RARA-AVIS: Willeford, Burnt Orange and Shark

From: Mbdlevin@aol.com
Date: 12 Jan 2000

<< the willeford book i recently bought (for my
 first) is the burnt orange heresy, which no one
 has mentioned as a good one-- have i made a horrible
 choice? >> Teri:

A few quick thoughts. I am a big fan of the Hoke Moseleys and many here have directed readers to them. They are great books and probably more accessible
(for lack of a better word) crime novels than Willeford's other writing. They have good guys and bad, and crimes are solved. As Teri saw in Shark, crime plays a part, but (re)solution (or a clean balance of justice/morality) does not. Without Moseley, however, we might not be reading much Willeford--everything was out of print when Miami Blues came out. Willeford shopped Shark in the 70s and got nowhere; the book was published posthumously.

Most of the non-Hoke are quite strong. Burnt Orange was, incidentally, his first hardback and it garnered reviews in The New York Times, The New Yorker, Harpers, etc. It is very good, though some readers may tire at moments. My favorite is The Woman Chaser (which was also called his masterpiece by Richard Gehr in the Village Voice); look for the new movie if it gets a distributor (or at your local film fest). In the Washington Post, Barry Gifford, sometime acquiring editor at Black Lizard when it was run by Creative Arts in Berkeley, and writer in his own right of course, called The Black Mass of Brother Springer Willeford's masterpiece. The Library of America made Pick-Up its Willeford choice.


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