David goodis library of america

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david goodis library of america

David Goodis: Five Noir Novels of the 1940s & 50s by David Goodis

Among the pantheon of American crime writers—those masters of noir whose powerful vernacular style and dark and subversive themes transformed American culture and writing—David Goodis was a unique figure. Born in Philadelphia, he brought a jazzy, expressionist style and an almost hallucinatory intensity to his spare, passionate, uncompromising novels of mean streets and doomed people. Though little acknowledged during his lifetime, he has long enjoyed an international cult following, and his works have been adapted for the screen by directors including Francois Truffaut, Samuel Fuller, Jean-Jacques Beineix, and Jacques Tourneur.

Now, for the first time, his best work is collected in a single volume. Goodis experienced a brief celebrity when his novel Dark Passage (1946) became the basis for a popular movie starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. The story of a man railroaded for his wife’s murder and forced to assume a different identity after escaping from prison becomes in Goodis’s hands a lyrical evocation of urban fear and loneliness. Nightfall (1947) further develops the theme of the innocent pursued, as artist Jim Vanning becomes accidentally embroiled in a violent robbery and must evade criminals and police alike.

In The Burglar (1953), first published like all his later novels as a paperback original, Goodis explores his characteristic notion of the criminal gang as surrogate family, wracked by thwarted aspirations and contradictory desires. The book’s reluctant criminal hero might be taken as a self-portrait of Goodis himself: “The way he operated was quiet and slow, very slow … always artistic without knowing or interested in knowing that it was artistic, always accurate with it and always extremely unhappy with it.”

The Moon in the Gutter (1953) is one of Goodis’s many tours of the down-and-out neighborhoods of his native city. William Kerrigan’s pursuit of the riddle of his sister’s death in an obscure alleyway provides the starting point for a tortuous journey into “the darkness of all lost dreams.” In Street of No Return (1954), another skid row odyssey, a famous crooner scarred by violence descends into dereliction. From its opening in the freezing wind of a November street corner through its explosive ending, it is imbued with Goodis’s deep identification with “the unchartered society of the homeless and the hopeless.”
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Published 04.03.2019

David Norton, from the Digital Public Library of America


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For the next step, you'll be taken to a website to complete the donation and enter your billing information. You'll then be redirected back to LARB. To take advantage of all LARB has to offer, please create an account or log in before joining There is less than a week left to support our matching grant fund drive! Your tax-deductible donation made to LARB by pm, December 31, will be doubled thanks to an anonymous donor. He walked slowly along Wharf, came onto Vernon Street, then walked west on Vernon toward home. The slimy water in the gutter was lit with pink fire from the evening sun, and he looked up and saw it big and very red up there, the flares shooting out from the blazing sphere, merging with the orange clouds, so that the sky was like a huge opal, the glowing colors floating and blending, and it was really something to look at.

In The Library of America's Crime Novels: American Noir gathered, in two volumes, eleven classic works of the s, 40s, and 50s--among them David.
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David Loeb Goodis March 2, — January 7, was an American writer of crime fiction noted for his output of short stories and novels in the noir fiction genre. Born in Philadelphia , Goodis alternately resided there and in New York City and Hollywood during his professional years.

We are experiencing technical difficulties. Please try again later. Long a cult favorite, Goodis now takes his place alongside Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett in the pantheon of classic American crime writers. The Library of America series includes more than volumes to date, authoritative editions that average 1, pages in length, feature cloth covers, sewn bindings, and ribbon markers, and are printed on premium acid-free paper that will last for centuries. This adventurous two-volume collection presents a rich vein of modern American writing too often neglected in mainstream literary histories. Evolving out of the terse and violent hardboiled style of the pulp magazines, noir fiction expanded over the decades into a varied and innovative body of writing. Tapping deep roots in the American literary imagination, the novels in this volume explore themes of crime, guilt, deception, obsessive passion, murder, and the disintegrating psyche.


  1. Gigi C. says:

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  2. Scott G. says:

    Early on in Dark Passage () Goodis advanced a vernacular prose of rococo repeated phrases that limn, then all but erase his characters. —Robert Polito.

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