Saturday, November 24, 2012

Review: THE WOUNDED AND THE SLAIN by David Goodis

The Wounded and the Slain (Hard Case Crime #31) THE WOUNDED AND THE SLAIN exemplifies the derailment of human decency as a subsequent of vice and childhood induced trauma. In James and Cora Bevan, Goodis creates a pair of dysfunctional lovers tainted by their past and victimised by their future. For James, the consummate alcoholic, the amber liquid serves as a means to rid the reminders that hold true his reality; a hopeless sense of foreboding, crippling depression, a sham of a marriage to an almost trophy wife without perk, and a need to experiment in self obliteration. For Cora, her past dictates her every movement, life is one great horror movie, every man hides behind sinister and dirty motives, ones that threaten to soil her to the very core. 
Goodis writes the alcoholic induced protagonist to perfection. Much like STREET OF NO RETURN, the vice provides the key to the leads chemical make-up, building character (for good and bad) and driving the sordid tale.  
Set amongst contrasting locales in Jamaica, THE WOUNDED AND THE SLAIN provides equal billing to the desirable and undesirable alike. The slums are without hope, an emotionally desolate place of structures where criminality is commonplace - whereas the fine hotel where the Bevan’s are situated is all tourist guide perfection – sunshine and a healthy lifestyle. This does well to enhance the Bevan’s facade’, a circle that doesn’t fit inside a square. 
I’ve read THE WOUNDED AND THE SLAIN twice now and am still drawn to the raw feeling of depression and complex nature of the Bevan’s. As a couple and as individuals they are hopelessly flawed yet both provide glimpses of redeeming qualities as the story progresses, all it takes is a little blood and the realisation of a harsh truth.
THE WOUNDED AND THE SLAIN is one of my favourite Goodis noir novels and perhaps the truest to the overall feeling of noir. It’s bleak, grey, unnerving, and true grit. There are no bells and whistles in this tale – just an easily believable plot and smart story telling. 5 stars.

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