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University at Buffalo Libraries

George Kelley Paperback & Pulp Fiction Collection

Dark Passage

cover image By: Goodis, David (male)
Publisher: Dell Publishing Co. (221)
Place of Publication: New York, NY
Catalog #: Kelley Box 259: PS3513 .O499 D37 1948
Contributor: E. Griffin, W. Prout


Era: 1940s Author as on Cover: David Goodis Geographic Locale: San Francisco, California Date of Publication: 1946  |  Original Date: 1946 Setting: urban; little tension in the story -- it seems almost melodramatic. Motives: jealousy (involves an adulterous affair), murder

Plot Summary

Vincent Parry has been wrongfully convicted of his wife Gert's murder, which he believes was an accidental death. Unwilling to serve a life sentence in San Quentin for a crime he did not commit, Parry escapes. He is helped by Irene Janney, a woman determined to champion him for reasons of her own; George Fellsinger, Parry's only friend, and a shady plastic surgeon willing to alter faces for cash. As Parry tries to make his way to a new identity and a new life in South America, Fellsinger is murdered in circumstances which are similar to Gert's death. The police hunt for Parry intensifies, and Parry realizes that he's been framed for murder a second time by his wife's killer. His predicament is further complicated by the man in the Studebaker following him, and by Irene's relationships with people in his past. Realizing he must catch the killer to save himself, Parry plans a trap of his own.

Major Characters

Vincent Parry aka Allen Linnell, adult male, 31 years old, thin, blonde hair, clerk in an investment security house until his conviction

Arbogast adult male, short, dresses like a farmer, skinny, shabby, petty crook

Madge Rapf adult female, late 20s/early 30s, petite, rather plain, dresses in orange, apparently a housewife

Gert Parry adult female, thin, apparently a housewife

George Fellsinger adult male, balding, slight build, clerk in an investment security house

Irene Janney adult female, blonde, petite, dresses in gray and violet, independently wealthy, artist

Bob Rapf adult male, tall, good-looking, works in an investment security house

Walter Coley adult male, late 50s/early 60s, gray hair, distinguished, plastic surgeon


blunt objects (an ashtray and a trumpet), gun

Level of Violence

three violent incidents are described in detail: a fist fight, a struggle over a gun, and a graphic daydream involving bludgeoning. The two murders are not described explicitly, but the condition of the second bludgeoning victim is described in detail.


most of the characters seem to be involved in heterosexual adultery, but the book contains no explicit sexual content.

Gender Roles

traditional for the time period in which the novel was written; emphasis is placed on the role of men as breadwinners.


not a significant factor

Alcohol/Drug Abuse

there is some drinking and a great deal of smoking. The characters drink socially but not excessively. Parry's fondness for gin is mentioned in a negative context.

Law Enforcement

uniformed cops, prison guards, and a detective are mentioned specifically. As Parry is on the run from the law, law enforcement officials in general take the role of antagonists.

Subject Headings

California - San Francisco/ Murder

Psychological Elements

given that Parry is hunted by the law and stalked by a killer, he looks at every person an situation as dangerous and potentially deadly, giving the novel a pervasive sense of paranoia.

Film Adaptations

Dark Passage, Warner Bros., 1947