They Shoot Horses, Don't They?, Paperback Book

They Shoot Horses, Don't They? Paperback

Part of the Serpent's Tail Classics series

3.5 out of 5 (2 ratings)


The Depression of the 1930s led people to desperate measures to survive.

The marathon dance craze, which flourished at that time seemed a simple way for people to earn extra money dancing the hours away for cash, for weeks at a time.

But the underside of that craze was filled with a competition and violence unknown to most ballrooms.

A lurid tale of dancing and desperation: Horace McCoy's classic American novel captures the dark side of the 1930s.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Profile Books Ltd
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Classic fiction (pre c 1945)
  • ISBN: 9781846687396

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Showing 1 - 2 of 2 reviews.

Review by

If you like depressing stories with social and political themes, then this is the perfect novella for you. This is a heartbreaking story about disillusionment, poverty, and the loss of the American Dream. I thought it was a good depiction of life during the Depression era and a thought provoking look at corruption. Warning. It is a sad story. So if you hated books like Richard Yates' "Revolutionary Road" or John le Carre's "The Constant Gardener" do not read "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?" Otherwise, it's a memorable, well written story.

Review by
"If this myth is tragic, that is because its hero is conscious. Where would his torture be, indeed, if at every step the hope of succeeding upheld him? The workman of today works everyday in his life at the same tasks, and his fate is no less absurd. But it is tragic only at the rare moments when it becomes conscious. Sisyphus, proletarian of the gods, powerless and rebellious, knows the whole extent of his wretched condition: it is what he thinks of during his descent. The lucidity that was to constitute his torture at the same time crowns his victory. There is no fate that can not be surmounted by scorn." Albert Camus, [The Myth of Sisyphus]When Camus published The Myth of Sisyphus in 1942, it was at the height of the fad of existentialism. He was addressing the question: "If life is absurd, is suicide rational?" Horace McCoy's pulp novella [They Shoot Horses, Don't They?] is an example of existential nihilism that preceded Camus' essay by six years. He answers the first part of Camus' question: Life is absurd. In the last line of the novella he proposes his answer to the second part of the question: "They shoot horses, don't they."I'm not into nihilism, so I give the novel three stars. It was made into a movie in 1969 starring Michael Sarrazin as Robert and Jane Fonda as Gloria. The movie pleased critics, but it was a loser and it didn't follow the plot very well. Nor did it make the point (if you'd call it a point) that the book had made. I don't think the producer understood the book. The book also pleased many critics, but had a mixed reception overall.But if you're into this kind of literature, Horace McCoy did a good job of it.

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