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Dark Passage Hardcover – 1947
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World Publishing/Forum Books, 1947. First thus. Dust jacket, usually not present, is very scarce. Movie tie-in with the Warner Brothers. Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall photos on jacket.
Top customer reviews
Anyone familiar with the very good film based on the book knows that for the first forty minutes or so of the movie, we are in Parry’s (Bogart’s) shoes during the prison break and the ensuing escape. We never see Parry’s face during this portion of the film. Goodis’s entire novel is the equivalent of that portion of the film, the reader placed into Parry’s head, “hearing” him panic, reason out things, fight his fear and paranoia, and finally, figure out who killed his unfaithful wife and framed him for the murder. Tightly constructed and narratively claustrophobic, this is a unique narrative that won’t appeal to everyone. It is more likely to appeal to fans of the genre, and fans of the greatest writer of suspense, Cornell Woolrich. Goodis here seems to be influenced by Woolrich’s work. Parry even has an entire conversation in his head with his only friend, who has just been murdered, which is very Woolrichian.
One can almost picture Agnes Morehead as the shrill and annoying Madge Rapf, and Bacall as the lovely and lonely Irene, whose motives for helping Parry hide out at the outset, and later so that his face can heal when he has it altered, are at first unclear. They will be more ambiguous for anyone who hasn’t seen the 40s film, but that’s not many. There is loneliness here, and not just Parry’s, and there is that feeling of the little guy fighting against fate which permeated Woolrich’s work during this period. Goodis doesn’t quite reach the level of the father of noir, but this is very good, and there are moments when he comes close. A tricky and ultimately dooming confrontation with a guy known only as Studebaker for much of the book, and the color of a car, set in motion an exciting conclusion. It is here, at the end, when Goodis throws the reader a Deadline at Dawn type of lifeline that makes this a memorable read.
While the narrative style of nearly every thought in Parry’s head can become too overblown at times, at other times it’s marvelous, both cerebrally claustrophobic and entertainingly mesmerizing. This seminal noir novel will have you looking up Patavilca, Peru on your globe, and wondering…
Because Goodis seemed to be channeling Woolrich, yet didn’t quite reach that lofty plateau, this is 4.5 stars for me. But it is such a terrific read, I’m rounding up. A unique novel (unless you’ve read Woolrich), and one every fan of the noir/suspense genre must have a go at to really sample the best stuff the genre has to offer.
“He couldn’t have women and he couldn’t have bright lights and he couldn’t have a fireplace. He couldn’t have streets to walk on and crowds to see. All he had here were the bars on his cell door and the realization that he would be looking at those bars for the rest of his life.”
Well, there’s always breaking out.
A man now on the run, Perry seeks a way to hide out while he tries to find the identity of the real killer. Figuring out who to trust is a game that Perry now must play.
While there are some coincidences and moments where the plot is a tad incredulous, Dark Passage is a mostly entertaining read. One thing that Goodis excels at, and that is depicting the inner turmoil and workings of his often very flawed protagonists. We see this in Dark Passage, with Perry on the run, a marked man who not only must try to evade being caught, but also internalizes life through the course of the plot. Goodis zooms in at times, takes you through Perry’s rambling thoughts in a sort of stream of conscious way. In Dark Passage, we also have a murder mystery on our hands.
I wouldn’t rank this one as high as Shoot the Piano Player, but Dark Passage is still a thoroughly engaging work with many of the Goodis staples and signature traits. He really captures the essence of a character trying to cope with a situation, and trying to pull themselves up from the depths of despair.
Dark Passage takes place in San Francisco, not Goodis' usual location of Philadelphia. It is a story of a man tried and convicted for his wife's murder and who then escapes a maximum security prison. It is a psychosocial study of his troubled and distrustful mind. When you are on the run, it pays to be paranoid.
Is he a psychopathic killer or the patsy he claims to be? Can you trust his narration? Does he attract nuts like moths to a flame? Is the trial groupie cuckoo or just smitten? Is there a man in a studebaker pursuing him?
From the frenetic pace of the prison escape to his crazy running back and forth without a plan, the story is relentless.
Amidst the backdrop of 1950's soda fountains, you have murder and promiscuity and obsession and craziness.
More than just a man on the run story.