Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Shoot the Piano Player” as Want to Read:
Shoot the Piano Player
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Shoot the Piano Player

4.03  ·  Rating Details ·  2,514 Ratings  ·  137 Reviews
Once upon a time Eddie played concert piano to reverent audiences at Carnegie Hall. Now he bangs out honky-tonk for drunks in a dive in Philadelphia. But then two people walk into Eddie's life--the first promising Eddie a future, the other dragging him back into a treacherous past.

Shoot the Piano Player is a bittersweet and nerve-racking exploration of different kinds of l
Paperback, 158 pages
Published October 3rd 1990 by Vintage Crime/Black Lizard (first published 1956)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Shoot the Piano Player, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Shoot the Piano Player

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Glenn Russell
Nov 13, 2013 Glenn Russell rated it it was amazing

This gritty, hard-boiled novel by David Goodis opens with an action scene where a bloody-faced Turley Linn is running for his life through the alleys of a Philadelphia slum, fleeing from two professional hit-men. Turley ducks into a run-down neighborhood bar called Harriet's Hut and finds his brother Eddie (the novel's main character) who he hasn't seen in over six years. Eddie acknowledges his brother but remains cool and doesn't stop playing his sweet honky-tonk music on the joint's piano. Ind
Mar 19, 2014 Melki rated it really liked it
Shelves: crime-fiction
Let's put it another way. What's the payoff for the clean ones? The good ones? I mean the ones who play it straight. What do they get at the cashier's window?

Well, friends, speaking from experience, I'd say the payoff is anything from a kick in the teeth to the longbladed scissors slicing in deep and cutting up that pump in your chest. And that's too much, that does it. With all feeling going out and the venom coming in. So then you're saying to the world, All right, we'll play it dirty.

Is blood
Aug 03, 2012 Janice rated it it was ok
Shelves: noir
Existential angst, alienation, paranoia, disillusionment, hopelessness, tough-as-nails femme fatales, seedy dive bars, fate and the haunting effect of the past on the present. These are some of the most common tropes of the noir genre. Basically, it is a bleak and joyless genre; therefore it naturally follows, that I adore it. I gravitate towards noir because it is seemingly consistent with my grim view of the world (which, some could argue, is through a profoundly warped lens). That is, the vie ...more
Andrew Smith
Nov 16, 2014 Andrew Smith rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: noir-hardboiled
Written before I was born, this hardboiled novel shows its age a little (don't we all!). It's not so much the story - which is timeless - as the conversational language used, which I found a little off-putting until I got into the flow of it. The tale itself is of a gifted tinkler of the ivories who finds himself in a skid row bar knocking out tunes for the lowlife clientel. How and why he got there we find out as the story unfolds.

Of course, given its genre, there's crooks and guns and fistfigh
Sep 12, 2010 Mark rated it really liked it
June 5, 2013: Little book, I don't do you justice. I will finish you (hopefully this week), but I owe you a reread

June 6, 2013: Seems fitting that the last thirty pages of this were read in a state somewhere between consciousness and sleep. Because that's how it read. Like some kind of nightmare you wish someone would wake you from. Goodis' material is usually dark (that's why he's up there with the big boys in the noir field) but this one felt especially so. Goodis is capable of creating charac
Sep 25, 2011 Tfitoby rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don't like to leave things to stew before writing my thoughts on these books, but perhaps I should in this case. I absolutely loved this novel.

From the off a bleak noir atmosphere is painted by David Goodis, the inevitable conclusion easy to see from page one. You know where this is going but you are along for the ride anyway, this is the way all good noir movies work and it is the same with this fantastic book.

The story clips along at a frantic pace, the pages flew past as I devoured every in
Nov 07, 2008 Maureen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites, novels, noir
not a review but a overwhelming yes! it's been hard for me to review shoot the piano player aka down there because i so ardently and unequivocally adore it. suffice to say, i have read it many times, and i will read it again and again and again, simply because it is one of the most visceral reading experiences i've ever had. and it just goes to show how one never knows what chord will be struck, how a character might resonate, no matter how different in experience, until you meet and absorb them ...more
Ben Winch
Jun 23, 2011 Ben Winch rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american, pulp, anglo, 5-stars
David Goodis is possibly the most frustrating writer in history. When he's good (as he is here) he's untouchable, but when he's bad (as in most of Nightfall, for eg) he's pitiful. What's so good about this? It's dark. Intense. Dripping with atmosphere. The interior monologue is something unique too, in this context. An existential noir. A loser condemned to lose again who knows it but can't help fighting. Man, it's deep, while also seeming so close to its own parody that it's like a cartoon - or ...more
Oct 22, 2011 Still rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People Who Enjoy Reading
Recommended to Still by: Can't Recall


When we first meet Eddie, he's an ultra-cool, fatalistic piano player clocking time in a working man's bar every night from nine until two a.m.

He's aloof, seemingly unaware of events transpiring around him, and as exempt from the demands of normal interactions between human-beings and the emotional entanglements that accompany them as a bird on a wire.

