Charles Willeford Analysis


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Charles Willeford’s colorful career, which included military service, university teaching, journalism, and writing, crested during the 1980’s, when his Hoke Moseley crime novels, set in Miami, gained both critical and popular acclaim. However, success came late to Willeford, and he died only days after the release of The Way We Die Now, the fourth and last novel in the Moseley series. Known as the father of the south Florida crime novel, Willeford captured the sun, sleaze, and violence of the Miami region, inspiring other writers such as Carl Hiaasen and James Wilson Hall as well as film director Quentin Tarentino, who compared his film Pulp Fiction (1994) to Willeford’s work.

Willeford’s unique style combined black humor, satire, and touches of the absurd with startlingly real and abrupt acts of violence. His characters, whether heroes, antiheroes, or villains, offer the reader a skewed yet oddly convincing worldview. Willeford readers learn to expect the unexpected. In the first chapter of Wild Wives (1956), one of Willeford’s early pulp novels, private eye Jacob Blake fends off a surprise attack in his office—but the attacker is a teenage girl and the weapon is a water pistol. In High Priest of California (1953), another early pulp novel, a car salesman enters a bar, sizes up a stranger, and knocks him cold. “I felt a little better,” he comments as he walks out. The protagonist of Cockfighter...

(The entire section is 433 words.)


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Brannon, Julie. “The Rules Are Different Here: South Florida Noir and the Grotesque.” In Crime Fiction and Film in the Sunshine State: Florida Noir, edited by Steve Glassman and Maurice O’Sullivan. Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1997. This chapter in a genre study looks at depictions of south Florida in the fiction of Willeford and Carl Hiaasen.

Fisher, Marshall Jon. “The Unlikely Father of Miami Crime Fiction.” Atlantic Monthly 285, no. 5 (May, 2000): 117-121. A profile of Willeford by a writer who knew him in Miami, with discussion of his works and publishing career.

Herron, Don. Willeford. Tucson, Ariz.: Dennis McMillan Publications, 1997. A biography of the author, with transcripts of interviews, descriptions of his works, and a complete bibliography.

Oder, Norman. “Willeford Returns Darkly, Via Dell.” Publishers Weekly 243, no. 1 (January 1, 1996): 36. Discusses the republication of the four Hoke Moseley books as well as the release of the formerly unpublished The Shark-Infested Custard.

Sublett, Jesse. “Doing Right by a Poet of the Pulp Novel.” The New York Times, June 18, 2000. Discusses the filming of The Woman Chaser, an adaptation of a 1960 Willeford novel, with commentary on other film adaptations of the author’s work.

Willeford, Charles. I Was Looking for a Street. Woodstock, Vt.: Countryman Press, 1988. This memoir of the author’s youth describes his early life and its influences on his work.

Willeford, Charles. Something About a Soldier. New York: Random House, 1986. Willeford describes his days and antics as an enlisted man in the Depression army. Sheds light on his later life as a writer.