THE DYSFUNCTIONAL FAMILY IN NOIR: THOMPSON, CAIN, WILLEFORD, GOODIS
The Noir experience is set on course often by the imperatives of a family unit, which include reverence for a father-protector and sheltering a younger sibling. Necessary in themselves, these could become absolutes, fostering anxieties that wound instead of fulfil loved ones. It is one of Goodis’ major themes and the root of the anxieties, delusions, and hellish nightmares that block fulfillment for his noble losers, men such as Al Darby and Nat Harbin and women such as Al’s wife and Nat’s surrogate sister.
The writer explores post-war family dysfunctions as Robert Polito shows Jim Thompson did. In The Grifters, Roy and his mother, both con artists, must live apart and keep their cons secret from each other. Perhaps that is why Roy’s mother treats her son like a younger brother. A victim of an abusive father, she also looks at him “with a suppressed hunger.” Thompson’s Lou Ford has a killer inside him. Sexual arousal makes him kill his partner; it is connected to the guilt and fear he felt after his father caught him with a housekeeper. His father eventually had him vasectomized, because he saw his son was a paranoid sadist who had gotten love and hate interwoven. He could not admit that its origin was in the model he himself had been for his loving son. He had used his house keeper to flagellate his sex partners. She seduced Lou as revenge against the father, whose merciless whipping of his son suggests a shadow of incest.
Other noirs about the sexual attraction stimulated by the possibility of incest include Willeford’s Miami Blues and perhaps Woman Chaser (Freddie Frenger and Richard Hudson are attracted to women their mother’s age), Cain’s The Butterfly, and Felice Swados’ Reform School Girl. Michael Avellone’s novelization of Sam Fuller’s film Shock Corridor is as replete with details about mental patients’ incestuous thoughts as Fuller’s own novelization of his film The Naked Kiss is with obsession with pedophilia.
Goodis also sets many of his plots in motion by portraying families as harboring psychosexual dysfunctions (aggressive or submissive fathers, incestuous siblings, hateful and cheating partners). They are also rife with criminal endeavors (extortion, loan sharking, numbers running, housebreaking, drug peddling) rationalized as survival tactics. But the subversive vision is masked by expressions of reverence for the institution itself. That is very desirable to entrepreneurs of mass entertainment, in which, as Robert Warshow wrote, “the reality of the surface” is important.
Shiva (Hebrew:שבעה, literally "seven") is the week-long mourning period in Judaism for first-degree relatives: father, mother, son, daughter, brother, sister, and spouse. The ritual is referred to as "sitting shiva." Immediately after burial, people assume the halakhicstatus of "avel" (Hebrew:אבל ; "mourner"). This state lasts for seven days, during which family members traditionally gather in one home (preferably the home of the deceased) and receive visitors. At the funeral, mourners traditionally tear an outer garment, a ritual known as keriah. This garment is worn throughout shiva.
Broadway play "Stars for the Dark Cave." Projected taxpayer associate producer with Helen Thompson, producer. 1949 return.
"Hornet's Nest," $700 entertainment and research in Philadelphia, $300 travel and research in New Jersey. In 1980, Attorney Stuart E. Beck prepared a bibliography of Goodis' works for the Estate. He opined that "Hornet's Nest" may have been the original title of "Down There," also known as "Shoot the Piano Player." 1956 return.
"Caribbean Escapade." Could this novel be The Wounded and the Slain, which was set in Jamaica? 1956 return.
"Dark Symphony," $850, travel expenses through South to Mississippi and other southern states. 1957 return.
"North to Harlem," $900, trips to Georgia and northern Florida. 1958 return.
"Uptown," $650. 1958 return.
Travel expenses to New Orleans and southern states. 1959 return.
