Thursday, July 30, 2020

Detour: Martin M. Goldsmith

I believe I first heard of this book at the crime segments blog in 2016. I purchased the book in the next month or so, but it took me until now to read and review it (and watch the film adaptation). Detour is a very short novel about a man hitchhiking across the United States, whose life takes a major detour as a result of his trip, thus the title.

The story starts in the middle of the trip. Alex Roth, a violinist who at one time had hopes of being a classical musician, has left New York to join his girlfriend in Los Angeles, and has made it as far as New Mexico. He has no money and hasn't eaten for a while, but he lucks into a ride with a man who is going all the way to Los Angeles. Things go wrong very quickly.

Then the narrator switches to Sue Harvey, the girlfriend. Alex has painted an idealized version of her, even though she left him a week before their wedding to go to California to try to make it big in Hollywood. As she tells her story since arriving in Los Angeles, we see that she is not who Alex thinks she is. 

I loved the switching back and forth of narrators. It is not overdone but it gets across the two versions of reality that Alex and Sue have. When I was reading the first section narrated by Alex, I thought the story was so-so, but when we get to Sue's version of their relationship and her ambitions, the story gets much more interesting. Eventually, Alex gets involved with Vera, a woman who is also hitchhiking to Los Angeles. She is a real piece of work.

Detour was published in 1939, and made into a noir film starring Tom Neal and Ann Savage in 1945. Martin M. Goldsmith wrote the screenplay, but the director, Edgar G. Ulmer, cut the story down to only 65 minutes (per this article at Combustible Celluloid). I liked the book much more than the movie, but I think you have to look at them as being in two different universes. I like the dimension that Sue adds to the story in the book, and she barely shows up in the film. But the film presents a very effective story, Ann Savage is exceptional in the role of Vera. 



Publisher:  Black Curtain Press, 2013 (orig. pub. 1939).
Length:     145 pages
Format:     Trade Paperback
Setting:     USA
Genre:      Mystery, Noir
Source:     I purchased this book.


pattinase (abbott) said...

I don't think I have seen that film but I have heard about it often. In THE KIND WORTH KILLING by Peter Swanson, he uses four characters POVs to tell the story. Maybe one too many but interesting.

Margot Kinberg said...

This does sound intriguing, Tracy. I've not seen the film, although I've heard of it, but the book sounds like a solid character study, among other things. And the dual points of view can do a lot to help the reader get to know what the characters are like.

TracyK said...

Patti, I like stories told with multiple points of view. I will put Peter Swanson on a list to check out.

TracyK said...

Detour is a good read, Margot, and nice and short. I thought the book had a better ending than the movie, also.

Bill Kelly said...

Goldsmith's much lesser known DOUBLE JEOPARDY is also a very worthwhile read. Courtroom intrigue exploring the vagaries of the justice system with a protagonist who is unsure whether he did the crime or not. Well done.

TracyK said...

That does sound very good, Bill. I knew that he had written the book but not much about it. Thanks for that information.

col2910 said...

I like the sound of this one. Added to the books-to-be-purchased-maybe list. Not cheap from an initial glance.

TracyK said...

If you can find a copy at a reasonable price, Col, it will be worth it. Nice and short too.