John Godey is the pseudonym for Morton Freedgood, whose novels have served as the bases for several motion pictures. The Brooklyn-born Freedgood attended City College of New York in the 1930s and, after service in the army during World War II, went to work as a publicist for United Artists before joining 20th Century Fox and Paramount Pictures. He began getting short stories published in the '40s, including The Pretenders in the February 1947 issue of Good Housekeeping and The Wrong Way to Win a War in Colliers during 1953. He adopted the pseudonym John Godey, which he also used on his first mystery novel, The Blue Hour (1947), and subsequent books. Freedgood wrote some 14 detective/mystery novels built around the central character of Jack Albany; his other titles included The Gun and Mr. Smith (1947), The Man in Question (1951), This Year's Death (1953), The Clay Assassins (1959), The Fifth House (1960), The Reluctant Assassin (1966) (which was also republished the following year as A Thrill a Minute With Jack Albany), Never Put off Til Tomorrow What You Can Kill Today (1970), and The Three Worlds of Johnny Handsome (1972).
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In 1968, The Reluctant Assassin became the basis for Jerry Paris' Never a Dull Moment -- a Walt Disney production, astonishingly enough -- starring Dick Van Dyke as an actor who is mistaken for a gangster by the real hood's former associates (which include Edward G. Robinson). His biggest bestseller and his biggest success onscreen, however, was The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1973). The book, written late in an era of widespread airline hijackings, told of the hijacking of a New York City subway train by a team of four men who hold the passengers in the lead car hostage for a million dollars. The advance word in the publishing world was so strong that the film rights were sold to producers Gabriel Katzka and Edgar J. Scherick before the novel was even published, with profit participation by the author in the movie's box-office performance. The book became a bestseller on its own and was turned into an outstanding movie thriller by director Joseph Sargent with help from screenwriter Peter Stone -- the latter's screenplay actually improved on the novel by adding a measure of sardonic humor that translated well to the screen. Ironically, it was only some city bureaucrats and transit authority officials who resisted the idea of making the movie, or assisting in its production, fearing attempts at a "copycat" crime. Nothing of the kind ever materialized, and the movie has endured across the decades as one of the finest thrillers of the '70s and a definitive New York film; both the book and the movie were strong influences on Quentin Tarantino when he made Reservoir Dogs in 1992. The 1989 Walter Hill movie Johnny Handsome, starring Mickey Rourke as a disfigured convict, was also based on a Godey novel.
In 1998, The Taking of Pelham One Two Three was remade for television by director Felix Enriquez Alcala with a cast that included Edward James Olmos and Vincent D'Onofrio. Godey's later novels included The Talisman (1976), The Snake (1978), Nella (1981), and Fatal Beauty (1984). He also co-authored books with Stanley Freedgood under the joint pseudonym "Stanley Morton" and wrote one autobiographical work, The Crime of the Century and Other Misdemeanors (1973), about his boyhood in Brooklyn. The Wall-to-Wall Trap (1957) is his only book published using his birth name. In August and September of 2003, Joseph Sargent's The Taking of Pelham One Two Three was revived for a run at New York's Film Forum. ~ Bruce Eder, Rovi