Have you ever seen the movie Detour? It was thoughtlessly cranked out in 1945 by Producers’ Releasing Corporation (PRC), one of the bottom-feeders along Hollywood’s “Poverty Row” back in the day. Those places shoveled out low-budget fare to fill the screens (and some of the seats) in theaters on the other side of town, around industrial neighborhoods, where the faint of heart dared not venture. These were theaters where Casablanca never played, nor did Shane or Gone With The Wind. No, these theaters were low-grade joints, perfect matches for the movies that played in them.
Detour was no different. Directed by Czech-born Edgar G Ulmer, a veteran of two-reelers and exploitation flicks, it was spit out of Poverty Row into the bad-neighborhood theaters and soon disappeared without a sound. Years later, no one bothered to renew the film’s copyright, so it slipped unceremoniously into the public domain.
And there it sat until the explosion of cable TV, when stations scrambled for content. They trolled the public domain for whatever they could find and Detour lay there, awaiting rediscovery. After numerous showings on late-night cable, film noir enthusiasts quickly recognized its greatness and began to talk it up. Now, it’s considered a film noir gem, possibly the greatest low-budget movie ever made. Not only that, the Library of Congress included it in a list of 100 films most deserving of restoration and preservation.
Before the movie, there was the novel.
Written by Martin M Goldsmith in 1939, the novel originates the fatalistic tone of the movie. The characters think they’re getting a raw deal from life, and take no blame in their own predicaments. They’re wrong, of course, but that’s noir, baby. They’re always wrong. Sure, they make foolish decisions, and sure, there are improbable coincidences, but the darkness of the story and the strength of the writing keep the reader’s eye on the page. Here’s a brief description:
1938. Alexander Roth is hitchhiking from New York to Los Angeles, hoping to reconnect with his self-absorbed, cutesy-poo girlfriend. A car stops to pick him up and he is soon plunged into a nightmare from which there may be no escape.
And now, for the first time ever, Detour
is available as an audiobook. I had a lot of fun narrating this book, because I was so familiar with the characters, having seen the movie countless times and having read the novel twice.
It’s now available on Audible.com. Go here and buy it.