Wednesday, September 15, 2010

David Thompson at NoirCon 2008

Anita Thompson and David Thompson

The Publishers: Lou Boxer, Matt Louis (Out Of The Gutter), Charles Ardai (Hard Case Crime), Michael Langnas (Murderland) and David Thompson is sitting down.

Johnny Temple (Akashic Books), Matt Louis (Out Of The Gutter Books), Charles Ardai (Hard Case Crime),
Stacia Decker (moderator), Michael Langnas (Murderland), and David Thompson (Busted Flush Press)

We will miss you and celebrate your memory at every opportunity.


David Thompson : A Celebration of Life

Please join McKenna Jordan and the Murder by the Book family for a celebration of the life of David Thompson, who passed away suddenly and unexpectedly on Monday, September 13, 2010. David loved a good party, and we will honor him by celebrating the life of an extraordinary young man who touched the lives of many in his 21 years at the bookstore.

Place: The Briar Club, 2603 Timmons Lane, Houston, 77027 (for map & directions, click on this link to the Briar Club website)

Date & Time: Sunday, September 26, 2010, 2 to 5 p.m.

There will be margaritas and Mexican Hors d'œuvres – great favorites of David’s -- along with other drinks. No RSVPs are necessary.

Many have asked about tributes to David’s memory. Alafair Burke has set up a fund for those who would like to make a donation in David’s name. The charity will be determined later. For those wishing to contribute, here are the details:

Checks to the order of "In Memory of David Thompson" (NOT simply David Thompson)

Mail for deposit to:
7 E. 14th St. #1206
New York, NY 10003

For those who would like to make a direct payment please contact for account information

We at Murder by the Book want to thank you all for your generous and unstinting support during this most difficult of times.

How to write a TV show, sort of

I started making a TV show called "Bored to Death," which is based on a David Goodis-inspired short story I wrote of the same title. And now, after all this written throat-clearing, which is a very dangerous thing to indulge in for a piece on the Internet, where things can't be too long, I can get to the point of this essay, which is how to make a TV show. Or, rather, how I make a TV show, and I should add that I only have two seasons of TV under my belt, but, anyway, this is how I make a TV show.........

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Cassidy's Girl by Mike Dennis [MIKEDENNISNOIR.COM]

When you open a David Goodis novel, you can be pretty sure of two things: it’s probably going to be set in Philadelphia and it’s definitely going to be populated by characters whose lives have no significance, often not even to themselves. And that’s exactly what you get when you open Cassidy’s Girl, a 1951 effort by the master storyteller of doomed human beings. 

I say doomed because even in this book, which has Goodis’ twisted version of a happy ending, the characters are all lost souls, thrown out with the bathwater into the filthy streets of the Philadelphia waterfront. 

Jim Cassidy drives a bus from Philadelphia to Easton three times every day, back and forth, back and forth, because that’s the only work he can get. As a ruined former airline pilot, he’s well into his downward spiral, and his monotonous job only sets him up for his evening activities. He hangs around a slimy waterfront bar where all the hard case drinkers go, he gets in fist fights, and he’s completely under the spell of his wife Mildred, a breast-shaking, hip-swaying drunken nag who would rather cheat on him than make him dinner. 

Well, one night while in an alcoholic stupor in his favorite dive, he spots Doris, a twentysomething girl who is, as she puts it, drinking herself to death, and she looks it. Sallow-complected and vacant-eyed, she makes love to the bottle every day and every night. Cassidy falls for her, more out of genuine caring than lust, and he eventually moves in with her. As he falls more and more in what passes for love in a Goodis novel, he tries his very best to get her to quit drinking. In one wild fantasy, he even envisions a proper, straightened-out life for the two of them, dining in fine restaurants and sipping an after-dinner sherry. “There would be no need for the other kind of drinking,” he thinks to himself.
Mildred, however, has different ideas, and Cassidy’s problems start multiplying.
This is why Goodis was such a great writer. He can take the very lowest players on society’s scale and make you care about them. Even when you know they have absolutely no shot, which is usually the case, you still care.Cassidy’s Girl reads like Goodis’ love letter to these people, and for that matter to all the losers who ever appeared in his novels. Anyone who appreciates great writing should make a point of locating a copy.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Only in San Francisco!

