No one dives deeper into the criminal mind than Jim Thompson. He built his career on the twisted ambitions of his dark, frightening characters. In Sharecropper Hell (DeVault-Graves Agency, 2014), which was originally titled Cropper’s Cabin on its initial release in 1952, he drags the reader into the inhospitable world of white trash sharecroppers of southeastern Oklahoma in the mid-20th century. Sex, murder, racial paranoia … it all plays fast and hard in Thompson’s writing.
David Goodis must have led a pretty depressing life. Virtually all of his novels are set amid grimy urban surroundings, usually his hometown of Philadelphia, and they’re populated by characters who live lives of utter hopelessness. I like to think of Goodis’ locales as being where despair goes to die.
In any case, The Secret Squad (DeVault-Graves Agency, 2014) fits right in the heart of the Goodis catalog. Originally titled Night Squad when it was first published in 1961, it is set in an area of “the big city” known as “the Swamp”, block after block of seedy bars, filthy cafés, rat-infested tenements, and violent criminals on every street corner.
Unlike the protagonists of other Goodis novels, the central character in The Secret Squad, Corey Bradford, knows he’s on the down slope of his life and knows he has no one to blame but himself. A disgraced ex-cop who is offered one last chance at redemption, Bradford takes it and, like so many noir characters in literature, makes wrong choices at every turn.
This novel, under its original title, was released as an audiocassette in 1991, narrated by Kevin Spacey. It was heavily abridged, however, losing nearly half of the text. This new audiobook, which I’ve narrated, is unabridged, complete with full text as written by David Goodis, and is now available at Audible, Amazon, and iTunes.