Friday, October 30, 2009

“David Goodis is my favorite writer though I hardly know why.” by Mark Athitakis

A nice thing to stumble over: For about a month now Lou Boxer has been keeping a blog dedicated to the life and work of crime novelist David Goodis. It’s a worthy project, and Boxer is the right person to do it (he helped put together Goodiscon, a festival dedicated to Goodis’ work, and his research was helpful when I was working on an a piece on some Goodis reissues a couple of years back). The Writer in the Gutter is a little all over the place, stuffed as it is with photos, pulp-magazine covers, essays, and some overly enthusiastic use of the highlight tag. But it seems determined to capture a lot of elements of Goodis’ life—personal, literary, and potboiling—and it includes Robert Polito’s fine introduction to The Street of No Return reissue, which helps explain why he’s worth all this obsession:

David Goodis (1917-1967) appears to be the figure always most in need of reclamation, his books drifting out of print, his status shadowy, ever elusive…. [S]entence-by-sentence, I would argue, Goodis is our most crafty and elegant crime stylist. Noir is characteristically a language of objects, places, and names, an idiom that in a few bluff words summons worlds. Listen to the opening sentence of Cain’s The Postman Always Rings Twice: “They threw me off the hay truck about noon.” Thompson’s The Killer Inside Me: “I’d finished my pie and was having a second cup of coffee when I saw him.” William Lindsay Gresham’s Nightmare Alley: “Stan Carlisle stood well back from the entrance of the canvas enclosure, under the blaze of a naked light bulb, and watched the geek.” But noir language just as distinctively proceeds by chipping away at the world and itself until there’s only a vanishing distress signal from a void. Early on in Dark Passage (1946) Goodis advanced a vernacular prose of rococo repeated phrases that limn, then all but erase his characters.

Thursday, October 29, 2009


A Private Eye’s Adventures Are Author’s Dream

Zach Galifianakis, left, and Jason Schwartzman in “Bored to Death.” Photo by Paul Schiraldi
Zach Galifianakis, left, and Jason Schwartzman in “Bored to Death.” Photo by Paul Schiraldi
Uninhibited author Jonathan Ames — creator of HBO’s quirky detective comedy, “Bored to Death” — once followed a pursuit he describes as “religious cross-dressing”: primping his blond hair and donning blazers to “infiltrate WASP society” in his 20s. While at Princeton University, Ames had become smitten by what he calls “the aesthetics of the WASPy young gentleman” as depicted in the works of F. Scott Fitzgerald and W. Somerset Maugham. When this charade put him in hearing distance of an anti-Semitic remark, he often said nothing, hoping to “pass” and to be liked.
“I had my own interior Jewish self-prejudice,” said the 42-year-old writer, whose series was declared this season’s best new comedy by The New York Times and has been picked up for a second season. “Some Jewish males absorb a kind of cultural low self-esteem: that we are weak and nebbishy.”
Ames, who is renowned for his raw self-documentation, has dissected all his neuroses in essays, short stories and novels that are as startlingly self-revelatory as they are heartrending and filthy (one of his most popular essays is titled, “Bald, Impotent and Depressed”). His novel “The Extra Man” (Scribner, 1998), which also explores aspects of his sexuality and Jewish angst, has been made into a movie starring Kevin Kline; and his 2009 compilation “The Double Life Is Twice as Good” (Scribner), documents adventures such as his alcohol-infused encounters with Marilyn Manson and stints as a boxer under the moniker, “The Herring Wonder.”
The story “Bored to Death” spawned the HBO series; as in much of Ames’ work, the protagonist is named Jonathan Ames (Jason Schwartzman), a vulnerable writer struggling with alcoholism and an almost unhealthy addiction to literature. In this case, the preoccupation is with detective fiction, which prompts him to pose as a private dick on Craigslist after being dumped by a lover.
As the character vacates his old apartment post-breakup, he remarks to his Israeli movers that they must be anomalies because Jews don’t usually do such muscular work, whereupon one mover retorts, “What are you, another self-hating New York Jew?” Schwartzman replies in the affirmative without a trace of irony.
“When my own girlfriend left, Israeli movers were involved, and for years I’ve had these ‘Moishe’s’ boxes in my apartment because I haven’t even unpacked from 10 years ago,” the real Ames said from his Brooklyn home. “With that scene I was trying to make a cultural observation about New York — Israelis dominate the moving business here — and also to riff on the American Jewish male sensibility of not feeling rugged or strong, which is a misconception, of course.
“Actually, I inform all my characters with my mishegoss,” he continued. “When Jonathan says ‘I’m living like an animal,’ that was me until recently. My apartment was so messy, in my immature way I wished that a woman would rescue me, a mother figure, like, ‘Can’t you clean up after me?’”
The character was inspired by the self-perceived nebbish’s desire “to be a hero and a private detective” while rereading Raymond Chandler and the pulp author David Goodis some years ago.
Books have inspired many of his personal obsessions and fiction. Ames’ schoolteacher mother and salesman father raised him in a Conservative, lower middle-class home where no financial constraints were placed on the purchase of books. From sports biographies and comics Ames eventually progressed to “Don Quixote,” which he read every night for a year in the early 1990s. “I was mesmerized by the theme of a man literally driven mad by literature, such that you start seeing your life as a story and become delusional,” he explained.
Just as Don Quixote read too many books on chivalry and fancied himself to be a knight, “Bored to Death’s” protagonist has read too much pulp fiction and assumes he knows how to be a private eye. “And of course they’re detective novels from the 1950s, so all he knows how to do is to order a drink and look at a woman’s legs,” the author said. “He’s as insane as Don Quixote, but his heart is in the right place, even though he makes a mess of things.”
The season finale of “Bored to Death” airs Nov. 8 on HBO.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Paperback 302: Behold This Woman / David Goodis (Bantam 407) by Rex Parker

