RARA-AVIS: The short (and long) of THE MACHINE...

From: Bill Bowers ( BBowers@one.net)
Date: 02 Jan 2003

miker writes:

>I ordered the SHARK INFESTED CUSTARD but it got cancelled
>for some reason. But I'm not out of Willeford yet. I've
>got WOMAN CHASER, MIAMI BLUES (thanks, Bill Denton) and THE
>MACHINE IN WARD ELEVEN on the shelf. Of course I probably
>won't enjoy THE MACHINE since it's short stories. ;-)

...well SHARK was remaindered 5 or 6 years, and I got my copy for, irrc,
$3.00 at a Half-Price Books ... so there should be copies Out There.

It took me forever to track down THE MACHINE IN WARD ELEVEN -- this was before the recent reissue in the UK. Initially because it kept showing up on science fiction lists [it's not; but the initial version had this cover quote from Science Fiction Digests on the cover, you see, and...] -- and then even more so, when I found out the 'subject' of the title story. You see, when I was in first grade ['49-'50] my father had a 'nervous breakdown', was put in a sanitarium ... and was subjected to electroshock treatments.
         [At the time I didn't know what was going on; I just knew that the man who came out was not the same man who'd gone in.... That vicarious experience has, yes, affected my life for the past 50 years...]
         It's not a "cheerful" story, nor book: it _is_ worth reading if you are looking for truly _hard-boiled_ fiction.

I know that they are what made him belatedly famous -- but I've always thought the Hoke Moseley novels were the least of Willeford's fiction. [His two-volume autobiography is in a class by themselves; I, also, would have loved to have read more...]
         That said, for years I proclaimed that, of the thousands of films I've seen, only in one case -- where I'd read the source book/story _first_
-- did the movie come close to capturing the essence of the book: That was the film version of MIAMI BLUE....
         That number held until a friend who had the Sundance Channel captured a copy of WOMAN CHASER for me. Okay, make that Two...
         And then, a couple of months ago, I got around to watching the DVD of COCKFIGHTER, I invested in thanks to Rara-Avis.
         Considering that COCKFIGHTER, while not a "mystery", is my own favorite of Willeford's fiction, well, all I can say is despite a lack of proper appreciation while he was alive .... Charles Willeford has been Very Well Served, thrice, by the adaptations [yes, I know he wrote the screen play for CF...] of his work to film....
         Most writers would kill, for even one....

Bill B™

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