Down There

Goodis, David. Down There. Crime Novels: American Noir of the 1950s. New York: Library of America, 1999.

David Goodis is a great storyteller. The story opens with a man, bloodied and dazed, running from two unknown men. Throughout most of the plot you don’t know who is who. Is the running man a good guy or is he bad? Why do the men chasing him want him so badly? They are relentless in their pursuit. You don’t know who to root for. But, the story isn’t really about the man being pursued. When he escapes into a seedy bar where his brother is playing piano, the attention shifts to the piano player. Now, caught in the middle of the pursuit is younger brother, Eddie. Growing up, Eddie had very little to do with his rough and violent brothers. While they followed a life of crime, Eddie became a Carnegie Hall pianist. For the past three years he has been just a simple piano player in a bar called Harriet’s Hut. Out of family loyalty, Eddie helps his brother escape and plunges headlong into the trouble is he has been trying to avoid for years. There is a reason he no longer plays Carnegie and that ugly truth comes back to haunt him. Throughout the story there isn’t enough character development to care about Eddie or his family. You don’t know if they are the good guys or not. Enough bad things have happened to Eddie to make the reader sympathetic to his plight, but not enough to sit on the edge of a seat, hoping and praying for his survival. I rooted for the plucky waitress, Lena, who attaches herself to Eddie and refuses to take no for an answer. She was gutsy and valiant and never wavered from her character.

Reason read: June is National Short Story month and even though this isn’t exactly a short story, it’s brief enough to throw on the list.

Author fact: One of the most fascinating things about Goodis (according to Wikipedia (yes, I’m quoting Wikipedia), is that most people didn’t know Goodis had been married for a brief time. It wasn’t until a divorce document was found that people really believed it.

Book trivia: Down There is also known as Shoot the Piano Player which was made into a movie.

BookLust Twist: from Crime Novels: American Noir listed in Book Lust in the chapter called “Les Crime Noir” (p 65).

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