Book Review - Cassidy's Girl by David Goodis

Such a badass cover.

Jim Cassidy is a loser and a drunk.

His friends, who he likes most of the time, are losers and drunks.

His wife, Mildred, who he hates (the feeling is most-assuredly mutual), is too a loser. She's also a drunk. It would be a shame for Cassidy if she was his girl.

Cassidy spends his nights surrounded by losers at the local loser bar after his dead-end, loser job as a bus driver. It hadn't always been this way for Cassidy. It wasn't always a one-way ticket to nowhere alongside the local drunks at the watering hole hovering above the Philadelphia docks.

It wasn't too long ago when Cassidy had it all. A former football hero turned World War II ace fighter pilot who settled into a great post war career as a commercial airline pilot. But then, as it goes in these tales (and pick you pun wherever you'd like coming up), Cassidy's world came down in a heap of flames, taking the rap for a plane crash that left a lot of people dead. The co-pilot suggested that Cassidy was flying drunk. Cassidy claimed otherwise. But hey, the damage was done and Cassidy's life was ruined and shortly thereafter Cassidy became a card-carrying lowlife.

The plot kicks off after another day on the job when all Cassidy wants when he comes home is a doting wife who has a meal ready to go for him. As far as Cassidy is concerned, it's the least she could do for him. Unfortunately, he married Mildred, who instead has left their place in shambles after an all day booze fest where they couldn't even have the damn decency to clean up the spilled booze and blood.

Cassidy decides he's had enough and that he's leaving Mildred and this life behind him. He puts all his hopes and dreams on a new face at the local bar, a plain, fading thin, world-class alcoholic named Doris. Perhaps Doris is Cassidy's Girl after all? Wouldn't that be nice? The two of them could start a new life together without Mildred and without the drink or Cassidy would be damned.

And as we know after reading enough noir, the poor bastard Cassidy is indeed damned. You punch the wrong fella in the bar... even if he is some fat slob who pines after Mildred (she's still his wife, even if she's a hated one) and everything goes downhill from there.

For awhile, the plot runs at a compelling breakneck pace as the proverbial noose tightens around Cassidy's neck. Sometimes the writing is too fast as feels more like a plot summary, but there are moments when Goodis slows down and really takes his time. One sequence in particular is a great example in which Cassidy, seeming on the verge of a clean getaway, imagines what his new life will be like. It's ultimately heart-breaking because you know it's never going to pan out that way for him. And I think Cassidy knows this too. Perhaps that's why he allows himself so much time to indulge in his fantasy life.

Unfortunately, a lot of the steam is let out as the final chapters unfold into an almost surreal, hyper-sexual, deus ex machina ending. It feels forced and rushed. but that's the case with a lot of the old pulp authors who cranked out work a rapid pace. The atmosphere and setting, on the other hand, with its underbelly population of drunken miscreants, never falters. 

The dialogue is fun, but strays into the hokey more often than it should.

Flaws aside, Cassidy's Girl is a fun read from an author who doesn't always make the casual reader's list of must-read noir or pulp writers, but Goodis' work is worth the time, especially for fans of the genre.

Cassidy's Girl by David Goodis - 3 out of 5 Late Nights in the Secret Room at Bar for the Regulars Only

For a quick extra, David Goodis is probably best known for writing Dark Passage.


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