|Born||January 2, 1919|
Little Rock, Arkansas
|Died||March 27, 1988 (aged 69)|
|Occupation||Writer, college professor, magazine editor, boxer, actor, horse trainer, radio announcer, U.S. Air Force master sergeant, U.S. Army master sergeant|
Charles Ray Willeford III (January 2, 1919 – March 27, 1988) was an American writer. An author of fiction, poetry, autobiography, and literary criticism, Willeford is best known for his series of novels featuring hardboiled detective Hoke Moseley. Willeford published steadily from the 1940s, but vaulted to wider attention with first Hoke Moseley book, Miami Blues (1984), which is considered one of its era's most influential works of crime fiction. Film adaptations have been made of three of Willeford's novels: Cockfighter , Miami Blues , and The Woman Chaser .
Hardboiled fiction is a literary genre that shares some of its characters and settings with crime fiction. The genre's typical protagonist is a detective who witnesses the violence of organized crime that flourished during Prohibition (1920–1933) and its aftermath, while dealing with a legal system that has become as corrupt as the organized crime itself. Rendered cynical by this cycle of violence, the detectives of hardboiled fiction are often antiheroes. Notable hardboiled detectives include Philip Marlowe, Mike Hammer, Sam Spade, Lew Archer, and The Continental Op.
Detective fiction is a subgenre of crime fiction and mystery fiction in which an investigator or a detective—either professional, amateur or retired—investigates a crime, often murder. The detective genre began around the same time as speculative fiction and other genre fiction in the mid-nineteenth century and has remained extremely popular, particularly in novels. Some of the most famous heroes of detective fiction include C. Auguste Dupin, Sherlock Holmes, and Hercule Poirot. Juvenile stories featuring The Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, and The Boxcar Children have also remained in print for several decades.
Cockfighter is a 1974 film by director Monte Hellman, starring Warren Oates, Harry Dean Stanton and featuring Laurie Bird and Ed Begley Jr. The screenplay is based on the novel of the same name by Charles Willeford.
Willeford was born in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1919. Following the death of his father from tuberculosis in 1922, Willeford and his mother moved to the Los Angeles area. After his mother's death in 1927, also from TB, he lived with his grandmother Mattie Lowey on Figueroa Street near Exposition Park until 1932. At the age of thirteen, in the midst of the Great Depression, he boarded a freight train in Los Angeles, assumed a false identity, and—passing as a seventeen-year-old—traveled by rail along the Mexican border for a year.
Arkansas is a state in the southern region of the United States, home to over 3 million people as of 2018. Its name is of Siouan derivation from the language of the Osage denoting their related kin, the Quapaw Indians. The state's diverse geography ranges from the mountainous regions of the Ozark and the Ouachita Mountains, which make up the U.S. Interior Highlands, to the densely forested land in the south known as the Arkansas Timberlands, to the eastern lowlands along the Mississippi River and the Arkansas Delta.
Tuberculosis (TB) is an infectious disease usually caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB) bacteria. Tuberculosis generally affects the lungs, but can also affect other parts of the body. Most infections do not have symptoms, in which case it is known as latent tuberculosis. About 10% of latent infections progress to active disease which, if left untreated, kills about half of those affected. The classic symptoms of active TB are a chronic cough with blood-containing sputum, fever, night sweats, and weight loss. It was historically called "consumption" due to the weight loss. Infection of other organs can cause a wide range of symptoms.
Exposition Park is situated in the south region of Los Angeles, California, in a rectangle bounded by Exposition Boulevard to the north, South Figueroa Street to the east, Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to the south and Menlo Avenue to the west. It is directly south of the main campus of the University of Southern California.
In March 1935, he signed up with the California National Guard; a few months later, he enlisted in the regular United States Army. He spent two years stationed in the Philippines serving as a fire truck driver, a gas truck driver, and briefly as a cook. At the end of 1938, he was discharged from the Army, though he re-enlisted in March 1939, joining the U.S. Cavalry stationed at the Presidio of Monterey, California. In the Cavalry, he learned to ride and care for horses and spent several months learning the art of horseshoeing. He also served as a "horseholder" in a machine gun troop and earned a marksman qualification.
The California National Guard is a federally funded California military force, part of the National Guard of the United States. It comprises both Army and Air National Guard components and is the largest national guard force in the United States with a total authorized strength of over 23,000 soldiers and airmen. As of January 2012, California National Guardsmen have been deployed overseas 38 thousand times since 2001, of which twenty-nine have been killed in Iraq and two have died in Afghanistan.
