No, no, the title isn’t a reference either to Guy Debord or Scott Walker, though I suppose by saying that, I’ve sort of turned it into one. Rather it’s a reference to David Goodis. That’s him above.
This being the season of good will and good cheer, any man with blood in his veins is likely need a bit of hairy-chested, noir fiction, to remind himself of other possibilities. And so, over the weekend, I read Goodis’s “Black Pudding” in Manhunt magazine, December 1953. That’s it below.
The magazine describes it as a “novelette” though I think most of us would say it was a short story of fairly average length. The metaphor lodged in that title is slightly lost on me: one of the characters says, “It’s a choice you have to make. Either you’ll drink bitter poison or you’ll taste that sweet black pudding.” That would be the sweet black pudding of revenge, but you know, still .... Apparently there’s a TV adaptation starring Kelly Lynch as Hilda.
Goodis was a massively prolific writer which no doubt explains why his output is so mixed, but I think there’s a pretty top notch noir paragraph right before the climax of “Black Pudding.” The hero, Kenneth Rockland, watches his ex-wife, Hilda, from outside the house she’s holed up in.
“She moved with a slow weaving of her shoulders and a flow of her hips that was more drifting than walking. He thought. She still has it, that certain way of moving around, using her body like a long-stemmed lily in a quiet breeze. That’s what got you the first time you laid eyes on her. The way she moves. And one time you said to her, ‘To set me on fire, all you have to do is walk across a room.’”
OK, I could probably do without the long-stemmed lily, but otherwise, I like that. I like that a lot. There is actually a far more overwrought reference to walking in Goodis’s The Burglar. In which the hero and his woman are strolling on the boardwalk in Atlantic City, watching the other strollers. He says, "Look at them walking. When they take a walk, they take a walk, and that's all. But you and I, when we take a walk it's like crawling through a pitch black tunnel."