RARA-AVIS: Willeford's favorites

From: Jay Gertzman ( jgertzma@earthlink.net)
Date: 08 Oct 2007

In his interview with Ed Gorman, Willeford listed his 3 favorites as Burnt Orange Heresy, Cockfighter, and High Priest of California. The latter was, I believe, his first novel published, by Royal Giant in 1953. He said the "characterization of Russell Haxby ... is the best I've ever done." What's interesting is that this publication was with a newsstand pulp fiction company that depended on putting out a lot of books (the _High Priest_ was do-a-dos with a book first published by a hardbound pulp fiction concern in the 30s) and must have told him his novel had to be of a certain length, have a emphasis on action, sex, violence but within "decent" limits, and be fit for quick
"throwaway-type" reading. What editing he got beyond this advice is probably unknowable. And yet it doesn't seem to have stopped him from writing as well as he did when having a reputation and being free to write without interference.

Aren't the pulp, newsstand paperbacks with strict, pragmantic, sold as everyday commodities, less likely to count as talented writers' own favorites? Maybe Dell or Fawcett Gold Medal, but Royal Giant, or Beacon
(a soft core sex publisher CW also wrote for at the beginning of his career)?

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