The United States Army (USA) is the land warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces. It is one of the seven uniformed services of the United States, and is designated as the Army of the United States in the United States Constitution. As the oldest and most senior branch of the U.S. military in order of precedence, the modern U.S. Army has its roots in the Continental Army, which was formed to fight the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783)—before the United States of America was established as a country. After the Revolutionary War, the Congress of the Confederation created the United States Army on 3 June 1784 to replace the disbanded Continental Army. The United States Army considers itself descended from the Continental Army, and dates its institutional inception from the origin of that armed force in 1775.
The Philippines, officially the Republic of the Philippines, is an archipelagic country in Southeast Asia. Situated in the western Pacific Ocean, it consists of about 7,641 islands that are categorized broadly under three main geographical divisions from north to south: Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. The capital city of the Philippines is Manila and the most populous city is Quezon City, both part of Metro Manila. Bounded by the South China Sea on the west, the Philippine Sea on the east and the Celebes Sea on the southwest, the Philippines shares maritime borders with Taiwan to the north, Vietnam to the west, Palau to the east, and Malaysia and Indonesia to the south.
In 1942, Willeford married Lara Bell Fridley before being stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia, for infantry school. He was assigned to the Third Army, Company C, 11th Tank Battalion, 10th Armored Division and sent to Europe as a tank commander. He fought in the Battle of the Bulge and earned the Silver Star, the Bronze Star for outstanding bravery, the Purple Heart with one oak leaf cluster, and the Luxembourg War Cross. After V-E day, he studied at Biarritz American University until he was shipped back to the United States.
Fort Benning is a United States Army post straddling the Alabama–Georgia border next to Columbus, Georgia. Fort Benning supports more than 120,000 active-duty military, family members, reserve component soldiers, retirees, and civilian employees on a daily basis. It is a power projection platform, and possesses the capability to deploy combat-ready forces by air, rail, and highway. Fort Benning is the home of the United States Army Maneuver Center of Excellence, the United States Army Armor School, United States Army Infantry School, the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, elements of the 75th Ranger Regiment, 3rd Brigade – 3rd Infantry Division, and many other additional tenant units.
The United States Army Infantry School is located at Fort Benning, Georgia, is a school dedicated to training infantrymen for service in the United States Army.
The Battle of the Bulge, also known as the Ardennes Counteroffensive, took place from 16 December 1944 to 25 January 1945, and was the last major German offensive campaign on the Western Front during World War II. It was launched through the densely forested Ardennes region of Wallonia in eastern Belgium, northeast France, and Luxembourg, towards the end of the war in Europe. The offensive was intended to stop Allied use of the Belgian port of Antwerp and to split the Allied lines, allowing the Germans to encircle and destroy four Allied armies and force the Western Allies to negotiate a peace treaty in the Axis powers' favor.
Willeford enlisted again in 1945 for a term of three years. As a member of the 24th Infantry Division, he was stationed in Kyūshū, Japan, from 1947 to 1949. He ran the Army radio station WLKH and was promoted to master sergeant.
The 24th Infantry Division was an infantry division of the United States Army. It was inactivated in October 1996, it was based at Fort Stewart, Georgia and later reactivated at Fort Riley, Kansas. Formed during World War II from the disbanding Hawaiian Division, the division saw action throughout the Pacific theater, first fighting in New Guinea before landing on the Philippine islands of Leyte and Luzon, driving Japanese forces from them. Following the end of the war, the division participated in occupation duties in Japan, and was the first division to respond at the outbreak of the Korean War. For the first 18 months of the war, the division was heavily engaged on the front lines with North Korean and Chinese forces, suffering over 10,000 casualties. It was withdrawn from the front lines to the reserve force for the remainder of the war after the second battle for Wonju, but returned to Korea for patrol duty at the end of major combat operations.
His first book of poetry, Proletarian Laughter, was published in 1948. In May 1949, he and his wife, Lara, divorced. In July of the same year, he left the Army, leaving a mailing address of General Delivery, Dallas, Texas. He enrolled in the Universitarias de Belles Artes in Lima, Peru, studying art and art history in the graduate program. He was dismissed from the university when officials learned that he had neither an undergraduate degree nor a high school diploma. He lived in New York City for a month at the end of 1949 before re-enlisting in the Air Force.
