Monday, September 15, 2008


Nightfall could easily have been adapted for Hitchcock.

The 1947 novel by David Goodis follows Jim Vanning as he hides out in New York City working as a commercial artist. Three hoods think he has $300,000, their stolen $300,000. Thing is, Vanning doesn't have it. Yeah, he did have it. But he lost it. How do you lose that kind of money?'s complicated.

Detective Fraser is onto Vanning. He's been following the suspect for weeks now. He feels like he knows Vanning. And something tells him that this man, this working artist, could not have killed a man and absconded with three-hundred K. But now those three hoods are following Vanning as well...

Things go on from there like one would expect from a good suspense novel. Vanning has to keep ahead of the hoods and the cops while also trying to decide if the lovely Martha is with the crooks or merely being used by them. So you have your wrong man scenario, a follow-that-cab scene, some fight scenes, a hair-raising escape, a romance - the whole Hitchcock package. There's even a groaner explanation in the denouement (I'm a douche) like the one in Psycho!

In other words, Nightfall is kind of a disappointment. The book was written while he was in Hollywood (right after he wrote Dark Passage, which would be adapted into a Bogie/Bacall film), which might explain why it's more conventional than the work he did in the early fifties. For a suspense novel, it's pretty damned good.

But when you're expecting a DAVID GOODIS NOIR NOVEL it feels fairly tame.

The good dialogue, the bitter prose, the solid action - that's all here, no complaints. It's just that, well, the story isn't as dark, the protagonist not as tortured, the ending not as achingly sad. It just doesn't blow you away like his fifties stuff does.

Speaking of his fifties stuff, I've already started reading Black Friday and ho-lee shee-it does it rock so far. But I have to say, what was Goodis' deal with thousand dollar bills? I can't think of ANY crime novel featuring the thousand dollar bill off the top of my head and then I read Nightfall and Black Friday back-to-back and they both prominently feature thousand-dollar bills. Yeah, it makes copious amounts of cash easier to stow (or, in the case of Nightfall, lose), but come on.

Expect a Black Friday review soon...

1 comment:

Dean Speir said...

Goodis' protagonist, "Jim Vanning," is remarkably capable of dealing with the adversity that continuously confronts him, much more so than the author's usual protagonist. Enjoying catching up with Goodis' other work, more than half a century after seeing the Truffaut adaptation and picking up a paperback edition of Down There. Glad to see the man is back in print... he and Jim Thompson are due for a renaissance.