Re: RARA-AVIS: Willeford, Edward Bunker and Jim Thompson

Date: 01 Jan 2001

Well, I guess anyone familiar with St. Martin's reputation as a publisher wouldn't be surprised that Willeford's name was not spelled correctly in Eddie Bunker's memoir. Since St. Martin's is the lowest paying of the major American publishers in terms of advances, I assume it's also the lowest paying when it comes to budgeting for editors. There is, of course, an irony here. Willeford once was in the St. Martin's stable; as Betsy alluded earlier, Willeford wrote "Grimhaven" in an attempt to get out of his St. Martin's contract.

Thompson and Willeford? Except for coming from neighboring states
(Oklahoma and Arkansas, respectively), I think their backgrounds don't have much in common. Both did the hoboing thing. But Thompson was very much a political man, associated with the American Communist Party and all of that; Willeford thought of politics as being an arena for small men with small minds (I think I paraphrased that pretty accurately) and was a career Army guy. Their basic views seem to be quite different: Thompson is dark; Willeford, more absurdist. I think Thompson wrote some classics (POP 1280, THE KILLER INSIDE ME, THE GRIFTERS, THE GETAWAY) that succeed in spite of rather than because of his prose style. I know I'm probably being sacrilegious here, but I think Willeford was far the superior writer when it comes to prose style, character development, plotting, inventiveness, and so forth. And Willeford is a master of what everyone used to call
"black humor," although I don't hear that term much anymore (black humor masters included Terry Southern, Bruce J. Friedman, and Joseph Heller). I always laughed when I read Willeford. The collapsing outhouse scene in POP 1280 is the only thing in Thompson that ever made me chuckle.

 Later.....Kip (and best for the New Year)

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