As we learn almost 2/3rds of the way through the novel, Eddie has been rendered passive due to a series of unfortunate events a cruel and uncar
Loved this one - the atmosphere of impending doom, the strong/silent character of the piano player and the way that the different storylines all came together to create a very satisfying ending.
Supposed to be the April read for the Pulp Fiction group but once I started it a couple of days ago, I couldn't put it down and I couldn't wait that long to finish it. Got better and better the more I read - one of my all time favourites.
Feb 27, 2012 Algernon rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2012, favorites
WOW !!! I have seen Tirez sur le pianiste by Francois Truffaut two or three times but I never bothered to check the writing credits, and didn't expect the book to be so much more devastating than the movie.

I would not say Goodis is as good as Chandler or Hammett when it comes to wisecracks and plot twists, I would rather compare him to James M Cain in the focus on characters rather than mystery.

Shoot the Piano Player is a straightforward story of a man dealt a cruel hand of cards by Fate. The
Apr 04, 2013 Michael rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: noir, crime, pulp, 1950s
Haunted by his past, Eddie plays to forget. Hiding from life, he plays nightly at a small joint on Skid Row; a place for hookers, lowlifes and crooks. A washed-up classical pianist, he finds himself bottoming out — he’s only care in the world is stroking the keys in this dive bar. When his brothers get in trouble with some gangsters, he finds himself being dragged into the chaos of his no-good family.

David Goodis really knows how to create a bleak world, which I did find myself being sucked into
Jun 24, 2012 Stenwjohnson rated it liked it
“The answer’s on page three…thing is there ain’t no page three.”

David Goodis is part of a growing number of noir writers from the 1940s and 1950s who have been enshrined in the Library of America's catalog. But don't mistake it for belated canonization-- There's always been fashionable, nagging intellectual respect for vintage crime novels and their redolent aura of jazz, cinematic menace, and images of poetically hard-bitten urban America. it's especially true in France, where Goodis' 1956 nove
May 11, 2012 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: noirboiled
Why do so many readers rank David Goodis so highly in the pantheon of noir? My theory goes like this: His best books, including Down There, are remarkable primarily for their restraint. Goodis does his best writing when he doesn't overtax his talent by trying to do too much. Thus, good Goodis gives you no complicated criminal plots, no overwrought sexual hijinks. He's simple and he's bleak, and therefore he gets credit for a kind of noir purity and for a corresponding artistic ambition. But in t ...more
Apr 05, 2014 Franky rated it it was amazing
I’m so glad this book was brought to my attention. I thoroughly enjoyed Shoot the Piano Player. This is an exceptional reading experience, one that will leave you thinking and reflecting long after the final page. I think it separates itself from crime novels in that it is quite moralistic and cerebral; it entertains and is dark at points, but it goes well beyond this.

David Goodis writing in Shoot the Piano Player is exceptionally reflective. It takes you inside characters and their situations.
Sam Quixote
Noir is one of the most well-defined genres in all literature. However, for better or worse, after writers like Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett popularised the genre, it more-or-less ceased to develop any further. It was so well defined in fact that even by the mid-50s, writers could churn out a recognisably noir novel using the well worn archetypical characters and scenarios. But few could reach the same heights as Chandler, and one of these imitators was David Goodis.

In Down There, aka
Rebecca McNutt
Oct 10, 2015 Rebecca McNutt rated it really liked it
Consistently fast-paced and gripping, Shoot the Piano Player is a very original and unforgettable book, with a really surreal writing style.
Apr 12, 2013 J. rated it really liked it
Overall a signature outing, a key Goodis novel that rivals Dark Passage.

We begin with an overly long set-piece in a a dive bar (the dive bar that would be the cover set if this were a tv mini-series) that just won't let up on the clichés-- but this and much more are all forgiven once the onslaught takes place.

(Getting to know the weaknesses of Goodis, there are flashes here of his admiration for working-class drama like Streetcar Named Desire and On The Waterfront, powerful for a blue-collar wri
Trent Zelazny
Aug 13, 2011 Trent Zelazny rated it it was amazing
This may very well be my very favorite book.
Sep 16, 2011 Denali rated it it was amazing
a beautiful, spare story that seems like it would be one massive steaming cliche but is executed with unbelievable finesse. this is great noir.
Robin Friedman
Jul 31, 2014 Robin Friedman rated it it was amazing
David Goodis' 1956 novel "Down There" inspired Francois Truffaut's 1960 film "Shoot the Piano Player" which in turn inspired this 1990 reissue of the book under the name of the movie. Goodis' (1917 -- 1967) reputation has grown with the years. His many noir novels were published in cheap paperback editions which quickly went out of print. With the Library of America's publication of "Down There" (under its proper name) in a volume devoted to 1950s noir, and LOA's recent publication of a volume d ...more
Aug 15, 2012 William rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: noir fans, crime fiction fans
Recommended to William by: Steven Pham
If you are a follower of film noir, you hear a lot about "Shoot the Piano Player," arguably one of Truffaut's best-known films following his breakthrough, "The 400 Blows."

