Friday, July 2, 2010

Kiss Tomorrow Good-bye by Horace McCoy

I don't often mention a book with the caveat "save your money" at the end of the title, but this time I am. McCoy's "Kiss" is a famous novel that later became a James Cagney movie, and I liked the movie so much that I bought the book when the opportunity arose. It was awesome and totally spectacular... until the end. I don't want to go into too much detail about the misadventures of Ralph Cotter because it would give too much away, but I think McCoy rushed the ending and robbed readers of a more satisfying finish. Maybe he ran out of typing paper, and his deadline wouldn't allow a quick run to the Typing Paper Store for more, so he used what he had to rush the ending and mailed off the manuscript and mixed some Captain and Coke.

Other than the ending, it's a fine book. McCoy's writing is sharp, the characters well-drawn, and the first chapter grabs you by the throat, but I really wish it hadn't been ruined by the ending.

Endings are important, because, as Mickey Spillane has pointed out, the ending sells an author's next book. Harry Whittington called a story's ending the punch line, and if it wasn't worth the trip, the audience may not listen to your next joke.

Oh, well. "Kiss Tomorrow Good-bye" is another classic of the hard-boiled school I can check off my list, at least.


  1. I amassed most of McCoy's books during my fit of hardboiled mania some years back, but don't remember if I got around to reading any. I've always been intrigued by one title, though: No Pockets in a Shroud.

  2. I haven't read this in a while, but it's one of my favorites, and I didn't have any trouble with the ending. I believe all Jim Thompson flows from this, and (as I recall) the ending was Thompson-esque, too.

    Some people don't like the (SPOILER) then-I-died school of narration, though, and I get that. Whether McCoy succeeds or not, he is trying to merge the crime novel with the literary one, and for me it works. I think it's his best novel.

  3. Max, I don't have a problem with Thompson endings, though at least with Thompson you get a sense you're not in the real world, and you expect something weird, and McCoy wrote of a world very recognizable (to me--his town reminded me of Butte, MT, where my family is from). What makes the book, for me, so disappointing is that we have a great personal revelation from Cotter, at the end, when he's with the Dobson family, we finally learn what makes him tick, and we get a sense that while he was contemplating a change in lifestyle, the revelation prompted him to refuse to change, and he returns to his apartment... and it's like hitting a brick wall after traveling at 50 miles an hour for twenty minutes, and I don't know if I buy the reason for that brick wall being there. Whats-his-name had no reason to show up with that bullet which he dug out of that other guy's head (pardon the vagueness but since you've read it you know what I mean) and expose Cotter's actions in front of the girl. It's Hayes Office influence at its worst.

    I would have liked to have seen Cotter go full-throttle into the Dobson situation, and leave us with a hint that he was going to kill his cronies so they couldn't blackmail him (as is mentioned). Then, McCoy could have written a sequel about Cotter trying to keep his new identity solid when he learns one of the cronies pulled the same trick he did with the record. I like the idea so much maybe I'll do that story someday.

    Evan, If you ever read any of McCoy's books, I'd love to hear what you think. The one I'm most interested in he never finished because of his death, and I love the title: The Hard Rock Man.