Tuesday, August 24, 2010

FEATURED: Charles Willeford

Although he certainly wrote some outright crime novels (the excellent Hoke Mosley series comes to mind), Charles Willeford wasn't a strict practitioner of the art. Oftentimes an actual criminal act was only a small element of the story. Instead, his characters were precise psychos with strange specialized knowledge and firm cultural opinions. His books delved into the determined heads of cockfighters, art critics, yuppie horndogs, and alcoholic artists with obsessive detail.








I Was Looking for a Street, $15.95
" “I'm proud to say I knew the man who wrote this book,” writes Elmore Leonard of cult crime writer Charles Willeford's moving memoir of his youth. “It is pure writing, never pretentious or forced, never melodramatic, but honest storytelling of the highest order. This is how to do it, if anyone wants to know: how to write simple prose from a young boy's point of view and hold the reader spellbound.” I Was Looking for a Street tells the story of the author's childhood and adolescence as an orphan, as he moves from railroad yards to hobo tent cities, to soup kitchens and deserts around Los Angeles and across the United States. The ensuing tale is at once a picaresque adventure through Depression-era America and a portrait of the writer as a young man of seemingly little promise but great spirit. Written after Willeford's later literary success with Cockfighter, Miami Blues and The Woman Chaser, this memoir is the work of a writer at the height of his powers, looking back without nostalgia or regret, and preserving in his clear and powerful prose the great American adventure of his youth."






Wild Wives, $12.95
"Jake Blake is a private detective short on cash when he meets a rich and beautiful young woman looking to escape her father’s smothering influence. Unfortunately for Jake, the smothering influence includes two thugs hired to protect her—and the woman is in fact not the daughter of the man she wants to escape, but his wife. Now Jake has two angry thugs and one jealous husband on his case. As Jake becomes more deeply involved with this glamorous and possibly crazy woman, he becomes entangled in a web of deceit, intrigue—and multiple murders. Brilliant, sardonic, and full of surprises, Wild Wives is one wild ride." His only true "PI" detective tale, but pretty demented.








Honey Gal, $14.95

"The Black Mass of Brother Springer was the next title he tried, but Beacon changed that to Honey Gal before publication in 1958. In an essay that year for Writers Digest, Willeford ruminated on why the title you stew over will be changed more often than not. There are many reasons. A strong protest from the illustrator, for instance, claiming that your title detracts from his four-color layout of a girl tied to a tree being whipped by six gorillas is enough to change your title. After only five years, he was a hardened veteran of the paperback original jungle, and knew how it worked. Honey Gal doesn't really cut it as the title for what some people feel is Willeford's best existentialist novel, an absurdist look at segregation in the South. This novel and the three preceding it are all essential Willeford, in my opinion."


These books, and thousands of others, can be purchased from:

Brickbat Books
709 South Fourth Street
Philadelphia, PA 19147

215 592 1207

Open every day, 11am to 7pm.

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