Noir Poets: William P. McGivern

New York, 1957

Earl Slater – the white man:

Earl limped about pointlessly examining the junk on top of the mantel, studying the sturdy old beams and floor boards, pausing once to frown at the broken radio on the table. I’ll never see any of this again, he thought. Never see this room again in my life. Why should that bother him? he wondered. It was a cold, stinking dump. No man in his right mind would want to see it again. But leaving it reminded him of the other places he had left. He stood fingering the glass, while a dizzying succession of rooms and barracks and Army camps flashed through his mind. He was always the guy who had to leave, he thought. Everybody else stayed put, cozy and snug, while he hit the road. He never went back anywhere. There was no place on earth that called out to him, no stick or stone or blade of grass that belonged to him and nobody else.

Was it because he was dumb? Because he couldn’t feel what other people felt? The confident peace he had known after talking with Ingram had deserted him; he was uncertain again, worried and tense, afraid of the shadows in his mind.

Talking with Ingram he had licked this feeling. Or thought he had. Everybody was alone. Not just him, everybody. But what the hell did that mean? How did knowing that help you? he wondered.

Johnny Ingram – the black man:

A state trooper in a blue drill uniform was staring curiously at Ingram’s tear-filled eyes. “What have you got to cry about?” he said. “You’re not hurt.”

“Never mind,” a voice cut in quietly. Ingram recognized the voice of the big sheriff in Crossroads. “Let him alone.” The authority in the sheriff’s voice was unmistakable, but so was the understanding; the trooper turned away with a shrug, and Ingram wept in peace.

Later he was taken outside on a stretcher. The rain had stopped but a sprinkling of water from the trees mingled with the blood and tears on his face. Far above him he saw a single star shining in the sky. Everything was dark but the star, he thought. In his mind there was a darkness made up of pain and fear and loneliness, but through it all the memory of Earl blazed with a brilliant radiance. Without one you couldn’t have the other, he realized slowly. Without the darkness there wouldn’t be any stars. It was worth it then. Whatever it cost, it was worth it. . . .

One thought on “Noir Poets: William P. McGivern”

  1. I’ll add this to the festivities here:

    “Novak leaned back on the bed and the overhead light touched the speculative glimmer in his little eyes. “It’s a kind of a decisive age though. At thirty-five a guy should know whether or not he’s going to make it.” He grinned at Earl’s puzzled frown, and then his eyes wandered casually over Earl’s suit and shoes. “How do you figure you’re doing? Got it made yet?” (from Odds Against Tomorrow”).

    This is one of McGivern’s two big achievements (the other is his authorship of the source material for the great noir, THE BIG HEAT.) Interestingly enough, with my recent examination of William Castle, I found that McGivern penned the screenplay for the director’s 1965 film, I SAW WHAT YOU DID.

    Fabulous post! 😉


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: