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Shoot the Piano Player

4.02 of 5 stars 4.02  ·  rating details  ·  2,031 ratings  ·  104 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 (first published 1956)
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Glenn Russell

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 24, 2014 Melki rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: crime
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
Andrew Smith
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
Aug 12, 2012 Janice rated it 2 of 5 stars
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
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
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
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
Mar 27, 2014 Still rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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
Ben Winch
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
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.
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
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
“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
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
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
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.
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
This may very well be my very favorite book.
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
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
Ty Wilson
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
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.
I was surprised how closely the Truffaut film followed the book. Bleak and depressing with wonderful writing. There is no adventure here, just characters hopelessly stumbling forward through life with eruptions of violence . I need to read a comedy for a change of pace.
Robin Friedman
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
May 09, 2014 Jim rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: noir
According to my records, I had read this book 22 years ago. Having just now finished re-reading it, I don't see how I could have forgotten it. I am familiar with the movie Shoot the Piano Player starring Charles Aznavour and directed by Francois Truffaut. It is based on this book by David Goodis originally entitled Down There. The edition I read was in the Library of America series entitled Crime Novels: American Noir of the 1950s, next to four other great noir masterpieces by Jim Thompson, Patr ...more
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.
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.
This is my idea of how noir ought to be done. There's none of the sentimentality of Woolrich found here, this is dark, hard, often violent stuff. This is a story of has-beens and losers, the central character is an aloof, damaged man who had potential to be a famous pianist, but in the end he finds himself down in the gutter with everyone else. It’s his guilt and self-loathing that makes him a lesser man. Yet there's still a touch of romance and hope to be found in the story, and the potential f ...more
Kirk Marshall
Again, not a totalising or comprehensively-delineated review, but a thumbnail sketch of my immediate impressions and emotive reactions while reading this: Goodis's Down There (a.k.a. Shoot the Piano Player, as it has been immortalised on celluloid in the impressionistic, satiny François Truffaut divertissement which bears all the cinematic signifiers of Gallic cool which we've now come to correlate with European film noir as a genre) is probably the best example of hardboiled existentialist crim ...more
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books by same author 3 7 May 31, 2014 06:09AM  
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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.
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