Paperback 302: Behold This Woman / David Goodis (Bantam 407)

Paperback 302: Bantam 407 (1st ptg, 1948)

TitleBehold This Woman
Author: David Goodis
Cover artist: William Shoyer

Yours for: $40

Best things about this cover:

  • Only four?
  • Behold these boobs!
  • Love the guy's hand: "... must ... not ... fondle ..."
  • Notice how often woman is front and center on pb covers while man is off to side, lopped off, seen from behind, kind of in shadows, etc. Woman is meant to be a very particular dish, while man is usu. a kind of Everyman. Or Anysap, I guess.
  • Now that I look more closely at the picture, I think that the guy is an interior decorator who is having a coronary after witnessing the pink rococo orgasm that is this room.

Best things about this back cover:

  • I'm going to go with ... the knife jammed into the window sill. Yes, that's the best thing.
  • Actually, I'm loving the little blue and pink Yes / Buts.
  • Wow, the original cover girl for "Behold This Woman" was all kinds of ugly.

Page 123~

The gray-haired man was annoyed. "What do you mean, help you?" he said. "What do you take me for, an ignoramus?"


Saturday, October 17, 2009

Basterds, Sam Fuller and Snoopy: Talking to Tarantino by Kim Morgan

Inglourious Basterds is a gorgeous, violent, beautifully acted, gut-punching, genre-blending jolt that doesn't make you want to scalp Nahtzies (as Brad Pitt's hillbilly Aldo Raine so memorably intones), it makes you want to watch a lot of movies. Or rather, live in a world of movies. Escape into a world of movies. Envelop yourself in your most demented revenge, cinematic, conversational, and yes, sexual fantasies on screen. Tarantino wants you to get your rocks off. Some will hate this. That's their prerogative. But I will not only love this, I will wrap my arms (and to be complete, my legs) around such complicated pulp with hearty approval. If all of this sounds pornographic, fine. Send me the prequel in a brown paper bag.

But I'm not talking soley about the those scalp-hunting, Nazi-hating basterds. Contrary to advertising, to certain enraged critics and to all of those "opinion shapers," Tarantino'sInglourious Basterds is not just about the basterds. It's about, of course, Nazis, but the German film industry, and under Goebbels in particular, and the insane, grand pageantry of the Nazi party which really, mirrors the fantastical elements of the picture. And then there's the movies within movies. History as seen through the eyes of a person who isn't pretending to have felt such things -- but felt them through cinema.  And, in its most soulful, touching moments, it's about the women, one an escaped French Jewish woman who must survive, while running a movie theater. Naturally.

[See full interview at The Huffington Post]

KM: And then, you named your character Aldo Raine - in honor of Aldo Ray, who I love. He had that raspy yet delicate voice...

