Wednesday, June 25, 2014
Review of Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye by Horace McCoy (1948, Signet)
Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye is considered to be a noir classic, first published in 1948 and made into a movie starring James Cagney in 1950. The story charts the scheming, amoral life of ‘Ralph Cotter’ (one of a set of aliases), who compulsively lies, cheats, steals and, with little prompting, kills or commits violence. The strength of the book is the characterisation and the interplay between the main protagonists, especially Ralph and femme fatale, Holiday, who uses her sexuality to twist men round her little finger. The plot is pure hardboiled noir. Indeed, the tagline of the tale is: 'Love as hot as a blow torch ... crime as vicious as the jungle'. The start of the story is excellent, quickly hooking the reader in. However, after about a third of the way in the style and pace noticeably changes, the action dissipating and the narrative becoming more psychological in orientation. Scenes get a little drawn out, there’s needless repetition of thoughts/dialogue, and the plot loses drive and direction. To my mind it would have been preferable to keep the pace a bit higher and narrative tighter. Nevertheless, the tale is a fascinating account of a man obsessed with being as equally ruthless as Dillinger, but being much cleverer and successful in his criminal pursuits.