The Wounded and the Slain by David Goodis

HCC-030 THE WOUNDED AND THE SLAIN David Goodis May 2007 ISBN: 978-0857683755 Cover art by Glen ...

David Goodis was the noir poet of Philadelphia. His books are known for being dark, dreary, tales of a man all alone, perhaps accused or suspected of a crime, with what seems like half a city against him, as he falls further and further into the muck and mire to escape the hoods that are after him. His books are nearly always top-notch. “The Wounded and The Slain,” although it deals with depression, angst, unhappiness, bitterness, and the like, somehow feels a bit brighter than most of Goodis’ work. Perhaps that is because of the setting, which, for most of the book, takes place in Jamaica at a beach resort. Perhaps his writing is a bit livelier here. This work is easily approachable and easily read in one or two sittings.
James and Cora Bevin are an unhappily married couple who live in New York City. She is frigid. He is unhappy and has turned first to prostitutes and then to the bottle and then to pyschoanalysis. They are both bitterly unhappy with each other and with their lives and yet have never managed to quit each other. Goodis does an excellent job of capturing their history and background in a short chapter. They are in Jamaica for a change of scenery, a chance to recapture their early romance, the spark which has long since disappeared.

Goodis really captures James’ angst, his wallowing in self-pity, his drowning himself in bottle after bottle of rum, while Cora never wants to leave the room and is embarressed time and again by James’ drunken performances at the hotel. She finds herself attracted to a stranger who aims to take her away from James and James senses it and seems ready to let her go. He heads into the Kingston slums to find another bar, to drown himself, to lose himself. He is admittedly suicidal at times and perhaps he’s thinking he will get mugged and it will be all over.

But James and Cora are not the horrible people the publisher’s blurb would lead you to believe. They are both basically decent but troubled people. The book contains streams of consciousness from both and their inner conversations will lead the reader to wonder which, if either, is sane and which will have a complete nervous breakdown.

James does something in the slums. He at first tries to walk away from it, but his conscience forces him to come to terms with it and there is a point at which this flawed being finds redemption. Throughout it all, though, you never know when James will just give up and drown in the muck and the mire.

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