Poste restante or general delivery is a service where the post office holds the mail until the recipient calls for it. It is a common destination for mail for people who are visiting a particular location and have no need, or no way, of having mail delivered directly to their place of residence at that time.
Willeford was stationed at Hamilton Air Force Base in California through April 1952. He married Mary Jo Norton in July of that year, and lived for a while in Birmingham, Alabama. In 1953, Willeford's first novel, High Priest of California, was published. Bound as a double volume with another writer's novel, it sold 55,000 copies, about a third of its print run.In January 1954, he re-enlisted once again; he was stationed this time at Palm Beach Air Force Base, while living in West Palm Beach. In 1955, he was reassigned to Harmon Air Force Base in Newfoundland. Willeford finally left active duty in November 1956. By that time, two more novels of his had been published.
After retiring from the Air Force in 1956, Willeford held jobs as a professional boxer, actor, horse trainer, and radio announcer. He studied painting in France for a time, returning to the United States to attend Palm Beach Junior College. After receiving an associate degree in 1960, he studied English literature at the University of Miami, attaining a bachelor's degree in 1962 and a master's in 1964. During this period he also worked as an associate editor with Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine and began a long tenure as a book reviewer for the Miami Herald . Willeford had been very productive as a novelist after leaving the military, but after 1962's Cockfighter, he would not have another novel published for nine years. Upon receiving his M.A., Willeford taught humanities classes at the University of Miami through 1967, then moved to Miami-Dade Community College where he became an associate professor, teaching English and philosophy through 1985.
In 1971, The Burnt Orange Heresy, often identified as Willeford's best noir novel,and The Hombre from Sonora appeared (the latter under a pseudonym). Though he would continue to write fiction, there would again be an extended hiatus—thirteen years—before another novel of his came out. He wrote the screenplay for the 1974 film adaptation of Cockfighter, which he also acted in. In 1976, he and his second wife were divorced. The following year he appeared in a small role in the film Thunder and Lightning, produced by Roger Corman. Willeford married his third wife, Betsy Poller, in 1981. Three years later came the publication of Miami Blues, the first of the Hoke Moseley novels and their twisted take on the hardboiled tradition for which Willeford would become best known. The "series was almost nipped in the bud," notes Lawrence Block. In Willeford's first, unpublished sequel, "he had his unlikely hero commit an unforgivable crime, and ended the book with Hoke contentedly anticipating a life of solitary confinement." As it turned out, the popularity of Miami Blues and its first two published sequels led to the largest financial windfall of the author's life: a $225,000 advance for the fourth Hoke Moseley book, The Way We Die Now. Released in early 1988, it would be his last novel.
Charles Willeford died of a heart attack in Miami, Florida, on March 27, 1988, and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
Steve Erickson suggests that Willeford's crime novels are the "genre's equivalent of Philip K. Dick's best science fiction novels. They don't really fit into the genre."Marshall Jon Fisher describes the "true earmark" of Willeford's writing, particularly his early paperbacks, as "humor—a distinctively crotchety, sometimes, raunchy, often genre-satirizing humor." "Quirky is the word that always comes to mind," according to crime novelist Lawrence Block. "Willeford wrote quirky books about quirky characters, and seems to have done so with a magnificent disregard for what anyone else thought." In Erickson's description, "The camera's not really focused on the middle of the scene. It's a little bit off. They're not plot driven or language driven, which makes them really different from most major crime novels. They're character driven and cunning in a very eccentric way." Lou Stathis argues that it is Willeford's "complete lack of sentimentality and melodrama that sets him apart from the pack of so-called 'tough-guy' writers.... Willeford's prose is as flat-toned and evenly cadenced—as emotionally neutral—as the blank visages of his feigned-human socio/psychopaths...the careful accretion of detail adding up to an incontrovertible truth of insight."
Woody Haut suggests that Willeford's second novel, Pick-Up (1955), "combines David Goodis's romanticism, Horace McCoy's portrayal of alienated outcasts and Charles Jackson's depiction of life as a 'lost weekend.'"The Woman Chaser (1960), he writes, features a "structural self-consciousness [that] prefigures subsequent post-modernist texts." Lee Horsley describes how Willeford—along with his contemporaries Jim Thompson and Charles Williams—"structured entire narratives around the satiric presentation of the male point of view...subverting male stereotypes and creating a space within which the strong, independent woman could get and even sometimes keep the upper hand." David Cochran suggests that while his protagonists are not quite as psychotic as Thompson's, "they are in some ways even more disturbing because of their appearance of normality." Most, he points out, "have adjusted successfully to postwar American society, which given the[ir] psychotic nature...serves as a damning indictment of the dominant culture."