QT: Yes, exactly. It's endearing and yet razor-blade-y. I love Aldo Ray
KM: So you would have to agree he was under-utilized on screen.

QT: Oh completely. Unfortunately, his life got very, very, very sad into the '70s and '80s. He became such a drunk, that the only work he could get was on non-union movies and real exploitation movies. He is kind of like the patron saint of the fallen star. How far they could go and still get work. And it literally had to be a thing, even on the cheapest low budget movie, that they could only hire him for a couple of days, but that's about as much as they could count on him without falling back on the bottle.

KM: And he was a World War II veteran. He was a Frogman.

QT: Yeah. I did know that. I did know that. And especially in the '50s, he is the quintessential American Sergeant, with the buzz cut. And in that movie Men in War, he is awesome.
KM: I love that movie, that's one of my favorites of his. And I love him in Jacques Tourneur's Nightfall...

QT: I love Nightfall. I would think that during his time, during his Aldo Ray time, his two most iconic roles in the '50s would have been Nightfall and Men in War.

KM: And at the end of Nightfall, I always think of you, because of the banter, especially near the end between the killers Brian Keith and Rudy Bond.

QT: Yes. There is really cool dialogue to it that has a modern sting to it. It even has that not just normal noir dialogue, like when he's talking with Anne Bancroft, it has a bit of neo-noir, like a reflection on noir, but it actually is noir. It's that David Goodis dialogue. One of reasons I cast Bruce Willis in Pulp Fiction is to me, Bruce Willis was the only star out and around at the time that looked like he could be a star of the '50s. To me he has an Aldo Ray, Ralph Meeker quality.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Monday, October 5, 2009



(Provided by Larry Withers)
No. 9619

Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
In the Court of Common Pleas, No. 3
of Philadelphia County

Elaine Astor Goodis vs. David Goodis
IN DIVORCE, A Vinculo Matrimonii (A.V.M.)

A VINCULO MATRIMONII - Lat. 'from the bond of marriage'. A marriage may be dissolved a vinculo, in many states, as in Pennsylvania, on the ground of canonical disabilities before marriage, as that one of the parties was legally married to a person who was then living; impotence, and the like adultery cruelty and malicious desertion for two years or more. 


January 18, 1946


State of California
County of Los Angeles

I hereby certify that on the 7th day of October, 1943 at 525 S. Fairfax Avenue in the county of Los Angeles, State of California,Under the Authority of a license issued by J. P. Moroney, County Clerk of Said County, I, the Undersigned as a Minister of the Jewish Denomination joined in marriage David Loeb Goodis and Elaine Astor in the presence of Leon Wayne Lore, residing at 130 S. New Hampshire Avenue, L.A. Calif., and Abraham Louis Halpern, residing at 5300 Linden, Long Beach, Calif. who witnessed the ceremony.

From Drop Box
                                                        Picture Courtesy of Lenny Kleinfeld

Of note, Abraham Louis Halpern was David Goodis's uncle.  He was the brother of Molly Halpern Goodis.  In addition, the building was used in the Shul scene for the movie "The Jazz Singer" in 1927.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

WINGS, February 1943

WINGS, February 1943

cover by Jerome Rozen

Hard and scarred were alay-for-play Blake and Copeland.  But the Armageddon of Stalingrad burned them up and forged them anew.  

The German offensive on Stalingrad was originally intended to secure the Wehrmacht's flanks, but it stalled dramatically in the face of Stalin's order: "Not a Step Back!" The Soviets' resulting tenacious defense of the city led to urban warfare for which the Germans were totally unprepared, depriving them of their accustomed maneuverability, overwhelming artillery fire, and air support—and setting the stage for debacle.


THE ACE WHO WOULD NOT KILL by William E. Barrett - William E. Barrett is a well-known writer of mainstream novels, often with a religious theme, such as Lilies of the Field (1962) and The Left Hand of God (1950). Both were made into famous movies; the film version ofLilies of the Field is highly recommended.



CARRIER CAPER by Paul Mattes Kraemer

THE FLYING DUTCHMAN by George Bruce - Popular author of World War I stories; the person for whom the pulp magazines George Bruce’s Squadron and George Bruce’s Contact are named. Additional biographical data on him have not been located, but he is known to have written screenplays for Hollywood motion pictures. 

Cover art by Jerome Rozen