Black Friday by David Goodis

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I’m hooked on that noir. My last review was Jim Thompson’s After Dark, My Sweet, and while I try to vary my reviews by genre I couldn’t resist following up with more another work of vintage crime. Black Friday is the first book I’ve read from David Goodis. Now I must admit after reading the deeply psychological work of Jim Thompson, Goodis felt dry and somewhat stiff. For a moment I had wondered if Black Lizard press finally dropped that dreaded bomb of disappointment. By the halfway point I glad to have discovered another master of the craft. Black Friday is a story about Hart, a desperate man running from the law for an unforgivable crime. He finds a man in the street dying of a gunshot wound. From there is taken in by the gang who murdered the man. The cops are looking for everyone involved and so they’re trapped in the hideout together. Hart must keep his nerves sharp if he wants to keep alive in a crowded little house with violent men and vicious women.

This is one of the more explicitly violent old school noirs I’ve read. Goodis has a detached style that zooms in on the brutality with a shocking swiftness. If I had to describe this book in one word I’d use, “economical.” Goodis pulls the maximum worth out of the fewest amounts of scenes, dialogue, and characters. The majority of the book takes place in single setting, and yet the book never becomes dull. The confrontation between the characters keeps the tension strong with a threat violence looming over them at all times. There is also enough sex to throw in a scandalous edge. Black Friday is like a game of chicken where the loser gets fried and whoever goes too far only guts himself.

Black Friday is another short novel which read more like a long short story. Goodis’ detached style does take a little while to get used to, but it feels almost as if he’s baiting the reader to lower his guard before throwing a sack over his head. This is a claustrophobic tale that can be appreciated by crime fans of either the classic works or the modern style. Who can resist the combination of classic noir story telling with the level of violence used today? I already have my next Goodis title lined up.

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