A prison break, a murder, an assault, an attempt at grand theft auto, an unfaithful husband, and bribing law enforcement - yet Goodis' protagonist, Vince Parry comes across as a soft hearted, overtly emotionally man who personifies the noir 'wrong-man' stereotype. After being convicted for the murder of his cheating significant other, Parry finds himself behind bars at San Quentin. Knowing he's innocent he masterminds an all too easy escape and subsequently finds himself at the mercy of a helping hand wanting nothing more than to heal his tarnished person.
Each core character's story interlopes with Parry the centre of the patchwork plot - a masterstroke of coincidence and tightly plotted linear focus. The Irene angle played out a little less believable yet presented enough surface reality to be plausible. The main event; the murder of Perry's cheating wife, Gert, leads to suspicion of everyone within the doomed couple's circle - notably Madge and Bob Rapf, a couple with a seemingly open relationship who both come under fire throughout proceedings. There's also a nice side bar which plays on Parry's paranoia following his escape - keep in mind the Studebaker while reading...
While entertaining enough throughout, Goodis employed an annoying element of estimation into almost anything that encompassed figures (distance travelled, time, money, etc.) - this had a tendency to be a distraction rather than an addition to the story. Other blips can be overlooked - notably some corny dialogue but then again this was written some time ago and rings true to the time and genre trappings.
Parry, prone to leak at the drop of a hat yet hardened enough to beat a man unconscious is an interested character made of two distinct halves - I'm not sure which takes prominence - the hard or heart? Goodis will question Parry's sanity and humility throughout, making 'Dark Passage' all the more true to the title. As noir/pulp as it gets - held together by the glue of intrigue and mystery while following a theme of the classic case of whodunit without the police procedural element.