If you'll forgive me the vanity of quoting myself, I once noted that David Goodis didn't write novels, he wrote suicide notes. I meant this metaphorically of course. And then I opened up the new Hard Case crime edition of THE WOUNDED AND THE SLAIN and right there in the first paragraph the protagonist plays "with the idea of doing away with himself."
Jim Thompson's books were peppy Broadway musicals compared to Goodis'. Except for a small group of French exitentialists right after the big war, I can't think of anybody who saw life as a bottomless cesspool more than Goodis.
This isn't to belittle the novel at hand or his work in general. He's a skilled, driven writer eager to take you on a tour of hell, hell being the lives of his protagonists. The physical settings may change but usually you have the same man--i.e., David Goodis--trying to survive being himself for at least another twenty-four hours.
The hook here is a couple going to Jamaica in order to give their marriage one more chance. But this is Goodis and we know better. Though they're very different writers, Goodis here reminds me somewhat of Tennessee Williams. But instead of the protagonist coming undone, Goodis surprises us with the plight of the wife trying to make some sense of her darker urges and compensate for a marriage she finds hopeless.
I read this in two sittings. The story is sound and intresting but Goodis is at his best here detailing the destruction of his people. As always, though, you hear in Goodis whispers of spmething better, an animal hope, an animal faith, that someday life will be better.
A very strong Goodis novel.