Willeford's wide-ranging interests were reflected in his work: High Priest of California references T. S. Eliot, James Joyce's Ulysses , and composer Béla Bartók. The Burnt Orange Heresy cracks jokes about Samuel Beckett amidst contemplations of the sources of Dada and Surrealist painting. In Block's words, "it is at once a solid crime novel and a fierce send-up of modern art while constituting perhaps the longest shaggy dog story ever told."Willeford sometimes addressed more serious topics in explicit fashion: The Black Mass of Brother Springer (1958) is one of the first novels to depict the civil rights revolution that followed the Supreme Court's ruling in Brown v. Board of Education . But even without such overt topicality, there was an ideological edge to his work. Cochran writes of the author's 1950s and 1960s novels,
Willeford created a world in which the predatory cannibalism of American capitalism provides the model for all human relations, in which the American success ethic mercilessly casts aside all who are unable or unwilling to compete, and in which the innate human appreciation of artistic beauty is cruelly distorted by the exigencies of mass culture.
In Haut's words, Willeford "creates characters who search for autonomy but settle for survival.... [He] never abandons his class perspective."Describing the Hoke Moseley novels, Horsley similarly writes that Willeford "uses both his transgressors and his investigator...as commentators on the injustices of class and on a system that seems preoccupied with owning and controlling human life." According to Willeford's wife, Betsy, he had a credo that also served as a caution for aspiring writers: "Just tell the truth, and they'll accuse you of writing black humor."
"Nobody writes a better crime novel," Elmore Leonard said of Willeford.Sean McCann credits Willeford—along with Jim Thompson and David Goodis—as one of the writers responsible for bringing the "hard-boiled crime story to a new stage in its development during the 'paperback revolution' of the 50s." Centered around criminal protagonists rather than private eyes and "focused on those features of the genre that seemed most grotesque or cruel or uncanny and, extending them to new extremes, [they] remade the hard-boiled story into a drama of psychopathology." According to bookseller Mitch Kaplan, an expert on the South Florida literary scene, "Miami Blues launched the modern era of Miami crime fiction. There's a direct line from [Willeford] through just about everyone writing crime fiction in Miami today." Fellow writer James Lee Burke has acknowledged a "great debt" to Willeford: "If someone wanted advice about writing, about how to pull it off, make it work, punch it up...Charles could tell you how to do it." Daniel Woodrell is among the other crime novelists he is identified as influencing. Willeford's characteristic juxtaposition of humor and violence was apparently one of director Quentin Tarantino's inspirations. Discussing Pulp Fiction , Tarantino has said that the film "is not noir. I don't do neo-noir. I see Pulp Fiction as closer to modern-day crime fiction, a little closer to Charles Willeford." Writing in 2004, Jonathan Yardley of The Washington Post called him "one of our most skilled, interesting, accomplished and productive writers of what the literary establishment insists on pigeonholing as 'genre' fiction."
Three of Willeford's books have been adapted for the screen: Cockfighter (1974; starring Warren Oates and directed by Monte Hellman), for which Willeford wrote the screenplay; Miami Blues (1990; starring Alec Baldwin and directed by George Armitage, also featuring Fred Ward as Hoke Mosley); and The Woman Chaser (1999; starring Patrick Warburton and directed by Robinson Devor). Willeford adapted his first novel, High Priest of California, into a play. A 1988 production in New York City at The Vortex Theatre apparently represents its first full staging. A subsequent production was staged in 2003.
The bibliography below lists all original publications of Willeford's works and selected reprints that contain variant Willeford titles and/or texts or significant ancillary material.
This bibliography is adapted from literary historian Don Herron's Willeford (1997), courtesy of Dennis McMillan Publications.
Biographical note: Except where specifically cited, the primary source for biographical information is Herron (1997).
Black Lizard was an American book publisher. A division of the Creative Arts Book Company of Berkeley, California, Black Lizard specialized in reprinting forgotten crime fiction and noir fiction writers and novels originally released between the 1930s and the 1960s, many of which are now acknowledged as classics of their genres.
