Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Books: Dark Passage by David Goodis

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

David Goodis was one of the finest noir crime writers of the 1940's and 50's. His books appeared mostly as paperback originals, but this story was his one brush with success, becoming the basis for a Humphrey Bogart & Lauren Bacall film of the same name. Perry is in San Quentin prison looking at life without parole for the murder of his wife. The only problem is that he didn't do it. Set up by circumstance and libelous testimony, he knows his only chance is to break out of prison. After successfully escaping, he is a man on the run, literally, until a mysterious woman with a dark past picks him up and conspires with him. After plastic surgery to alter his face, Perry is torn between unmasking the real killer and skipping the country. But when an extortion attempt from a two-bit criminal forces his hand, he knows that he has no choice but to confront the killer. This has all of the great aspects of a classic noir thriller: the innocent man on the run, the mysterious femme fatale, and the criminal that could unmask the whole scheme. Goodis was a master of dialogue and he uses it to his full advantage here, alternating spoken passages with narrative to build the pace faster and faster like a runaway train. Goodis's work is unrepentantly dark, and this story is no different. You can practically feel the anxiety building as Perry moves from one jam to another. Cinematic in scope but taught and filled with memorable characters, this is one of the best noir novels of the mid-twentieth century. David Goodis: Five Noir Novels of the 1940s and 50s -

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