Grace Marchant Garden
Tumbling down the eastern slope of Telegraph Hill, the
Grace Marchant Garden (off Filbert Street) is one of the most beautiful spots in San Francisco. Marchant, who embarked on her labor of love when she was 63 years old, groomed this hillside retreat for 33 years. Offering views of the bay, the two-acre plot is cared for by a cadre of neighbors and volunteers. The climb is sweetened by fragrant wisteria vines, hydrangeas, roses, masses of foliage and a bench to catch one’s breath along the way. Settle in with a good book. Perhaps David Bittner’s “The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill,” which documents his “love story … with wings,” or David Goodis’ thriller, “Dark Passage” which featured Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart taking refuge in a nearby home.

Filbert Steps from Sansome, December 14, 1952.

Grace Marchant Gardens, 2009.
Photo: Chris Carlsson

The spectacular public garden along the Filbert Steps on the east side of Telegraph Hill is known as the Grace Marchant Garden. As the story goes, Grace Marchant moved to the corner of Napier Lane and Filbert Street in 1949, when the Filbert Steps was a pathway through an informal garbage dump. She began cleaning up the slope herself. She petitioned City Hall for permission to burn the trash that was many feet deep, and it is said the fire burned for three days. Making a garden there was a passionate embrace of public space, as Marchant spent the next few decades creating it as a public corridor.
In creating her garden Grace Marchant was very casual about property lines. One large section extended into the yard of a cottage whose owner wanted the land back in 1989 to build a larger house. When a permit for construction was granted, neighbors founded Friends of the Garden and took the issue of its preservation to City Hall and the Trust for Public Land. The Trust developed a plan to buy the cottage property and resell it with deed restrictions protecting the garden. To cover the different between the purchase price and the much lower resale value of the restricted property, donations came in from garden lovers. With additional gifts from local corporations, foundations, and benefit events, the Trust exceeded its fundraising goal, enabling it to buy the cottage and create an endowment to support the garden. Friends of the Garden have since taken over the maintenance of Grace Marchant's gardening vision. (excerpt from Gianni Longo in A Guide to Great American Public Places, courtesy of the Telegraph Hill Dwellers Association)  

-Chris Carlsson

This part of Filbert Street was too steep to be used, and was a trashy, weedy waste until Grace Marchant moved to the area in 1949, and stepped forward to clean up and begin gardening. She died many years ago, but the gardens continue to be maintained by volunteers. 

The apartment house used in the filming of DARK PASSAGE was on Montgomery Street in San Francisco.   Directly near Filbert Street.

The apartment house used to film DARK PASSAGE was formerly the residence of the late Hiram Johnson - 

He was generally known as the best trial lawyer in California. 

He lives in a beautiful home on top of Russian Hill in San Fran- 
cisco, set on the summit of a literal cliff, up which one clambers 
by zigzag stairways set against the rock. From the windows 
or from the terraced Italian garden, which Mrs. Johnson with 
infinite patience has caused to grow on top of that rocky cliff, 
one looks down on San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate, and 
across to Mt. Tamalpais and the shore opposite. There is no 
finer view in the world. 

Sunday, March 7, 2010


To those loyal Goodis fans that came out for the world premiere of DAVID GOODIS...TO A PULP, there was no disappointment or depression.   Larry Withers and Sharyn Pak brought an incredible amount of talent and fine food to celebrate what can only be called the best opening for a Goodis documentary ever!  Here are some photos of this auspice event.  If you missed the film you can order  through Withers' company, On Air and at If you order directly from On Air Video, shipping will be free.

Here are some photos from this auspice event:

Jay Gertzman and Karin

(L to R) Mr. and Mrs. Ed Pettit (THE POE GUY) and William Sherman

Erica and Grace get introduced to David Goodis

Eric Rice and his girlfriend arrive from the Big Apple for the showing!

Lou Boxer

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Larry Withers on DAVID GOODIS....To A Pulp

Brian Greene talks to Larry Withers about his new documentary on one of the greats of noir fiction for Al Guthrie's Noir Zine.

The documentary was made by Larry Withers, who happens to be Elaine’s son.  When his mother died in 1986 Withers discovered among her effects papers relating to a marriage, and subsequent divorce, that no one in the family knew about.  He came to realize that his mother’s partner in this clandestine marriage was a writer named David Goodis.  Withers got intrigued and started learning about Goodis, and his thorough research into the author’s life story and writing record serves as the basis of the documentary.

