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The Burglar

3.98  ·  Rating Details  ·  289 Ratings  ·  33 Reviews
A dreamlike masterpiece of crime, honor, and perverse loyalty by the legendary author of Shoot the Piano Player.

Nat Harbin is a family man.His family happens to be a gang of burglars.Now Nat has met a woman so hypnotically seductive that he will leave his partners and his trade to possess her.But you don't get away from family that easily.

The Burglar has the hallmarks that
Published 1953 by Lion
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May 26, 2012 Ed rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: classic noir fans
4.5 stars, really. Call it serendipity or whatever, but I read THE BURGLAR (1953) while revising my own work-in-progress which is about thieves pulling off a diamond heist. Goodis has his gang of five thieves (4 men and a lady) rip off a cache of emeralds from a mansion in a posh enclave of Philadelphia. Nat Harbin, the boss and brains, fools a pair of cops who come nosing around during the robbery to get lost.

The gang manages to finish the emerald caper and return to their seedy hideout they c
Jul 17, 2012 Josh rated it really liked it
Underneath the facade' of a heist novel lies a story about a damaged man who slowly finds himself, only to loose his tender grip on a perfect reality just as he begins to grasp it. Nat Harbin grew up, fostered by a thief, raised as one, consumed by the idea and thrill of the take. Deeper than most in the sub genre, 'The Burglar' inches towards literature by virtue of its core plot element and rationalisation of character. For Nat, the deducer, evaluator, and strategist, planning, execution and r ...more
Richard Vialet
Lean, mean, and terribly bleak, once this story starts moving it's pretty hard to break away from it until the haunting ending (one of the best endings I've read)! This was my first novel by the nearly forgotten David Goodis and it won't be my last.

Example of Goodis's poetic bleakness:
“He couldn’t speak. The thing that crushed down on him was the sum weight of all the years, and her voice was a lance cutting through it, breaking it all up and showing him it added up to nothing but a horrible jok
Heath Lowrance
Sep 14, 2013 Heath Lowrance rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Nat Harbin is a burglar with a strong sense of obligation to his "family"-- that is, the other thieves in his little circle. The strongest obligation is to Gladden, the girl he's been looking after since her father (Nat's instructor in the art of burglary) was killed. This responsibility is Nat's closest link to humanity, and it's also his curse. It's a great weight on his soul, but one he can't shed. After a big heist in which the gang snatches a fortune in emeralds, the dynamics between them a ...more
Oct 31, 2014 Steven rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I ducked out of work early just so I could sit down and finish reading this book. That’s my recommendation. It’s always a mystery why some writers get anointed and not others. Why Raymond Carver instead of Lee K. Abbott? (Imagine how different late 20th century American short fiction would be if Abbott had been on the pantheon and everyone tried to imitate him instead of Carver?). Likewise, why were Chandler and Cain inducted and Goodis forgotten? Clearly Goodis was appreciated by Film Noir dire ...more
Jul 17, 2014 PinkieBrown rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Astonishing brevity and concision in its emotional content. More of an allegory than a crime story; about honour and things much more important than one's profession and how good you are at it. The irony of the title, that this is about duty and love rising above wealth and greed; whilst the framework of a heist story is constructed to deliver high impact emotions. Goodis throws these feelings into conflict as Harbin stands in confusion between two incredible women. The ending, especially, feels ...more
Jun 25, 2016 Piker7977 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime-mystery
Nat Harbin is a burglar. Highly skilled, professional, and confident. This is why he heads a motley gang. Each member has their own skill and hangup. One is meticulous when it comes to planning but is perpetually complaining. One is a brute but with a quick temper. And the girl is swift but lacks in the brains department. Does this sound like an all-star crew you would want to run?

After a successful score, Harbin makes the acquaintance of a tanned bombshell. Following her toward a new beginning
Mar 15, 2008 Andy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: noir fans, crime suspense stories
Shelves: pulp-fiction
Creepy crawly tale of a burnt out house burglar and his vow to take care of his mentor's daughter while a crooked policeman and his B-Girl accomplice stalk them for some stolen jewels.