A paperback, also known as a softcover or softback, is a type of book characterized by a thick paper or paperboard cover, and often held together with glue rather than stitches or staples. In contrast, hardcover or hardback books are bound with cardboard covered with cloth. The pages on the inside are made of paper.
A hardcover or hardback book is one bound with rigid protective covers. It has a flexible, sewn spine which allows the book to lie flat on a surface when opened. Following the ISBN sequence numbers, books of this type may be identified by the abbreviation Hbk.
Ballantine Books is a major book publisher located in the United States, founded in 1952 by Ian Ballantine with his wife, Betty Ballantine. It was acquired by Random House in 1973, which in turn was acquired by Bertelsmann in 1998 and remains part of that company today. Ballantine's logo is a pair of mirrored letter Bs back to back. The firm's early editors were Stanley Kauffmann and Bernard Shir-Cliff.
John Dufresne is an American author of French Canadian descent born in Worcester, Massachusetts. He graduated from Worcester State College in 1970 and the University of Arkansas in 1984. He is a professor in the Master of Fine Arts Creative Writing program of the English Department at Florida International University. In 2012, he won a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship for his work.
Noir fiction is a literary genre closely related to hardboiled genre, with a distinction that the protagonist is not a detective, but instead either a victim, a suspect, or a perpetrator. Other common characteristics include a self-destructive protagonist. A typical protagonist of noir fiction is dealing with the legal, political or other system, which is no less corrupt than the perpetrator, by whom the protagonist is either victimized and/or has to victimize others on a daily basis, leading to a lose-lose situation.
Miami Blues is a 1990 American neo-noir black comedy crime film based on the novel of the same name by Charles Willeford. This film stars Alec Baldwin, Fred Ward and Jennifer Jason Leigh, and was directed by George Armitage. Ward was also the executive producer.
Hard Case Crime is an American imprint of hardboiled crime novels founded in 2004 by Charles Ardai and Max Phillips. The series recreates, in editorial form and content, the flavor of the paperback crime novels of the 1940s and '50s. The covers feature original illustrations done in a style familiar from the golden age of paperbacks, credited to artists such as Robert McGinnis and Glen Orbik.
The Big Clock is a 1946 novel by Kenneth Fearing. Published by Harcourt Brace, the thriller was his fourth novel, following three for Random House and five collections of his poetry. The story first appeared in abridged form in The American Magazine, as "The Judas Picture". The story was adapted for three films, The Big Clock (1948) starring Ray Milland, Police Python 357 (1976) starring Yves Montand and No Way Out (1987) starring Kevin Costner.
Jason Starr is an American author, comic book writer, and screenwriter from New York City. Starr has written numerous crime fiction novels and thrillers.
This is a bibliography of works by American writer John W. Campbell, Jr.
Gregg Press was founded about 1965 by Charles Gregg in Upper Saddle River, New Jersey to distribute in the United States the antiquarian reprints published in the UK by Gregg Press International.
Charles K. Williams was an American author of crime fiction. He is regarded by some critics as one of the finest suspense novelists of the 1950s and 1960s. His 1951 debut, the paperback novel Hill Girl, sold more than a million copies. A dozen of his books have been adapted for movies, most popularly Dead Calm.
Three Rivers Press is the trade paperback imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House. It publishes original paperback titles as well as paperback reprints of books issued initially in hardcover by the other Crown imprints.
Les Standiford is a historian and author and has since 1985 been the Director of the Florida International University Creative Writing Program. Although his most recent works have been narrative non-fiction historical pieces in the style of David McCullough, his John Deal novels set him firmly in the Miami School of Crime Fiction whose progenitors are Charles Willeford and John D. MacDonald, and which include Elmore Leonard, Jeff Lindsay, Carl Hiaasen, James W. Hall, Paul Levine, Edna Buchanan, and Barbara Parker.
Vicki (Due) Hendricks is an American author of crime fiction, erotica, and a variety of short stories.
"Grimhaven" is the manuscript for an unpublished book by hard-boiled crime writer Charles Willeford. Originally intended as Willeford's sequel to Miami Blues, the novel was deemed too dark for publication, and his agent refused to send it on to the publisher. The novel New Hope for the Dead was later written and published as the second book in the Hoke Moseley series.
Mucho Mojo Is a mystery/crime novel by American author Joe R. Lansdale. This is the second in Lansdale's Hap and Leonard series of crime novels.
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