"The Raving Beauty." 1960 return. April 23, 2015 from a Goodishead in France: I see that "The Raving Beauty" is considered a lost work of David Goodis. I believe it is an alternate title for "Somebody's Done For". -- The French edition of Goodis' "La pêche aux avaros" (ISBN-13: 978-2070378012) has "The raving beauty" as the original title. -- The French Goodis Wikipedia page has "La pêche aux avaros" as a translation of Somebody's Done For. -- From the description on this page: http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/g/david-goodis/somebodys-done-for.htm, you can tell that "The Raving Beauty" and "Somebody's Done For" are the same story (the story described is the one in "La pêche aux avaros"). Best regards, "Uptown," $250, additional research. 1960 return.
"Pony Tail," $200, research for screenplay. 1960 return.
"The Surfers," $130. 1964 return. Were the missing Goodis works were thrown out? Are they are stored in the musty files of a publisher, the attic of a relative or the forgotten archives of a lawyer? If they are ever found, they could be published as the Dead Sea Scrolls of David Goodis. Could an creative forger bring forth a RETREAT FROM OBLIVION? Strange things happen on the noir side of the internet.
COUNTERFACTUAL T.K. writes
I was especially surprised that I had no knowledge of all those possible "lost" works of his and that there's legitimate evidence to assume they're real.
One possible explanation (that I could see Goodis doing) is that some of those were never meant to be finished and actually were just paid vacations under the guise of research. A decent number of writers pulled that stunt back in the day. Or it could've been research for the hell of it or at least maybe just to get some other inspiration. He might've written chapters for them to cover his ass, but, as I said, maybe never had intentions of finishing them. Hell, they might've even been outlines for scripts. In which case, if any writing does exist for them it is probably tucked away in an attic or file cabinet somewhere, like you mention.
Other than that possibility, it's very possible that some of those ended up as pseudonymous works. I'm sure you're familiar with how publishing houses at the time were hesitant to publish too much material by a given writer and would force them to use a pseudonym, if they didn't just sit on it (like you also mention).
I'm not sure if you're familiar with the "discovered Whittingtons" that happened not too long ago. http://lynn-munroe-books.com/list60/whittington.htm This case could be something similar, and if that is the case, it unfortunately means we will probably never know or will be able to distinguish what they could be until a manuscript turns up, as not only would they have used a possible house name or random pseudonym, but they very likely would have completely skewered his titles too, much like Thompson's A Hell of a Woman.
Another theory of mine is that possibly in cases like this where the publisher is hesitant to publish another of a given writer's work, or maybe have no intention of publishing it at all, it is possible that they could've sold it/licensed it to be published in France by Série noire. In that case, why wouldn't they publish it under the Goodis name? I'm not sure, and it maybe could have something to do with the filing already in place, like if the other name was already attached to it. I don't know, but it's just a theory that I think is quite plausible. Again, unfortunately it means we will never know until a manuscript shows up.
Published in 2008, Kent Harrington's The Good Physician is arguably the best of the post-9/11 crime novels. The author of two contemporary noir classics, Dia de Los Muertos and Red Jungle, Harrington is adept at creating believable characters and ever-tightening plots in which choices are gradually narrowed down to their existential essentials.
That Harrington opted to publish The Good Physician with Dennis McMillan's rather than try his luck with a mainstream publisher, is interesting in itself. I don't know if that was a conscious choice on Harrington's part, though it wouldn't surprise me to learn the book might have been too hot for mainstream publishers. It's not that it's politically radical, though it is radically humane. As Michael Connelly says in his touching afterward, "The book has a painter's soul and a terrorist's conscience...[Don't] we wish we all had the same journey, to a place where one choice could vanquish all the wrong we have done before it."
The Good Physician centres on a young doctor, Collin, who, after 9/11, wants to make a contribution to the war on terrorism, so signs up as a CIA doctor in Mexico City. There he is called to witnesses various acts of torture, which, as a doctor, he can't abide. In fact, all Collin really wants to do is paint. At the hotel where he lives in true artist fashion, he falls in love with a woman who has suffered an immense loss and is ready to pay the ultimate price while, at the same time, inflict the ultimate damage for her loss. At the same time, the doctor is also treating the wife of the head of the CIA office in Mexico. That man, Alex, who also appears in Red Jungle, The American Boys and Harrington latest The Rat Machine, is effectively Collin's boss. Not without a degree of humanity, he has, through the work he does, become hardened to everyone other than his wife. When reports have come in that a bomb is passing through Mexico into the US, and Alex and his fellow agent have to stop it, and will do just about anything to do so. One can imagine Hammett, had he lived into the 21st century, perhaps writing a book like this. It's world-weary like Hammett, but not cynical. It's about loss, but not without hope. And, of course, it's also one of the best noir-oriented novels I've read for a quite a while. I'm only seven years behind the curve on this one, but it was worth the wait.