One of David Goodis' better suspense stories, and the novel's short length means there's no literary lollygagging going on to slow down the action. The movie starring Jayne Mansfield and Dan Duryea is great, but this book is just as good.
Krok Zero
Jan 25, 2011 Krok Zero rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: winter-10-to-11
It's fucked up, how dark and miserable those pulp guys in the '50s sometimes got. Something was in the water. This is a perfectly balanced crime novel -- 100% bleak without losing its humanity, tightly structured without sacrificing its poetic style. The ending maybe overreaches a bit toward operatic tragedy, but the story is so vivid it almost feels like it's unfolding in slow motion. Hardcore stuff.
Jul 11, 2007 Jim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: The doomed
This was my second time reading The Burglar. The set-up is oddly reminiscent of Richard Stark's/Lawrence Block Parker novels, but this came long before those books. Goodis's vision is so relentlessly bleak it seems impossible that the write so beautifully. The last four pages of the novel stayed with me for over a decade and they're even better than I remember.
Feb 22, 2016 Elena rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dark, concise, introspective. I simply couldn't put it down. I haven't been familiar with noir fiction so far, but we should all start from somewhere.
THE BURGLAR. (1953). David Goodis. ***.
After reading this novel by Goodis, I finally realized that he was really trying to write love stories – not crime novels. He covered up his attempts by setting his love stories within the world of crime, but they have finally been exposed, at least I have finally uncovered his secret. In this adventure, we meet Nathaniel Harbin, the head of a gang of thieves. These include two men, Baylock and Dohmer, and one woman, Gladden. Gladden is the daughter of the
Jan 28, 2015 David rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was recommended to me as an excellent example of the crime novel, and it didn't disappoint. It's lean prose shoots you along to a memorable ending that will stay with you long after you close the book's cover.
the gift
something to be said for a story that goes exactly where you expect, direct and concise, does not bore or distract from plot. the first goodis i have read, though i have seen truffaut’s film shoot the piano player. lean, direct, from ’53. i see the overwhelming style of hemingway in dialog and short, punchy, description of emotional stoicism. and kerouac in workmanlike prose, cool, rootless, losers. sharp. simple plot. embedded morality. have they made a film out of this- yes but have not seen i ...more
Paul Oliver
Feb 10, 2013 Paul Oliver rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is perhaps Goodis' greatest piece of writing. Tightly wound from beginning to end, THE BURGLAR has the added quality of being a seminal work, which would engender the wonderful burglar fiction of Donald Westlake, Garry Disher, Richard Stark and Timothy Hallinan.
Mike Jensen
It is interesting that while I remember liking this book well enough, I do not remember the story, the characters, or the style at all. I am now adding books to goodreads from 1999. I remember pretty much all of them quite well. This book clearly did not make a lasting impression.
Jul 21, 2014 Viktor rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
AWESOME for 2/3 of the book, but unbelievable for the last 1/3. So, to save themselves, they swim OUT to sea? HUH? When everything is so smart early on, then to see everything go so stupid at the end hurts.
Carla Remy
Sep 17, 2015 Carla Remy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Huge parts of this book I utterly, utterly loved. But there were also parts I found cheesy or vague or something.
Daphne Vogel
Jun 23, 2015 Daphne Vogel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Pretty brilliant. And over too quickly. Like any Goodis novel I've read.
"Leave 'em wanting more."
Oct 20, 2015 Carla rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dreamy, poetic noir, and an over-the-top ending. Pretty great atuff.
Lars Guthrie
Feb 27, 2009 Lars Guthrie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My cousin the writer was touting Charles Portis and I remembered that I had meant to read 'True Grit' after reading George Pelecanos's 'A Life in Books' squib in Newsweek last year where he categorized 'Grit' as 'A Book You Hope Parents Read to Their Kids.' So I went back to look at that and there as runner-up to the number one 'The Long Goodbye' in his 'My Five Most Important Crime Novels' was 'The Burglar.' I have it in my little noir library, so reread it. Stone cold great American hard-boile ...more
Martin Stanley
Sep 23, 2013 Martin Stanley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Enjoyed it a lot, but I had a problem with some considerable repetition of words within passages of prose. It's not bad writing, as such, but after a while the constant use of the same words in sentences and paragraphs started to grate. I've read other Goodis books that don't have this issue, so it's possible Goodis made this stylistic choice for a reason. Whatever the reason, it took the gloss off what would otherwise be a solid-gold noir performance. It is still a very good tale though.
Dated to a degree, but the beginning of really great noir.
Hari Brandl
Jun 23, 2016 Hari Brandl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good solid writing, well-developed characters, fast paced action, some interesting insights into the criminal mind. An enjoyable read, however dated the mores of the time.
2.5 rounded up to three. I'm just about done with Goodis. He gets the mood right. His strengths are flashbacks and background montages; these bits are quite cinematic. But overall, his stuff feels thin when compared with Chandler and Hammett.
Jun 16, 2011 Admiral rated it really liked it
Shelves: noi-noi-noiiirrr
Emeralds - Green. Hero - Blue. Dame - Scarlet. Plot - Purple.
Cop - Puce. Girl - Golden. Ocean - Noir.
Don't you just love them old black-and-white movies.
Oliver Hodson
May 02, 2014 Oliver Hodson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My, my, what a book, a big pool of dread of a noir!
Aug 24, 2015 David rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Can't remember specifically why I gave up on this plot twist was bit too much but it's a bit blurry
Dec 19, 2013 Amy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: cult-fiction
A good little noir story about an emerald heist gone wrong, and about honor. And love, and betrayal, of course.
Andy Biggs
The writing is excellent. It is an extremely dark tale. Circumstances own all of these people.
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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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