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Street of No Return

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  429 ratings  ·  38 reviews
“David Goodis is the mystery man of hardboiled fiction.”—Geoffrey O’Brien

In Street of No Return, we meet the pathetic figure of Whitey. Once upon a time Whitey was a crooner with a million-dollar voice and a standing invitation from any woman who heard him use it. Until he had the bad luck to fall for Celia. And then nothing would ever be the same.

In Street of No Return,
Paperback, 252 pages
Published May 1st 2007 by Centipede Press (first published 1952)
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Average rating 3.96  · 
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Goodis is known for writing gloomy books, and this is definitely one of them. It starts at the bottom and stays there. Whitey was once a famous singer whose precious throat gets ripped to shreds after he refuses to let go of his love for Celia, a dancer and gangster's girl. Now he's a down-and-out drunk living on Skid Row for seven years and going nowhere. One night, he decides to actually go somewhere and finds himself on a dark adventure in the Philly "Hellhole" neighborhood on one eventful ...more
Carla Remy
Mar 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Very dark and more unpleasant than not, but ending on a very satisfying note, with the depth that Goodis always seems to have.
Oct 12, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
'Street Of No Return' is one of my favourite Goodis novels. It's multi layered, has an interesting central character and a deep interlocking plot. Goodis views race riots, alcoholism, murder, police corruption and a deep seeded longing for a better place all through a tainted glass beer bottle. Whitey, a bum amongst bums, is mistaken for a murderer after trying to aide a felled police officer in a dark alleyway. His trip to the station house brings insight into the world around him. Danger and ...more
May 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Definitely noir fans!
David Goodis's star is ascending in the noir writers' skies. He had a Library of America volume of his five novels appear this year. Goodis is an ace on several fronts. For instance, I like his breezy dialogue that sounds authentic to my ear. I like his characters, especially the protagonist Whitey in STREET OF NO RETURN. Once a promising golden-throated crooner (did his career remind you of a young Sinatra?), Whitey's life has wrecked, but the Skid Row lush still rises to the occasion to do one ...more
Sep 20, 2007 rated it it was amazing
David Goodis is the 3:00 A.M. poet of the lost and the forgotten - in other words the damned. Remarkable novelist that reads like a noir as a feverish nightmare. Wonderful book.
Curt Buchmeier
Oct 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
This was my first experience with a David Goodis book and, thinking about the story and the style over the last couple of days, it's better than three stars. Goodis does a great job of establishing most of the characters, none were predictable or stereotypical. And, after a so-so start, he does a good job of taking the reader on a wild, if not quite believable, ride over the course of one night in the late-forties, in what were then the rougher parts of Philadelphia(Precinct 37, I think).
081010: second review: this is the last of five novels of the goodis anthology, here republished by library of America, again i up the rating, for this one seems almost like his particular template- fast, lean, pathetic, poetic. or maybe just the archetype for him, all the usual suspects: sensitive artist type, thin frail blonde, criminals, cops, and then same plot: artist blindsided by love, girl held back by criminals, ruined and debased world vs transcendent purity of love, lost, lost, ...more
Eddie Watkins
Jan 18, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: american-fiction
A "better" written Goodis novel - more care per sentence, more strategic distribution of plot shifts and tensions - and also possibly an attempt at wider appeal by shifting focus from within his characters' haunted psyches to social conditions - race relations, public corruption - of an external world and the characters' positions therein, perhaps attempting to move beyond what I read were his typical readers - men seeking dark, cheap thrills - but as gripped as I was by his usual street-level ...more
Sep 24, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: washed-up crooners
Recommended to Andy by: a washed-up crooner
Shelves: pulp-fiction
Some outrageous business about a Frank Sinatra type crooner who gets his vocal cords mangled, so since he can't sing anymore he becomes a Skid Row lush in Philadelphia (Goodis Town). He's stuck in the middle of a race war between Puerto Ricans and the cops. It doesn't get more depressing than this.
Daniel Polansky
A crooner turned alcoholic bum is framed for killing a police officer during a race riot. It’s weird that the most revered genre writers, at least when it comes to mystery, tend not to have any of the qualities that genre books are supposed to have. Chandler, for instance, couldn’t plot a narrative to save his life and Chester Himes’s stuff similarly has a weird tendency to run out in strange directions. Not that I’d put Goodis in that category, but he does have that interesting quality of a ...more
Christopher Fulbright
Jul 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: crime
STREET OF NO RETURN by David Goodis is an addictive, compulsively readable book from a giant of the pulp crime era.

Open on River Street, Skid Row, a tenement’s front steps with a circle of bums staring at an empty bottle of booze, wondering where the next one’s gonna come from. The way the book starts you’d never guess that in another few pages, after learning their stories, you get the feeling you could end up like one of them. But the star of this ensemble turns out to be a bum named Whitey,
Mar 27, 2010 rated it it was amazing
By the third page I realized that I'd seen the Sam Fuller film (with Keith Carradine). There is a matter of broken vocal chords and broken heart. This book is a hard gem; be careful swallowing it, sometimes it chokes you.
Andrew Vachss
Nov 15, 2009 rated it it was amazing
An obsessed genius who didn't last long, but he could put Jim Thompson on the trailer anytime he wanted.
robin friedman
Jan 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Skid Row Meets Helltown

David Goodis' 1954, "Street of No Return" is the final work in a collection of five novels by Goodis in a recent Library of America volume: "David Goodis: Five Noir Novels of the 1940s and 50s". Goodis (1917 -- 1967) was living in his parents' home in Philadelphia when he wrote "Street of No Return" which was published as an inexpensive pulp paperback. In his younger years, Goodis had written for Hollywood and his novels have the movies in view. In 1968, Samuel Fuller
Daria Dykes
Oct 25, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction, noir-crime
If I could, I'd give it 2.5. But I won't round that up to 3.

