bad luck, beyond power to control.
Freddy Lamb, a "Professional Man" (Manhunt, 1953), operates an elevator by day and is a hit man by night. Herman Charn, his boss, is obsessed with testing his men’s loyalty. Freddy is tested by Charn's assignment to kill Pearl. She has rejected the boss, b/c she is in love with Freddy. He forces himself to carry out the boss’s orders.
Freddie’s way of freeing himself from Charn and his combine was to stab himself in the heart after slitting Pearl’s throat. Herman had told Freddie, “You gotta need me as much as I need you.” The boss lost his investment, not quite being correct in his assessment that his hit man “was all ice and no soul, strictly a professional.”
“Professional Man” is a story of self-entrapment and moral failure, not b/c the protagonist is tied to monetary gain or a coward, but b/c—like almost everybody else—he doesnot have it in him to be independent. He is a lamb, in an environment where such a person is a certain loser, a Nowhere Man.
Key plot elements in pulp are entrapment, murder as business, violence as a way of life, sexual compulsion, and blind, indifferent fate. Goodis’ heroes, however manic, entrapped, self-isolated, detached and sometimes facing existence with an ironic, no-where man kind of smile, are not mean or vicious. They have souls, and they know it. So they are lonely, angry, and distrusted. Their tragedies are those of The Common Man in post-war America.