Move over, Geoffrey O’Brien and Robert Polito.
“Pulp According to David Goodis” (Down and Out Press, 2018) is Jay A. Gertzman’s herculean, 264-page analysis of Philadelphia’s champion of the Noble Loser. You know the movies and their rushing-toward-doom anti-heroes—Bogart in Dark Passage, Ray in Nightfall, Depardieu in Moon in the Gutter, Aznavour in Shoot the Piano Player, Duryea in The Burglar. Gertzman assembles not just full-body strip searches of the author’s male and female characters, motivations and behavior, but intimate, block-by-block tours of the Philadelphia environs—today and in mid-20th century—in which Goodis set his bleak paperback originals.It’s crime scene digging of the first order, footnoted clear to hell, and it delivers a whole new understanding of this odd duck who turned his back on big league Hollywood potential to return to his Philly childhood bedroom, Dock Street dives and a late life obsession with “grossly sensual" African-American women. There he’d write 11 more novels plus The Burglar screenplay in six years, dying in 1967 before turning 50.Jim Thompson was lionized by O’Brien as a Dimestore Dostevesky, and now Gertzman has built a convincing portrait of David Goodis as a Kraft-Ebbing Kafka. Goodis and Kafka? Don’t let Gertzman’s Ph.D. and academic credentials scare you off. This is the real deal by a Goodis pub-crawler who can write as clearly as he thinks, who gets that Goodis moved “unbendingly toward oblivion, if only to stop the whole business.” —Kurt Brokaw