Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Plunge by David Goodis

The Plunge by David Goodis
Short Story in Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine, Oct. 1958

David Goodis wrote some of the best noir novels of his generation, and he didn't short change readers when be penned short stories for mystery and pulp magazines in the 40s and 50s. One excellent contribution is "The Plunge, " about a squeaky-clean homicide cop who gradually descends down an emotional vortex , until it all ends fatally.

"His brain was staggered with the thought, and again he had the feeling of falling, of plunging downward through immeasurable space that took him away from the badge, he wore, the desk he occupied at Homicide in City Hall and his home and family."

Family man and honest cop Roy Childers despises corruption, whether it is corruption caused by the city's criminals or corruption within the police force. He becomes obsessed (his first plunge) in his case to find ex-con Dice Nolan and nailing him for murder during a payroll robbery of a waterfront warehouse. His first lead is to confront Nolan's girl, the beautiful Wilma Burnett. In her apartment he plays tough cop with her, but leaves uncomfortable and feeling emotionally affected by her.(his second plunge) Unable to focus, he later returns believing he will stake out her place waiting for Dice Nolan, but realizes he is there because of an uncontrolled desire to have her and knows this force can not be stopped. (another plunge) It comes down to a final violent confrontation with Nolan, Wilma and Childers in the apartment, and it is here in the story that Childers takes his final plunge.

This one will surely grab you, and is another example that shows why Goodis was superior to the majority of other authors who were providing stories to mystery magazines at this time. It's a little different that other Goodis stories. There are no bleak destitute people in the story and the urban setting is less dismal than in his other stories. The story turns dramatically cruel as Childers becomes wound tighter and tighter in an unexplainable crisis. You don't expect him to throw all of his family and professional values away just on a chance meeting with a girl. Goodis was a master of being able to curve a character emotionally around, which he did to Roy Childers. (and also to faithful readers of his stories)

He'd forgotten to put on his holster and the .38 it carried. You've never done that before, he thought. And then, with a slight quiver that went down from his chest to his stomach and up his chest again, "What's the matter here? What the hell is happening to you?"

The stories in this issue of Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine:

Brett Halliday "Witness for the Deceased"
Frank Ward "The Face of Death"
David Goodis "The Plunge"
J. L. Bouma "Unscheduled Murder"
Peter Cheyney "The Gangster"
Talmage Powell "Homecoming Party"
Freer Stalnaker "You Can't Let Go of Murder"
W.C. Tuttle "Payday"


Anonymous said...

Hey August, good to see you busily blogging again.
Sounds like a gripping Goodis yarn.
But did you read the Powell story in that issue?
He's a criminally under-rated author, I think.

John Hocking

August West said...

Thanks John, I read many of Talmage Powell's "Ed Rivers" novels and some of the stories he wrote in AHMM. I haven't yet read "Homecoming Party." I enjoy the author's work.

I have been trying to get a hold of his western novel called "The Cage" I heard excellent things about it and I can't turn down a good western you know....

James Reasoner said...

I'm surprised to see a W.C. Tuttle story in MSMM. Is it a reprint from some pulp magazine?

James Reasoner said...

And who the heck was Freer Stalnaker? I used to read stories in MSMM by Moss Tadrack and think that name sounded like a pseudonym to me. I've always wondered if it was.

August West said...

The W.C. Tuttle story is an original 6 pager that involves a couple of ex-cons who go after the stolen loot from the job that sent them to prison. The Freer Stalnaker tag is an enigma to me-but the name Freer sounds pretty cool!

One other gem of a story is the one contributed by western writer J.L. Bouma. About a doctor caught in a situation with a dame that has a neat little twist in it.

James Reasoner said...

Bouma was inconsistent, but some of his Westerns are really good. And thanks for the info about the Tuttle story. Interesting that two stories in this issue were written by authors who were much better known for their Westerns.