Forgotten Books: Down There by David Goodis by Ed Gorman

 Gold Medal 1956

Forgotten Books: Down There by David Goodis

"Love between the ugly/is the most beautiful love of all."
--Todd Rundgren

I haven't kept up with all the Goodis mania of the past five years or so so forgive me if what I'm about to say has been said not only better but quite often as well.

To me Down There is one of Goodis' finest novels filled with all his strengths and none of his weaknesses. The world here is his natural milieu, the world of America's underclass. Yes, there are working class men and women in Harriet's Hut, the tavern in which a good share of the action happens, but most of the book centers on two people, Eddie Lynn, the strange protagonist and piano player and Lena, the strange somewhat masochistic waitress. They live on pennies. 

 Grove 1962

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

THE MOON IN THE GUTTER reviewed at mattie9716207

Streaming Moon in the Gutter Online

Streaming Moon in the Gutter Online.

This brilliant film is an example of existential angst wrapped up in a modern Noir type of packaging. It was not truly appreciated when released in the theaters but is well worth watching and owning. The film is so engrossing that the reading of the dialogue is not wearisome as some foreign films are. The directors stylistic use of images to hint at and suggest deeper themes is truly artistic. Not only that, the book it is based on is an often overlooked novel by one of America’s less appreciated authors David Goodis. He has often been the author of books chosen for the films. His 1st novel DARK PASSAGE was, of course, a challanging vehicle for Bogart. You will not regret purchasing the film. But PLEASE read the book too. You will never regret the experience of seeing the lonely of the loser struggling against all odds just to survive as a descent man in a world set against him. Good acting by Gerard and Natasha as well. Money well invested.
Richard Leo Jackson
Jean-Jacques Beineix recently stated (transl.) “An auteur does not speak the truth” and here, within this enormously powerful film, he but flirts with reality, while most of the director’s creative fires feed upon his singular employment of colour and set design. The style of Beineix, as a cinematic architect, may be designated as Rococo with, as he avers, a preeminence of (transl.) “atmosphere over narrative”, fostering an element of whimsy, greatly enhanced by his recognition of a symbolic authority resting upon commercial advertising and its adjuncts. A studied development of exaggerated imagination marks the film, each frame being carefully composed for a production that originally extended to over four and one half hours, in the face of Beineix’ assertion that he abhors filmic structuring. This organizational factor, at least in part, stems from an obligatory reflex of the director as recognition of the film’s source, a novel by David Goodis, wherein the action occurs primarily at and about dockside Philadelphia, transferred here to an undesignated Marseille, and with the novelist’s prototypical women intact, one, Loretta (Nastassia Kinski), angelic and carnally unattainable, (”you are pure” declaims Gerard Depardieu to her), the second, Bella (Victoria Abril) triumphantly lusty and possessed of will such as the work’s protagonist, Gerard Delmas (Depardieu) apparently does not have. Delmas is compulsively drawn to the site of his sister’s gruesome death by her own hand following her sexual violation, hoping to discover keys to what prompted her suicide, to the identity of her assailant, and to a rationale behind his own obsession. Thus is formed a basis for a plot, such as it may be, yet style is properly victor over substance with this undervalued and enigmatic piece that is nearly all filmed in studio, the greatest portion lighted by arcs and photo floods, with scoring contributed in elegant and operatically motival fashion by Gabriel Yared, and paced throughout, as Beineix describes it, with (transl.) “slow gestures forming the choreography.”