But I hate to admit that until my friend and former journalism student Steve Pham pulled my coat, I had never heard of "Down There," the terse noir novel it is based on, or its author, David Goodis, even though Goodis had written the book "Dark Passage" on which one of my favorite Humphrey Bogart films was based.

I read the Blac
Jun 03, 2012 Cody rated it really liked it
Shelves: mid-century
Shoot the Piano Player—or Down There, as it was originally titled—is a very fine piece of noir. It has all of the hallmarks of the genre: a cool and detached protagonist that finds himself in more and more trouble, hardboiled language, gangsters, and, of course, a dame. It’s a tale about the other side of the coin, the calm and confident character with an unlikely past and a dark, wild side. It’s a reminder that you can’t escape who you are and where you come from, that what seems buried and for ...more
Richard Bon
Jun 20, 2011 Richard Bon rated it it was amazing
This was the first Goodis I've read and I intend to read more of his work. I loved this book for the simplicity and depth of its protagonist, Eddie, and its intense, fast paced action. Goodis doesn't waste the reader's time with a single superfluous word as he zips us through three tumultuous, tragic days in Eddie's life, a life he'd taken pains to keep simple, unattached in recent years after a previous existence ended in devastation, his life and dreams destroyed. It all comes full circle.

To m
Jul 25, 2014 Piker7977 rated it really liked it
Shelves: crime-mystery
Shoot the Piano Player is unique among the classic crime genre. Not quite as avant garde as Thompson yet more creative than Chandler. This tale has all of the classic earmarks: a haunting past, female temptation, desperation, violence, and paranoia. Rather than follow a traditional narrative, Goodis's characters are swept up in an event that transforms into a current of danger. The actual mystery of the story becomes apparent at the end in a satisfying yet tragic ending. There is a lot to like i ...more
Ty Wilson
Mar 31, 2014 Ty Wilson rated it really liked it
Shelves: noir, 2014, crime
This is an excellent book in the great noir tradition. Eddie the piano player has bottomed out, playing in a ramshackle bar for the lowest strata of society. His past and his bleak future collide one night when his brother arrives in the bar, on the run from a pair of gun-toting thugs full of bad intentions. When Eddie steps in to help his brother escape, the die is cast that will spin Eddie's simple little existence off its axis and send him careening toward a conclusion that he's been running ...more
Apr 13, 2014 AC rated it liked it
Shelves: crime-mystery
Overrated. 3.5 stars, in my book. Some great writing - love a book that mentions Art Tatum AND Bud Powell... but the second half got to be canned movie script -- the slang was dated and not believable; most of the characters were cardboard - except for Eddie - but that just wasn't enough to carry even a meager 157 pages.
Jul 19, 2010 Andrewh rated it really liked it
This great little noir is a useful corrective to the sligthly adolescent imaginings of neo-noir. here, the downbeat low-life characters interact in difficult situations with violent and tragic outcomes, without verbal pyrotechnics. Truffaut's film version was a snazzy bit of Nouvelle Vague nonsense, but the feeling of this work is nearer to the losers' cinema of Aki Kurasmaki.
Nov 28, 2008 Caty rated it it was ok
Okay enough noir. Some pointless, almost laughable tragedies, but that's how the genre goes. Well written enough. Etc. I think the Truffuat movie might be better.
But I totally fetishize 40s and 50s underclass subculture, so it was fun.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
books by same author 3 7 May 31, 2014 06:09AM  
Pulp Fiction: April 2014 - Shoot the Piano Player 17 60 Apr 29, 2014 07:58PM  
  • The Hot Spot
  • A Hell of a Woman
  • Pick-Up
  • The Big Clock
  • Rendezvous in Black
  • In a Lonely Place
  • The Asphalt Jungle
  • The Real Cool Killers (Harlem Cycle, #2)
  • Thieves Like Us
  • Fast One
  • Nightmare Alley
  • Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye
  • Crime Novels: American Noir of the 1930s & 40s
Born and bred in Philadelphia, David Goodis was an American noir fiction writer. He grew up in a liberal, Jewish household in which his early literary ambitions were encouraged. After a short and inconclusive spell at at the University of Indiana, he returned to Philadelphia to take a degree in journalism, graduating in 1937.
More about David Goodis...

Share This Book

“It's just that I'm curious, that's all. He usually walks alone" "Yeah, he's a loner, all right," the waitress murmured. "Even when he's with someone, he's alone.” 6 likes
“I think the way to stop it is to shrug it off. Or take it with your tongue in your cheek. Sure, that's the system. At any rate, it's the system that works for you. It's the automatic control board that keeps you out there where nothing matters, where it's only you and the keyboard and nothing else. Because it's gotta be that way. You gotta stay clear of anything serious.” 1 likes
More quotes…