Willeford

Don Herron, Author Dennis McMillan Publications $30 (0p) ISBN 978-0-939767-26-7
Charles Willeford's (1919-1988) hardboiled crime novels like Miami Blues have won a cult following. More of a critical appreciation than a full-fledged biography, this splicing of biological snippets, conversations, letters and commentary follows the Arkansas-born, Florida-based writer's trajectory from Proletarian Laughter (1948), his first collection of avant-garde poems, through his 1950s paperback-original novels (e.g., High Priest of California), which filtered pulp devices through an absurdist sensibility, to the posthumous The Shark-Infested Custard (1993). Herron (The Literary World of San Francisco), who befriended Willeford from 1984 until the novelist's death, champions the 20-year army/air force veteran as ""the comic spirit of a crazed America,"" whose fictive world of sociopaths, failed hooker/housewives and atheist preachers cunningly mirrors our own. While this assemblage bogs down in tracking the zigzags of Willeford's literary career, it will send readers to the shelves seeking his books. Its 73-page annotated bibliography and its 110 pages of interview transcripts make it a study dedicated fans won't want to miss. Photos. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 09/29/1997
Release date: 10/01/1997
Genre: Fiction
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