Thursday, July 23, 2009

missed it the first time, hard-boiled edition: Down There by David Goodis

Every Thursday in July we crank out a remembrance of hard-boiled crime noir story or detective story. This week it's Down There, a crime noir story by David Goodis about a down on his luck piano player named Eddie Lynn. It was renamed as Shoot The Piano Player, and was made into a movie with that name.

Previous entries:
Double Indemnity by James Cain
Dashiell Hammett/Raymond Chandler Double
The Killer Inside Me by Jim Thompson

Down There
by David Goodis
Gold Medal Books, 1956

What are you doing here? Of course you play the piano well, but here of all places? The girl, yes, the girl! Smart, street-smart even, the best stories out of her. You didn't mean to kill him right? The bread knife...was a mistake? Sure, he rolled towards you, and his arm fault of yours, only his. No one knew you had that in you until now. Until they realized that you did, and that you might have a chance, that might be able to beat him, overwhelm him, resist him, kill him even. And you did. You did kill him. The gamblers. The gamblers will corroborate the murder story. How did you end up back here, back like this Eddie Lynn? You rejected the life of your brothers, life in the criminal corporation of extortion. They know you should have it better. It's in Turley's eyes. Maybe Clifton knows it somewhere. But really, you're torn, Eddie, you're torn. Such immense physical and artistic gifts. Punching old boxers with hardened power, or stroking ivory keys with the best of Carnegie Hall. The in-between. Like mishandled dough, you don't know if you want to be a flat cake or a seven layer. There are the whispers. The potential, the lost potential. How you flew off the handle after your first wife's death. The cheating, the lying.

But Eddie where are you now in this fix? Why didn't you kiss the waitress girl, the smart savvy one who obviously loves you. Forget South Jersey. Embrace Philadelphia. Forget your brothers and kiss her, Eddie, kiss her. Why didn't you fire earlier, when you had the chance? Feather and Morris staring down the cabin, and there was the pistol, in your hands. Fire, dang it, fire away. Don't dawdle, don' your warning shots, or you'll end up getting...hurt. They deserved it, she didn't. And you didn't, Eddie, you didn't either.

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