You want to know Noir than pick up this or any other book by the best of the best, David Goodis. He’s a master and his books are very tough to put down. This one involves a man who is at the end of his rope and it’s mostly all his doing. The characters are great and most are ones you hope you never meet.
James Bevan takes four weeks off. He and his wife Cora go to Kingston,Jamaica. She’s frigid and that makes him impotent. That turns him into an alcoholic. One night at the hotel bar he gets so drunk he passes out and a guest has to help him to his room. He’s Mr.Atkinson, the divorced father of three. He’s paying his wife alimony out of guilt. He caught her with someone else and broke her jaw. That doesn’t stop Cora from becoming attracted to him.
James thinks back to a hooker named Lita. Because Cora doesn’t respond he pays Lita so much a week to be his exclusively. It’s a good arrangement until Cora tells him she followed him to the bar where he meets her. He tells Lita he’s calling off their arrangement. She commits suicide.
Back to the present. James goes to a dive called Winnie’s Place in the Kingston slums. One night he gets blotto and behind him a brawl breaks out between Norwegian sailors and the locals. He gets out of there only to be mugged in an alley. The mugger hits him a few times with a blackjack but James manages to get hold of a bottle, break it and stab him in the throat.
A blood soaked James shows up back at the hotel room. Cora takes care of him. The next day in the dining room Nathan Joyner comes in. He says he saw James kill the man and wants five thousand dollars. He has the bottle with James’s fingerprints and the blackjack. Cora can only get fifteen hundred cash so he takes it.
Later on James hears that a career criminal has been picked up for the crime. He goes back to Winnie’s and she tells him her brother was picked up for murder. Feeling guilty he goes to the police station but the Inspector doesn’t believe him. He’s determined to make it right and goes to a slum neighborhood to confront Nathan. Close to Nathan’s place he’s mugged.
Don’t want to give away too much. This is well worth hunting for. Luckily there was a new edition published by Hard Case Crime in 2006 so it’s easy to find.