Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Dark Passage: David Goodis

This is a dark novel about a man in prison for life for the murder of his wife, which he did not commit. Vincent Parry manages to escape from prison and returns to San Francisco and the neighborhood he lived in to try to prove his innocence. A young woman befriends him and helps him hide from the authorities.

He knows he must move on, that he cannot stay with her for long. She wants to buy him some clothes as all he has are some old clothes that he stole.
When he came back to the bedroom she was opening the paper boxes. 
It amounted to almost a wardrobe. Four shirts, three white and one grey. Five neckties, three grey and two on a grey-violet theme. Five sets of underwear and a stack of handkerchiefs. Six pairs of grey socks. A grey worsted suit with a vertical suggestion of violet. A pair of tan straight-tipped blucher shoes. And grey suspenders. 
There were other things. A military brush and a comb. A toothbrush and a jar of shaving cream and a safety razor. 
...  His hair was still damp from the shower and it moved nicely under the brush and comb. He had on one of the white shirts and a grey-violet tie and he put a white handkerchief in the breast pocket of the grey worsted suit. He felt very new and shining
The story is not told in first person narration but much of the story is revealed through the main character's internal dialog. His frustration and the build up of anger at his situation is portrayed in a realistic way. It was very well done.

The twists and turns are many and have a feeling of unreality at times, but it is a very compelling story. And I liked the ending. Shortly after that we watched the film adaptation. In both the book and the film, the San Francisco setting is used well.

This a very effective noir novel, but it isn't one that leaves you feeling entirely hopeless, and I was grateful for that.

David Goodis claimed that the TV series The Fugitive was based on Dark Passage. An article at Mystery*File discusses Goodis’ suit against United Artists TV in detail.

Comments on the movie...

The movie was very faithful to the book, but there is no way that a film can convey the protagonist's inner turmoil as effectively. I still enjoyed it a lot, and it has tremendous atmosphere and the wonderful San Francisco setting. And with two talented stars like Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, how can it not be worth watching? It isn't their best movie together but it is very good. Agnes Moorehead also stars as the woman who testified against him at the trial.

See these reviews. Many of them also comment on the movie. 
Barry Ergang's review at Kevin's Corner



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Publisher:   Library of America, 2012 (first published 1946)
Length:       190 pages
Format:       Hardback collection
Setting:      San Francisco
Genre:        Mystery
Source:       I purchased my copy.


26 comments:

  1. As I mentioned on Goodreads....this man had such a sad personal life. He probably said to himself: "This moment will just be another story someday.."

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    1. I will have to read more about his life, Nancy, you have made me curious. I guess a very unhappy life would have given him a lot of inspiration for his writing.

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  2. Didn't know Goodis wrote this until now.

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    1. For years I have been saying I don't want to watch the movie until I read the book, but never could find an affordable copy. I liked the story and his writing much more than I expected to.

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  3. I need to read this, Tracy. I'm glad you reminded me of it. It is a compelling story - well, at least on film. And the book sounds even more so.

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    1. The film is very faithful to the book, Margot, except that the film can't get inside Vincent Parry's head like the book does.

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  4. I'm surprised no-one has mentioned the most interesting thing about the film - the way the first third is depicted entirely from the character's viewpoint. It works well here, but The Lady in the Lake does the same thing all the way through, which does get pointless and silly.

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    1. Thanks for mentioning that, Roger. We don't get to see the main character's face in the first third and it makes for some interesting scenes. I was keeping my comments on the film brief, so left out a lot of interesting information. I agree it works well here and I had wondered how it worked in other films.

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    2. The fact that it isn't very faithful to its source, and that Robert Montgomery is miscast as Marlowe, make the subjective camera business the least problematic aspect of the film version of THE LADY IN THE LAKE.

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    3. And thanks for that information, Barry. I am sadly much behind on reading the Philip Marlowe series, so I haven't gotten to THE LADY IN THE LAKE yet. And also haven't seen the film.

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  5. I'm afraid I don't much like noir any more. I once read a lot of it, but these days I find it depressing. This isn't a favorite Bogey film, either. So this one is not for me, nor any Goodis.

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    1. I am sort of the opposite, Rick. I always avoided noir, now I want to read some of it for the experience. Most of them I have found good reading but would not want it to be a large portion of my reading. I never used to read many humorous mysteries either but I am trying those out more too.

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  6. I'd be honored if you'd add me to your blog roll. Tipthewink.net.

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    1. It is done, Rick. I have been meaning to do that for a while, but then keep forgetting. My memory is not what it used to be.

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  7. oh very interesting - I know the film well, but didn't know it was a book first. I have read something else by David Goodis and remember it as being very dark. I was pleased to read your comment about this one not being too hopeless - that's what I want from a noir book too!

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    1. I had heard that his books were very dark, Moira, so I suspect some of his other books will be. I have four more in the Library of America collections and two others, Shoot the Piano Player, and Black Friday. Several more of his books were made into movies but I do not know how easily available they are.

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  8. Either I've been asleep in the Adirondacks the past seven years, or my computer skills are even worse than I imagined, or Kindle has only recently made Goodis novels available. Either way, after looking for the past several years, urged by the late Ed Gorman and by you and others in the FFB community, I've finally found a cache of the novels, and have just downloaded Nightfall. Now I'm thinking of buying the DVD, as I'd forgotten about Bogie and Bacall's Dark Passage, which I have seen for decades.

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    1. I am glad to hear that Goodis' books are now on Kindle, Matt. I went and downloaded Nightfall, even though it is in the collection I have, because it has a good introduction.

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  9. I bought this book a long time ago. I'll get to it eventually. I didn't know about the lawsuit against the tv series. Interesting. --Keishon

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    1. I had heard of the lawsuit, Keishon, but did not realize it was this book and this author. It was interesting that he made that claim. I think you would like this book, when you get to it.

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  10. I enjoyed this film very much, Tracy. Now I have to get the book. I've been meaning to but for whatever reason I haven't - you know how that goes.

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    1. I do know how that goes, Yvette. There are so many good books and authors to choose from.

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  11. I read DARK PASSAGE last month and had mixed feelings about it. Some of it was very good and pure Goodis. SHOOT THE PIANO PLAYER is, in my opinion, a better book and NIGHTFALL has passages that are like fever dreams.

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    1. I am looking forward to SHOOT THE PIANO PLAYER, Elgin, I hope I can get to it soon.

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  12. I have this and a few others by Goodis to get to. I've not tried his work yet, maybe 2019!

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    1. Goodis is definitely closer to what you like than much of what I read, Col. I will be interested in your opinion of any of his books, once you try them.

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