November 9, 2019


THE LIFE AND TIMES OF CHARLES WILLEFORD--MIAMI'S WEIRD, WONDERFUL MASTER OF NOIR: For years he searched for a subject worthy of his talents. Then he found Miami and the '80s. Crime fiction would never be the same. (CRAIG PITTMAN, 10/18/19, CrimeReads)

Orphan, hobo, painter, poet, boxer, book critic, decorated tank commander, actor, truck driver, teacher, author and inveterate prankster--Charles Willeford led a life that could provide him with a zillion stories, each one touched with his distinctive view of the world. He spent three decades cranking out pulp fiction classics like Pick-Up and Cockfighter that earned him very little money and hardly any notice from the critics.

Then, in 1984, he wrote a poker-faced comic thriller called Miami Blues that suddenly made him a hot commodity. He followed it up with three more off-kilter books about his unlikely hero, the leisure-suit-wearing Sergeant Hoke Moseley of the Miami Police. On the strength of those four books, the Atlantic magazine dubbed him "the unlikely father of Miami crime fiction."

One of the Hoke Moseley sequels was called Sideswipe. His widow Betsy says that not long after that book came out, Willeford got a package in the mail. When he opened it, he found a hardbound copy of Sideswipe that someone had shot. Accompanying the book was a note, written in all-caps, saying "It's a crime to charge $15.95 for s[***]t like this." It was signed, "A Dissatisfied Customer."

When Willeford mentioned this to some friends they became concerned for his safety. One asked, "Have you alerted the FBI?" He replied, "No, it's always good to get feedback."

There are plethora of Willeford anecdotes, but I think that one might be my favorite. (Incidentally, Mrs. Willeford recalled that the book had been shot once, but a 1988 news story said five times. Fortunately the Broward County Public Library has Willeford's papers, so I checked with them. Librarian Erin Purdy sent me photos showing that that copy of Sideswipe had SIX bullet holes.)

Posted by at November 9, 2019 3:11 AM