Sunday, February 14, 2010



Kicking off the "Streets of No Return" series with a screening of Delmer Daves's Dark Passage (1947), PFA curator Steve Seid outlined in his introductory remarks that hopefully—along with the series' objective of spotlighting the work of a lesser-known pulp writer like David Goodis—would be an attempt to gain a sense (over the length of the series) of the concept of filmic adaptation of literary works; to finesse what's left behind when novels are adapted, or what is included to make them screenworthy; and to determine if justice has been done to the writings of David Goodis.
Succinctly profiling that Goodis began writing in the late '30s, with a brief irreconcilable stint in Hollywood in the late '40s, Goodis parted ways with Hollywood to return to "a decrepit life" in his hometown Philadelphia until his death in the '60s. Even while he was alive, however, non-Hollywood film directors began adapting his books and Seid boasted that all but three of those adaptations would be included in the series.
Detailing the "fate" of the omitted three in passing mention, Seid admitted that Rue Barbare (1984)—aka Barbarous Street or Street of the Damned, adapted from the Goodis novel Street of the Lost (1952)—was admittedly not included because Seid didn't particularly like the film and it was too much bother to secure. But he had wanted to get the two other films: Sam Fuller's last project Street of No Return(1989) and Pierre Chenal's Section des disparus (1956).
As Seid mentioned earlier in his preview for The Evening ClassStreet of No Return was in the hands of some "questionable" people in France and research into the making of that film revealed Fuller's troublesome interaction with the film's "producers/crooks." As for the third film, Section des disparus based on the Goodis novel Of Missing Persons (1950), it's nearly impossible to locate due to its rarity. Filmed in Argentina by Pierre Chenal in 1954-1955,Section des disparus survives possibly only in 16mm prints, none of which Seid was able to track down. He has seen the film and found it to be a "quite nice" economical noir, representing a historical trend in the mid-50s when French filmmakers filmed cheaply in Argentina.
What is included in the series are nine feature films beginning with Dark Passage and continuing through to Moon in the Gutter (1983), which in some ways Seid opined is the "kindest and smarmiest" adaptation of any of the Goodis novels. "But smarmy in just the right way" he qualified, explaining that after a good read of a Goodis novel, "you feel a little dirty." Some of the films—notably Moon in the Gutter—successfully capture that feeling.
At the same time that Goodis's novels were being adapted into film, his short stories were being worked up for television on such programs as Sure As Fate (1950), the Lux Video Theatre (1956)Bourbon Street Beat (1960) andThe Alfred Hitchcock Hour (1963). In the 1990s, two cable networks launched mystery series and, coincidentally, adapted the same Goodis short story "The Professional Man", which PFA will screen together with one of the writer-directors, Nicholas Kazan, in person to introduce the pair, affording a glimpse into how Goodis held up on television.
Seid then introduced novelist Barry Gifford. "There's a lot you can say about Barry Gifford," he stated, "you can talk about the many many novels he's written, including the great Sailor and Lula series. We could talk about the books of film noir criticism [such as Out of the Past]. We could talk about his screenplays, Wild at Heart (1990) and Perdita Durango(1997). But really what places him here in a really important fashion is that he created Black Lizard in the early '80s where he revived noirish and pulpish writers—the most famous one being Jim Thompson—but also Charles Willeford, Peter Rabe, and the great Harry Whittington. Black Lizard not only launched a new interest in Jim Thompson but really brought David Goodis back. David Goodis had been forgotten. In many ways, because David Goodis wrote so much paperback stuff, it doesn't even exist in the libraries for the most part. They would either buy them and then toss them or simply not buy them because a lot of the libraries had a prejudice about paperbacks. So, there's no one who could launch the series with more right and esteem than Barry Gifford."
Gifford then took the microphone and expressed his thanks to Susan Oxtoby and Steve Seid to be invited back to PFA since it had been a while. Listening to Steve's introduction, he realized that one thing that Jack Kerouac and David Goodis had in common was that they were both victims of "momism"; they both lived with their mothers. They were always going back to their mothers, had strong attachments, and never had successful relationships with other women. "Even their relationships with their mothers weren't successful." Though it's been some time since he's reviewed Goodis's work, Gifford recalled the frequent presence of an overriding mother or a wife who's like a mother figure, always making life miserable for Goodis's male protagonists. "He wants to kill her, but he can't really kill her, so he kills other people or he kills himself."