This was an okay noir - the story unfolds over a single night between about midnight and 6 a.m., and describes the adventures of a skid row bum who catches sight of and follows a figure from his past - and gets led into trouble. This is a nice set-up and structure; I like the "real time" feel of the whole thing and I liked the gritty feel of the landscape. However, the dialog is very badly written and the protagonist is not clearly
Tim E Ogline
Jan 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Take a white knuckle thrill ride down the Street of No Return.

David Goodis takes the reader on a dark passage into the night cloaked, whiskey soaked mean streets of Philadelphia of 1954. This is a part of Philly on the wrong side of the tracks and at the bottom of the ladder... and as far from Rittenhouse Square as you can get. Bums and thugs and crooked cops struggle for the scraps cast off by polite society and battle to be king of the hill of the trash heap.

This genre defining classic tells
Lisa Ciarfella
Dec 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
Interesting, intriguing, hopelessly sad yet compelling read here! Goodis mastered capturing the flavor and tone and utter sense of desperation of both skid row and Helltown in the darkly tragic noir tale.
Found it hard to keep reading, yet impossible to put down, all at the same time. Finished it in a few hours.
Whitey is the most tragic character, doomed from the start and his femme fatale is inevitable as she takes him down without so much as a glance backwards.
Madge is one brutal thug. Pig
Nov 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing
What a great piece of 'noir' writing. We start off with three drunks sitting around scheming for their next drink. Suddenly, the quiet and wistful of the three, Whitey, sees something, stands up, and walks off. His sudden, mysterious departure takes him on a wild ride through his anonymous present and unexpected past. I'd been meaning to read more David Goodis since I read Down There in a Library of America Crime Noir collection. I read this book in two sittings. It was completely captivating. ...more
Sep 29, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good Goodis!

As usual, the main character's obsessional relationship with a woman is the start of his problems, and his refusal to give her up the catalyst for his downfall.

I liked the use of flashback to tell the story of Whitey's descent. It was reminiscent of the Paris flashback in "Casablanca", but dark, twisted and without a trace of noble sentiment at the end.

I really liked Lieutenant Pertnoy and wish Goodis had made more use of him: a very unusual police officer.
Sep 28, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: noir fans
Shelves: noir
This isn't Goodis's best but it's still well worth a read for a Goodis fan. Usual combination of his noir ethos, subtle characterization, and post-war's seamy side still works the charm. This one adds some nail-biting scenes, and has an all-in-one-night schtick that adds to the fun of the reading.
Robbin Melton
Sep 25, 2012 rated it liked it
Not bad for noir. A little slow at first, but then everything quickly comes together and ends. In a nutshell, this one's about a man who was poised to be a huge national or international singer until he fell in with another man's woman and throws his career out the window to be with her. Pleasant reading. Not the best, but decent.
Hari Brandl
Jun 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
David Goodis has become a new favorite of mine. This one was a quick read, but no less a great story for that. I enjoy this view of life through the eyes of a writer from the 40's, not as a steady diet, but I can tolerate it occasionally. Social mores were quite different then, and the treatment of his women is of the times, but not offensive.
May 16, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: crime-mystery
I didn't like this title as much as Goodis's Cassidy's Girl. It still has some great feverish Goodis prose, and the protagonist Whitey is well done (as are the villains, Chop, Bertha, and Sharkey). The plot -- murder, race riots, coincidences galore -- is a little too stretched, but again nice set pieces.
Jun 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
Another very typical Goodis work. Typical yet unique. Being a lifelong resident of Philadelphia, I find the settings of places now very changed, especially interesting. If you love Goodis, you'll love this one.
Oct 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This was my favorite of the Goodis novels in the Library of America collection. The blend of politics, crime, doomed (of course) love, and alcoholic despair make this unforgettable, and a true page-turner. I couldn't put this one down.
Aug 25, 2010 rated it liked it
Usual Goodis: Musician in the gutter, drinking, gangsters, skinny blonde, fat brunette. Some exceptional Goodisisms, especially in the inevitable passage on just how the lead drunk ended in the gutter, but pretty much rote.
Michael S
May 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
Great stuff. Really enjoy Goodis's noir. More complex than Jim Thompson (pop 1280, killer inside me). This one approached Algren in grittiness and despair. Prose not as good but an enjoyable quick read with nice plot twists.
Dec 12, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: crime-novel
Has some nice touches, but like some of his other books the plot is too preposterous to make this one really good. The 300 lb. lady who beats him up throughout the book should have had a bigger role.
Dec 06, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: noir
Classic Goodis. A so-so plot with fascinating characters, scenes and dialog. Love the dramatic irony of the ending.
Guy Salvidge
Jan 25, 2017 rated it liked it
This one reads like an inferior Shoot the Piano Player. There our protagonist previously had a glittering career playing the piano, whereas here he was a singer, but otherwise the setup is much the same. I read Street of No Return immediately after The Burglar and I am convinced that The Burglar is superior. Partly this is because of Goodis' clunky plotting. Here there are three separate groups: cops, white crims and Puerto Rican crims, all vying for control of the Hellhole in central Philly. ...more
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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.
“I lost my spinal column a good many years ago. There ain't no surgery can put it back. Even if there was, I wouldn't want it. I like it better this way. More comfortable.” 3 likes
“Her features were thin and her skin was pale and she was certainly not pretty. But it was an exciting face. It was terribly exciting because it radiated something that a man couldn't see with his eyes but could definitely feel in his bloodstream.” 2 likes
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