Friday, January 16, 2009

Friday's Forgotten Books: Odds Against Tomorrow by William P. McGivern

Earl Slater is a small time crook. He hooks up with a gang planning to pull off a bank heist, and the plan seems solid until the local sheriff, who suspects these strangers in his town may be up to trouble, fouls up their plan. Slater is wounded in a standoff yet he escapes with another accomplice, John Ingram. They find refuge in a farmhouse owned by an elderly couple. At first, Slater doesn't trust Ingram and holds a gun on him. But when he sees no other option, he convinces Ingram to locate his girlfriend, Lorraine, for help, which Ingram does. As the sheriff's dragnet tightens these desperate characters plan their escape.

McGivern's writing is compelling, poetic and delivers a strong wallop. Though the plot was straightforward, the characters were morally conflicted, setting up unpredictable circumstances. Odds pushes Slater, a racist, into a position where he must overcome his hangups as he places his life in the hands of Ingram, an African American.

This was my first McGivern book but it won't be the last.

Other McGivern links:
Bleeker Books bio
Rogue Cop review by James Reasoner
Police Special review by Bob Schneider
Death Runs Faster review by Bill Crider

Click here for more Friday's Forgotten Books on Pattinase

14 comments:

ARCHAVIST said...

The book souds interesting - I love this forgotten book section. Over so many blogs I get to read about so many authors I might not otherwise heard of. I'll add the name to my list to look out for.

Corey Wilde said...

I just discovered McGivern's work a few months ago, my first read was 'Very Cold for May,' which I thoroughly enjoyed for its sophisticated dialogue (very Nick and Nora-ish). Then I read 'The Big Heat,' which was pretty much standard crime fiction fare for its day, and right after that TCM showed the film based on your book, 'Odds Against Tomorrow.' Pretty good film. Robert Ryan was perfectly cast as the racist. Harry Belafonte wasn't bad, but he didn't have Ryan's chops. Poitier would have been a better casting choice. Anyway, I'm on the look out for more of McGivern's books.

Ray said...

Yes-I was beating my brains out because I recognised the title as one that I had read years ago but I didn't know that it had been turned into a movie.
Have to admit, though, that I had forgotten about the book's existence until you posted this.

David: Thought you might like Julie London.

David Cranmer said...

Archavist, I remember that hardboiled piece you wrote for A Twist of Noir and this book would be along those lines. I'm sure you would enjoy it.

Corey, I will remember VERY COLD FOR MAY because I intend to collect as many of McGivern's books as I can find. I read the movie plot for ODDS AGAINST TOMORROW on Wikipedia and discovered there's a completely different ending which sounds better than the book. And I agree, Poitier would have been a stronger actor in the role.

Ray, Julie is a complete rediscovery for me. I watched her as a kid on Emergency! and now I'm hooked on her greatest hits. "Come On A My House" is my favorite track but they are all top notch.

Jacob Weaver said...

I love a good "on the run" story and this sounds like it's right up my alley. Thanks for reviewing it and bringing it to my attention.

Charles Gramlich said...

I like good poetic writing. I"m finally getting around now to reading The Maltese falcon. Enjoying it very much

pattinase (abbott) said...

Thanks, David.

Cloudia said...

Very well written review, David!
Aloha-

Todd Mason said...

McGivern wrote a lot of routine fantasy and worse sf while submitting to Howard Browne's FANTASTIC ADVENTURES, FANTASTIC, and AMAZING STORIES after the other Ziff-Davis fiction magazines MAMMOTH DETECTIVE, etc., were folded...he was one among many doing so, but his fantasies were more likely than anyone else's in that group to actually be engaging. (FANTASTIC ADVENTURES and such also enjoyed the services of such stellar fantastic-fiction writers as Robert Bloch and Fritz Leiber...Browne, unlike a few of the other Ziff-Davis editors, didn't actually discourage good submissions.) He got more serious with his crime fiction writing (as did Browne) by the mid-'50s, as I understand it.

The film version of ODDS AGAINST TOMORROW has the most overt the top ending of any film I can recall, and I've been meaning to read this book for years.

David Cranmer said...

Jacob, De nada!

Charles, The Maltese Falcon is extraordinary but I'm a bigger fan of The Thin Man. There's something about that dialogue between Nick and Nora that's magical.

Patti, Gracias!

Cloudia, Aloha!

Todd, The ending (that I read) to the movie seems a little heavy handed wheras the book was realistic and poignant... From the sounds of it I may pass on his sci-fi offerings.

Todd Mason said...

As far as I know, his sf and his fantasy were not ever collected in book form...so you're safe from his skiffy, unless you collect the magazines. His fantasies actually are pleasant reading, usually, and as FANTATIC ADVENTURES started featuring major writers such as Theodore Sturgeon, Margaret St. Clair, and William Tenn, a few of his fantasies were even a bit ambitious (I read a rather surreal piece by him in one of them, perhaps the same issue as features Leiber's YOU'RE ALL ALONE, a very excellent noirish fantasy/borderline horror). So, you could do worse, but pursuing his cf novels probably means you're doing better.

Todd Mason said...

And when I write that the end to the film of ODDS AGAINST TOMORROW is the most over the top I've ever seen, it's not hyperbole. It works, but it's simulataneously rdidiculous. Kinda like the end of the film version of KISS ME DEADLY, only less intentionally estranging.

Another attraction of the film is the John Lewis score, played in part by the members of Lewis's the Modern Jazz Quartet. I heard the MJQ's soundtrack album a decade before seeing the film, and now it's been about twenty years since I first saw the film, clearly time to read the novel...

David Cranmer said...

The music of the Modern Jazz Quartet would be a definite plus for me... I'm impressed that he seemed to have success in both genres and then went on to write for various television shows. What a great career.

Barbara Martin said...

These forgotten books you've been posting about is lengthening my TBR list, so I'm going out in the cold this weekend to a couple of old bookstores to browse to see if I can locate any ot them. Thanks, David, for increasing my reading range.