Gifford modestly apologized for not really being a Goodis expert. He remembered trying to get David Lynch to read some of the Goodis novels by giving him a couple from the Black Lizard series when they were writing Lost Highwaytogether and when he followed up and asked how Lynch had liked them, Lynch responded, "Those were terriblebooks." Gifford said, "You mean you think they were badly written?" "No," Lynch answered, "they're frightening." His introduction to Goodis came when he first saw François Truffaut's Tirez sur le pianiste (Shoot the Piano Player, 1960), which was loosely based on Goodis's 1956 novel Down There. When he reprinted the novel at Black Lizard, he decided to use Truffaut's title, "purely for commercial reasons." He hoped that maybe someone would recognize the film title and perhaps buy the book. Little did he know that the Black Lizard series would be so successful and—though he always intended to restore the novel's original title when the Black Lizard edition was reprinted—it never worked out that way.
In fact, the true Goodis expert, Gifford advised, is a French journalist Philippe Garnier, who writes for Libération in Paris, and who has written the only biography on Goodis that Gifford is aware of: Goodis, La Vie en Noir et Blanc (Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1984). Garnier visited Gifford in the mid-'80s just when he launched Black Lizard to conduct a couple of interviews for Libération, and they subsequently became friends. Garnier was on his way to visit Aldo Ray who was living nearby in Crockett, California. Ray had starred in Jacques Tourneur's Nightfall (1957), adapted from David Goodis's 1947 novel.
Gifford also credits the expertise of Geoff O'Brien who wrote the introduction that appeared in all of the Black Lizard editions of the David Goodis novels. O'Brien is now the head of the Library of America. Cribbing from that introduction, Gifford quoted: "[Goodis's 1946 novel] Dark Passage made a considerable splash. It remains one of his best-known books; the only one, in fact, that really made it into the mainstream. Today its appeal derives less from its none-too-believable plot—it was one of the early new-face-through-plastic-surgery stories—than from the author's obvious identification with the persecuted hero and from the jazz-like pulse of the prose. Hero and heroine are drawn together in part by their taste for Count Basie. With the sale of serial rights to the Saturday Evening Post, and the movie rights to Warner Brothers, Goodis had arrived. Dark Passage became a Bogart/Bacall vehicle and Goodis went on the Warners payroll as a staff writer. He was not yet 30 and his career had already peaked."
The one novel of Goodis's that Gifford would recommend wholeheartedly is Nightfall (1947); his favorite. Again from O'Brien: "During the Hollywood years, Goodis lived in the L.A. home of a lawyer friend … renting not a room but a tiny uncomfortable sofa for $4 a week. At a time when, as a movie writer, he could have lived well, Goodis apparently refused to spend money on anything. Not out of miserliness but from a sheer perversity, which also led him to drive the same dented Chrysler convertible virtually his whole adult life; a car so miserable that his friends refused to be seen in it. His clothing, as his [lawyer friend] recounts was equally grotesque: 'He wore my old suits and—when they were worn out—he had them dyed blue. Apparently, his whole wardrobe was blue. One day he invited me to eat at the Warner commissary, Dan Duryea was there, and Dave was wearing one of my white suits, which was all yellowed and stained. Duryea asked him where he had dug up the suit and David replied coldly that he had bought it at Gordon's, one of the best tailors in Philadelphia. When Duryea remarked that the suit wasn't even ironed, David gave him a pitying glance and explained that that was how it was meant to be worn. He also had an old bathrobe of mine. He went out at night in it. When he wore it, he pretended to be a white Russian, an exiled prince of the blood.' Goodis would borrow labels from his friend's finest clothes and laboriously sew them into his own wretched hand-me-downs, all for the peculiar pleasure of stopping people short when they criticized his clothing."
Gifford admitted pleasure in re-reading Geoffrey O'Brien's introduction because it clearly essayed that Goodis was nuts. There's no question that he was absolutely crazy. Continuing to crib from O'Brien's intro: "A central law of Goodis's fiction is that happiness is forbidden, all true love remains unconsummated, all petty criminals—a breed with whom the author identifies—are caught ignominiously, all proud old men are humiliated, all virgins are molested."
In contrast to Steve Seid's enthusiasm for Moon in the Gutter, Gifford countered the movie was so terrible that true cinephiles like Seid find it wonderful. Gifford worked with the film's lead actor Gérard Depardieu on City of Ghosts, which Matt Dillon directed, and asked him at the time about Moon in the Gutter. Depardieu had just undergone a quintuple bypass surgery, arrived in Cambodia to film City of Ghosts and—when Gifford asked him about Moon in the Gutter—Depardieu clutched his heart and said, "Please! Don't ask me about that; I'll have another heart attack!" Gifford refrained from saying anything further on the film because he didn't want to disabuse Seid of his opinions and didn't want to cost him his job at PFA.
Gifford finished up his intro with one final quote from O'Brien: "That such testaments of deprivation and anxiety could sustain the career of a paperback novelist is today cause for wonderment. Nothing so downbeat, so wedded to reiterations of personal and social failure could be likely to find a mass market publisher at present. The absolutely personal voice of David Goodis seems almost to have escaped by accident. It emanated from the heart of an efficient entertainment industry, startlingly, like the wailing of an outcast."