When Mr. Escobar wasn’t bombing commercial airlines carrying over a hundred innocent passengers to eliminate one of his enemies on board, spending $2,500 a month worth of rubber bands to wrap up his billions in cash, offering to pay off Columbia’s national debt or engaging in gunfights with Columbian police squads, Pablo liked to kick back and relax.
Along with his narcoterrorist associates, Pablo set up shop on a small cluster of tiny islands in the middle of the Caribbean sea off the coast of Cartagena, where they built extravagant villas and nightclubs to unwind from the rigors of running multinational crime and drug-trafficking organizations that stretched as far as Asia.
This is Mr. Escobar’s personal pool-side villa. It appears the pool-boy hasn’t been round in a while.
Current resident of the Escobar holiday estate.
The photographs, brought to us by Stefaan Beernaert, show us a rare insight into the drug king’s former playground. Since his death in 1993 when he was shot in the head by Columbian police as he tried to flee behind his bodyguards on a rooftop, these properties have been left to be reclaimed by island’s vegetation and beautifully decay amidst tropical surroundings.
The writing is on the wall: These serene pale blue indoor quarters with romanesque arches might seem like they were once peaceful places to sip on a glass of ice tea but Pablo and South America’s most powerful men would have no doubt planned some very sinister business behind these walls. Escobar was famously known for his “plata o plomo”, way of doing business. Either you took his plata (silver) as a bribe, or you took his plomo (lead) in bullets.
Here is what was probably a bathroom, decorated with a feminine touch. Escobar was married at 26 to Maria Victoria, who was 15. Their marriage lasted until his death, as did Escobar’s countless affairs with underage girls.
Above: Were these bizarre-looking windows for some kind of security protection or a bad 80s fashion statement?
Below: The drug king’s retro throne?
This tiny island hut was the guard’s lookout house. It is now occupied by a squatter. The islands of the druglord holiday resort are now owned by the Columbian state however tourists can now rent canoes and paddle right up to the piers of former drug lords’ villas, a boat trip that would have seen them shot on sight twenty years ago.
This empty shell of a building was still unfinished when Pablo was killed. One of the richest men in the world during his height of power, making up to $20 billion a year, Escobar was so rich, he had problems storing his money. Allegedly rats were eating up to $1 billion of his cash annually in storage. Perhaps this cement structure was an attempt to solve this little problem.
The Islas del Rosario are dotted with several villas, built in various styles. The holiday islands also had properties belonging to Escobar’s brother, mother and heads of the infamous Medellin and Cali cartels who entertained the rich, the beautiful and the corrupt on weekend getaways.
This villa that belonged to one of Escobar’s men is made entirely out of coral lifted from the surrounding Caribbean sea. Despite the coral being a highly protected marine species in the area, this drug lord clearly wasn’t interested in being friendly to the environment.
A small island also belonging to a drug king, now possibly occupied by squatters despite the Columbian government supposedly guarding the island homes.
Now that passing boats and planes overhead are no longer carrying drugs and money, locals are now giving tours around the island, trying to cash-in on the story of Pablo Escobar that still fascinates the world. What will become of these paradise homes?
It’s worth noting that Pablo’s primary residence, Hacienda Napoles in Columbia has been bizarrely converted into a public amusement park. Open since 2008, remnants of the drug lord’s privileged life remain, including a private bullfighting ring, swimming pools, tennis courts, an airstrip and even one of his drug-smuggling planes that now sits on top of the entrance gate.