And finally, 1954s Street of No Return tells the story of Whitey, a singer with a million dollar voice. With that voice, women fell under his spell and would sacrifice body and their soul. He could have been another Sinatra until he met a woman who would prove to be his downfall. The story is told as a tale of Whitey’s past to his wino buddies in the present and we follow Whitey from that once glorious future through a nightmare descent into oblivion. Whitey now has no future, and only wants the next drink. Along the way Goodis paints the times with hardboiled pictures of Philadelphia and life on the streets, and uses historical events such as Puerto Rican race riots as back drops.
Upon Goodis' return from New York in 1950, he lived with his parents in Philadelphia along with his schizophrenic brother Herbert. At night, he prowled the underside of Philadelphia, hanging out in nightclubs and seedy bars, a milieu he depicted in his fiction. Goodis died in January 1967, a week after suffering a beating in a robbery attempt. He died at the age of 49, one month after winning the “Fugitive” lawsuit. But during his life, The Pulp Poet of the Lost and the Prince of the Losers made a mark on the world of fiction that many noir authors of the present day readily acknowledge.
Editor Robert Polito is a poet, biographer, and critic whose Savage Art: A Biography of Jim Thompson received the National Book Critics Circle Award. He directs the Graduate Writing Program at the New School.
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