My Bouchercon 2016 panel: Odds Against Tomorrow
Melodrama fell out of favor in the middle of last century, perhaps after French movie critics came up with a fancier name for the mid-century American movies that were called melodramas when they first appeared. The French called them films noirs and unleashed a wave of cultural cachet that swept up everything in its path.
So, what's melodramatic about Odds Against Tomorrow?: Two men, one white, one black, thrown together when a bank heist goes wrong and forced to overcome mutual hatred and suspicion and yadda, yadda, yadda (McGivern's novel was the basis of the 1959 movie starring Harry Belafonte and Robert Ryan and produced by Belafonte.) What saves the novel from being a brave, dated relic? Astonishing characterization like this:
"He wasn't worried about failure, because he didn't have the imagination to picture disaster in vivid and personal terms."The taut professionalism of McGivern's work. The repetition of certain words that work through, with, under, and around the narrative, reinforcing it and building suspense: Confused. Confusion. Unconscious (impressions). Co-protagonist Earl Slater's invocation of his military background. Johnny Ingram's cool. Some delicious plotting, much of it involving the interpersonal dynamics between Slater and Ingram. The canny decision to add a brief coda so the novel does not end on the somewhat schmaltzy note that brings the main action to a close. McGivern knew what he was doing.
|(Poster by Jon Jordan)|
© Peter Rozovsky 2016