RARA-AVIS: A Willeford primer for miker...

From: Bill Bowers ( BBowers@one.net)
Date: 09 Jul 2003

<-----------Original Message----------->

>Date: Tue, 8 Jul 2003 14:21:34 -0500
>From: Robison Michael R CNIN < Robison_M@crane.navy.mil>
>Subject: RE: RARA-AVIS: Re: Georges Simenon
>I thought it was Willeford month, too, but it wouldn't make me
>unhappy to wait for the next month. That would give me time to
>read some more of WRITING AND OTHER BLOOD SPORTS and maybe even
>Oh! WOMAN CHASER, too. Yeah! Good feeling to have all those
>on the shelf waiting for me. Although I wish I had COCKFIGHTER,
>too. Can't have everything, I guess.

I've read most of Willeford's prose, including the awesome short story collection, and even Don Herron's "Willeford" (which, in truth, is more about Don than Willeford! Don't yelp, anyone: I know Don, and his ex is one of my best friends) -- and am patiently waiting for Juda, so that I can finally read the poetry.

The "Hoke" novels, for which he finally received some fame, are actually my least favorites of Willeford's canon; a little too over the top for me, although I do recommend the film version of "Miami Blues".

I absolutely love his two autobiographical volumes, his early 50s novels are sheer wicked fun. I consider "A Burnt Orange Heresy" one of the absolute best novels of the 20th Century, in any genre; it's near the top of my to-be-reread list.

But my personal favorite Willeford novel is "Cockfighter".

It is not, particularly, a mystery. But if your definition of "noir" hinges on the protagonist getting royally screwed in the end ... I can think of no better example that I've ever read.

[And, thanks to a discussion last year on r-a, I bought the DVD of the filmed version. Don't be put off by the fact that it is a Roger Corman film; it is a remarkably faithful retelling of the novel. I'm sure that this is aided by the fact that, iirc, Willeford wrote the screenplay; he also has a cameo... Bump your daughter, and add this one to your NetFlix wishlist, miker!]

Then again I might be prejudiced in that I attended a couple of actual pit cockfights, courtesy of your tax dollars at work, when I was stationed in the P.I., busily saving the world from dominos ... in the late 60s.

..and, somewhere, have a box full of slides to prove it.

I have no idea how much actual 'research' Willeford did, but trust me ... he has the "atmosphere" down, stone cold.

I truly envy those approaching Willeford for the first time.

He is not for the faint of heart.

Bill Bowers

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