The second of Horace McCoy’s noir classics was republished in April by Open Road Media in a nicely formatted eBook with perhaps the most extensive biography of McCoy available. Published in 1948 at the start of what scholars consider the beginning of the Noir/Paperback era in crime fiction (and the end of the hardboiled era of authors like Dashiell Hammett, Chandler and the pulp magazines and their authors), Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye (Midnight Classics) leans towards the hardboiled genre, that had just past, but enters the noir era. It is full of lively dialogue and tough guys and femme fatales who are also “tough gals,” and though it comes nowhere close to Raymond Chandler's snappy, cynical wit, it stacks up nicely with most of the hardboiled writing of the era.
McCoy, from Tennessee, served in the first world war. After the war he relocated to Texas where he spent the years between 1919 and 1930 as a sports editor for the Dallas Journal. It was while he was in Texas that he got bitten by the acting bug, which led him to acting in local theater that eventually saw him move to California in an attempt to become a movie star. This experience was put to good use in his novels and short stories which often depicted central characters who were either involved, usually with little success, in the budding film industry. In the late ‘20s he started his writing career by selling short stories to various pulp mystery magazines such as Amazing Stories, Black Mask and Dime Detective.
He went on to publish his first novel, They Shoot Horses, Don't They? in 1935. Between 1935 and '61 (Corruption City was published posthumously in 1961) he published five more novels. He spent most of his efforts working as a script writer after the success of They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? (which we reviewed last week) from 1935 until his death in 1955. Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye, is among his best efforts and was turned in to a film starring James Cagney as the protagonist, Ralph Cotter. The trailer from the 1950 movie is here.
The movie received mixed reviews by the American critics, and was often compared unfavorably to White Heat, which features Cagney in a similar role. Nevertheless, the film had a great influence on the French filmmakers who loved pulp fiction and gave the genre the name, film noir, and can be seen, for example, in Jean-Luc Godard's film Made in U.S.A, in which one character is reading this novel in its French translation, Adieu la vie, adieu l'amour. Indeed, the influence led the works of McCoy and other writers such as David Goodis and James M. Cain to be relabeled ‘noir,’ differentiating them from the classic ‘hardboiled’ detective novels of Hammett, Chandler and others.