Monday, November 19, 2007

By Donald Goines

Most crime writers approach their topic from the far side as it were. They read about crime. Donald Goines lived it, it gives his pot-boiler crime novels an urgency not exactly found in other, more polished work.

Eldorado Red is a successful numbers racketeer. His son Buddy is a junkie. Red lives a life of luxury while Buddy seethes over the deprived childhood he had with his mother (Red’s estranged wife). But Buddy is an ambitious young man, he knows the routine at the houses where Red’s runners deposit their take. In dizzying round of larceny, he and his addict pals rob them all. Meanwhile Red’s henchmen are busy tracking down the heist gang while Red takes on a number of beautiful ladies.

It sounds a bit like a Quentin Tarantino film. I daresay it would make excellent material for QT. Goines knew his subject well, having robbed several numbers houses to support his heroin addiction.

Not that Eldorado Red is exactly flawless. Red’s easy-come-easy-go relationship business seems out of place on this action packed 24-hour robbery and murder spree. Goines’ dialog sometimes sounds a bit stilted, though that may have been an editorial retreat from the smooth street dialect his characters use.

The best way to approach this book is to imagine the speech in your mind, letting the real voices you may have heard bring the story to life. Goines characters are ruthless but at the same time a bit purposeless. For all the blood they shed in the name of money, few will end up rich. None can be said to be better off. There is a street-wise cynicism that pervades this tale, making it among the hardest of hard-boiled yarns.

-Dave Hardy


Charles Gramlich said...

I've been seeing/hearing a lot about Goines lately. I've read several of his books. In many ways he is a remarkably bad writer, but there is an energy and drive in his books that can hook you. His stuff is worth looking at, although man it is racist.

Dave Hardy said...

Racist? Whitey was asking for it man!