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David Goodis was rumored to have reveled in the slimy side of urban life. However, there is an explanation. He was doing research. In the Temple Archives I found an undated column by Brooklyn Eagle entertainment writer Herbert Cohn. Written around 1947, Cohn interviewed Goodis at lunch at Astor's Hunting Room. Ironically, Goodis' ex-wife was Elaine Astor. Over a bowl of vegetable soup, Goodis said, "I guess some people would call me a phony."
Cohn's column, titled the "The Sound Track," bore the headline, "David Goodis, New Young Writer Tacks Down Realism The Hard Way." Cohn wrote:
"And I guess some from one angle, they'd be right," continued the black haired, brown-eyed schoolboy-looking fellow who, during the past six months has written the screenplay for "The Unfaithful, supplied an original novel from which "Dark Passage" was screened and is now waiting for word about whether his "Up Until No," a timely political drama, is going to be his next job for Producer Jerry Wald, who gave him his latest breaks..
Personally, I've met worse phonies from Hollywood. This 30 year old at least delivers the goods. His "phoniness" is only a technique to discover interesting characters--the kind that newspapermen are supposed to meet in their daily routines, but hardly ever do so unless, like Ben Hecht--and young Goodis---they go out of their way looking for them.
Goodis spends most of his time posing as a small time crook, or a paroled "dip" or a broken down actor. You're likely to find him hanging around crummy bars off Main Street in Los Angeles, in San Francisco's Mission district, on the Bowery in New York or may be on Sands Street. Or if you're in Philadelphia look for him in the Tenderloin. Philly is his old stamping grounds. He grew up there, his family moving further and further "uptown: towards "The Main Line" after starting out in the slums.
He'll pose as anything in the joints just to get people to talk. He'll stick for days with a likely prospect, posing as something he isn't, if he thinks he can get a story out of it. Sometimes he gets into trouble, of course, and he carries a couple of scars to prove it. But most of the time he can talk his way out of a jam. If the squeeze is tight, he knows some judo, as most little guys do. He's never been hurt badly enough to abandon his formula. And he thinks his characters and the authentic sound of his fiction dialog are worth the chances he has to take.
Being a "trick" writer is old stuff to Goodis, young as he is. Nine years ago, while he was coasting through Temple University taking "snap" courses that wouldn't keep him from writing, he got his start as a "pulp" author. Within six years he had sold 5-1/2 million words to action and mystery magazines mostly in the adventures of flying---though he has never flown. He used to get his facts from standard aviation texts--Jeans' Manual was one of them--and dress them up with fancy out of his high flying imagination.
It must have been pretty good: he wound up at 2 cents a word which is "big time" in the pulp game. If he can afford to work less and scrounge around . . . [for] new material. If his luck--and his judo--holds up, he expects to be one of the fellows bringing fresh characters for a long time..