1000 Books In 10 Years; Vol. 158: Never Die Alone, by Donald Goines

Donald Goines wrote sixteen novels in his brief writing career, which was tragically cut short.  He was found dead, humped over his typewriter where he had been putting the finishing touches on what would turn out to be his very last novel.  Never Die Alone was not the last novel he wrote, but it was the last novel of Goines that I read.  There was a slight apprehension in starting to read this novel.  I have come to love Goines’s writing style, despite its flaws, or perhaps because of them, and the thought of not having another book to look forward to discovering was not one I cared to indulge in.  It was not unlike the time that I picked up what had been the only Cormac McCarthy book I had not read (though I at least have the potential of a new novel from McCarthy since he is still very much alive).  I was hoping that I had saved the best for last.  Never Die Alone is the only one of Goines’s novels to be turned into a film (though I am currently working on a screenplay based on his novel Swamp Man), so I was hoping that this novel was his defining work.  I was however, somewhat disappointed.

Goines experiments with something that he has left out of all his other novels: First person narration.  Though the novel is not entirely written in first person, a large portion of it is.  Paul Pawlowski, a man of Jewish and Polish descent, and happens to come upon an altercation where a man is left dying in his arms.  He takes the man, a hustler and drug dealer named King David, to the hospital where David leaves all he has to the man who has saved him from dying in the gutter.  Paul is left with a brand new Cadillac, a journal, and somewhere around fifty thousand dollars.  Paul only discovers the fifty thousand dollars after he has read through a large portion of the journal, which serves as the part of the narrative that is in the first person, and it is very much written in the same manner as Goines’s regular writing.  I was eager to read this as I thought some of Goines’s novels would have work best if they were in first person, but because it was only a small portion of the work, and also because it was so similar to Goines’s regular writing style, there was little different with this piece of work that with his others.

The Paul Pawlowski character is the moral compass of the novel and sits in opposition to King David in that King David is very much a vindictive narcissist who is not above beating a child and a woman with a bottle in order to get some cash in his hand, and is eager to get casual users of coke addicted to heroin by switching the coke out for white china heroin, and one woman, who makes the mistake of rejecting King David, finds that he heroin mixed with battery acid.  When she shoots it into her veins she dies a painful death.

Goines allows for the street to work out the morality questions.  A young boy who witnessed his mother beaten by David, and who was himself beaten by David when he went to the aid of his mother, gets revenge on the man and is the one who leaves David dying in the street for Paul to find.  Paul, disgusted at the manner in which the money he has come into was earned, has decided to turn the money over to a local charity that tries to help drug addicts get clean.  A side narrative takes up a portion of the novel, but seems to have only been added that the length of the novel would reach near the 200-page mark, but the heart of this novel in King David’s story, and though it is not as gratifying as some of Goines’s other works, it was still well worth reading.

Rambler About Rambler

Jason John Horn is a writer and critic who recently completed his Master's in English Literature at the University of Windsor. He has composed a play, a novella and a number of short stories and satirical essays.

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