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  • Writer's pictureIan Ayris

SAY GOODBYE WHEN I'M GONE by Stephen J Golds - a review


1949: Rudy, A Jewish New Yorker snatches a briefcase of cash from a dead man in Los Angeles and runs away from his old life, into the arms of the Boston mob.1966: Hinako, a young Japanese girl runs away from what she thought was the suffocating conformity of a life in Japan. Aiming to make a fresh start in America, she falls into the grip of a Hawaiian gang dubbed 'The Company'.1967: Rudy and Hinako's lives collide in the city of Honolulu, where there is nowhere left for either of them to run, and only blood to redeem them.


New York City July 1950

He sat at the back of the restaurant eyeballing the doors. Pretended to be relaxed and at ease. He had always hated eating at these kinds of places. Everything shining and glistening. Blinding. He felt uncomfortable. Irritable and out of his depth. A klutz. Never knew which fork or knife he was supposed to use or what to say to the waiter when he slid over dressed like an undertaker, suggesting wines and champagnes that had hard to pronounce French names. Rudy always just asked for a beer. He'd always preferred diners or bars, any of those kinds of establishments where you weren't expected to put in too much of an effort.

The .38 revolver in his jacket pocket weighed down half of one side of his suit and made him appear lopsided, like a schmuck. He had always disliked wearing a suit too. A necktie felt like a noose around his throat.


Say Goodbye When I’m Gone follows the lives - such as they are - of three characters: Rudy, a Jewish New Yorker more involved with the mob than he’d like to be having stolen a suitcase of cash from the LA mob; Hinako - a sixteen year old Japanese girl with dreams of leaving her dreary life for a new one in the promised land of America; and George Chung - maniacal leader of a vicious Hawaiian gang who ultimately holds the fate of both in his blood-drenched hands.

The book is structured along three interlinking timelines - 1949, 1966 and 1967 - allowing Golds to shine a searing light onto the dark, tragic paths of agony and violence each of the protagonists has crawled. Included in the pages are a brilliant written, incredibly visceral, heist and a finale which blew me away.

Indeed, if I had to use a single word to describe this book, it would be visceral. And even that doesn't seem to describe the descriptive power of the prose.

The writing is stark and it is brutal. No shadow is left unconfronted, no dark corner left unexplored.

Make no mistake, this book is bleak. It is violent and it is savage. But, among its pages there is such beauty and there is hope. Always hope. It takes some writer to coalesce such disparate emotions.

And Golds is some writer.

Ultimately, Say Goodbye When I’m Gone is a story of love and loss, and how it affects us all. The loss or absence of love can lead us into some very dark places. Say Goodbye When I’m Gone is the story of how very dark those places can be.

Golds burst onto the noir scene a couple of years back like the ghost of James M. Cain fallen through a hole in time from the 1930s.

Buy this book. Buy all his books.

Say Goodbye When I'm Gone is available from the brilliant Red Dog Press here:

And if you want to read the story of how Rudy snatched the briefcase of cash from the LA mob, pick up Always the Dead - another brilliant slice of noir, long overdue a review on this sit. You can buy Always the Dead here:

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