Mon 26 Nov 2012
DAVID GOODIS – Black Friday. Lion #224, paperback original, 1954. Black Lizard, paperback, 1987.
“It’s Black Friday and for certain people it’s a day that never ends.”
Black Friday (Lion, 1954) shows us David Goodis at his lean and hungry best with a taut, compelling crime story that seems to be constantly hurtling toward some predestined end, yet shaped by its own very unique and lively cast of characters.
As it opens, Al Hart is on the run, fleeing the police after the mercy killing of his terminally ill brother, making his broken down and desperate way through one of those Philadelphia winters that Goodis does so bitterly well. Through a series of coincidences he finds himself witness to a murder and tentatively taken in by a gang of professional thieves who accept him (more or less) as one of them — and plan to use him on their next job.
These thieves turn out to be quite an interesting crowd. In fact, Goodis peoples Black Friday with the archetypes familiar to his fans: The brassy, overripe slut, the ethereal gamin, the oddly sensitive master criminal, the not-so-dumb brute, and the alienated, ostracized hero—characters who show up in one incarnation or another in various Goodis books from Dark Passage to Somebody’s Done For, and who seem to resurrect themselves anew on the page each time.
For this particular ride, they’re set down amid a tense caper that seems all the more suspenseful for being jinxed from the outset. There’s something Homeric in Goodis’ trick of thrusting bums and winos into heroic situations and watching them rise to mythic status. Here, his second-rate hooligans and gallant loser-as-paladin turn a well-crafted caper yarn into something truly memorable.
Editorial Comment: Dan sent me this review just before Thanksgiving, when it would have been a little more timely, perhaps. I wish I’d been able to get it posted here before now, but this was the best I could do, only a few days late.