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Charles Ray Willeford

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Master Sergeant Charles Willeford, USAF “was born in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1919. In March 1935, he signed up with the California National Guard; a few months later, he enlisted in the regular United States Army. He spent two years stationed in the Philippines serving as a fire truck driver, a gas truck driver, and briefly as a cook. At the end of 1938, he was discharged from the Army, though he re-enlisted in March 1939, joining the U.S. Cavalry stationed at the Presidio of Monterey, California. In the Cavalry, he learned to ride and care for horses and spent several months learning the art of horseshoeing. He also served as a "horseholder" in a machine gun troop and earned a marksman qualification.

In 1942, Willeford married Lara Bell Fridley before being stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia, for infantry school. He was assigned to the Third Army, Company C, 11th Tank Battalion, 10th Armored Division and sent to Europe as a tank commander. He fought in the Battle of the Bulge and earned the Silver Star, the Bronze Star for outstanding bravery, the Purple Heart with one oak leaf cluster, and the Luxembourg War Cross. After V-E day, he studied at Biarritz American University until he was shipped back to the United States. He again enlisted in 1945 for a term of three years and was stationed in Kyūshū, Japan, from 1947 to 1949, where he ran the Army radio station WLKH and was promoted to master sergeant.

His first book of poetry, Proletarian Laughter, was published in 1948. In May 1949, he and his wife, Lara, divorced. In July of the same year, he left the Army, leaving a mailing address of General Delivery, Dallas, Texas. He enrolled in the Universitarias de Belles Artes in Lima, Peru, studying art and art history in the graduate program. He was dismissed from the university when officials learned that he had neither an undergraduate degree nor a high school diploma. He lived in New York City for a month at the end of 1949 before re-enlisting in the armed forces.

Willeford was stationed at Hamilton Air Force Base in California through April 1952. He married Mary Jo Norton in July of that year, and lived for a while in Birmingham, Alabama. In 1953, Willeford's first novel, High Priest of California, was published. Bound as a double volume with another writer's novel, it sold 55,000 copies, about a third of its print run.[3] In January 1954, he re-enlisted once again; he was stationed this time at Palm Beach Air Force Base, while living in West Palm Beach. In 1955, he was reassigned to Harmon Air Force Base in Newfoundland. Willeford finally left active duty in November 1956. By that time, two more novels of his had been published.”

Master Sergeant Charles Willeford is the author of Something About a Soldier, Miami Blue, New Hope for the Dead, Sideswipe, The Shark-Infested Custard, The Way We Die Now, Cockfighter, High Priest of California, Wild Wives, The Woman Chaser, I Was Looking for a Street, The Black Mass of Brother Springer, Pick-up, Strange, Poontang and Other Poems, Burnt Orange Heresy, The Old Man at the Bridge, The Second Half of the Double Feature, The Machine in Ward Eleven, Made in Miami, Kiss Your Ass Goodbye, Writing and Other Blood Sports, The Guide for the Undehemorrhoided, Understudy for Love, Difference, Lust is a Woman, and Miami Love.

According to the book description of Miami Blues, “After a brutal day investigating a quadruple homicide, Detective Hoke Moseley settles into his room at the un-illustrious El Dorado Hotel and nurses a glass of brandy. With his guard down, he doesn’t think twice when he hears a knock on the door. The next day, he finds himself in the hospital, badly bruised and with his jaw wired shut. He thinks back over ten years of cases wondering who would want to beat him into unconsciousness, steal his gun and badge, and most importantly, make off with his prized dentures. But the pieces never quite add up to revenge, and the few clues he has keep connecting to a dimwitted hooker, and her ex-con boyfriend and the bizarre murder of a Hare Krishna pimp. Chronically depressed, constantly strapped for money, always willing to bend the rules a bit, Hoke Moseley is hardly what you think of as the perfect cop, but he is one of the the greatest detective creations of all time.”

According to the book description of New Hope for the Dead, “Miami homicide detective Hoke Moseley is called to a posh Miami neighborhood to investigate a lethal overdose. There he meets the alluring stepmother of the decedent, and begins to wonder about dating a witness. Meanwhile, he has been threatened with suspension by his ambitious new chief unless he leaves his beloved, if squalid, suite at the El Dorado Hotel, and moves downtown. With free housing hard to come by, Hoke is desperate to find a new place to live. His difficulties are only amplified by an assignment to re-investigate fifty unsolved murders, the unexpected arrival of his two teenage daughters, and a partner struggling with an unwanted pregnancy. With few options and even fewer dollars, he decides that the suspicious and beautiful stepmother of the dead junkie might be a compromised solution to all of his problems.

Packed with atmosphere and humor, New Hope for the Dead is a classic murder mystery by one of the true masters of the genre. Now back in print, Charles Willeford’s tour de force is an irresistible invitation to become acquainted with one of the greatest detective characters of all time.”

According to the book description of Sideswipe: A Hoke Moseley Detective Thriller, “Hoke Moseley has had enough. Tired of struggling against alimony payments, two teenage daughters, a very pregnant, very single partner, and a low paying job as a Miami homicide detective, Hoke moves to Singer Island and vows never step foot on the mainland again. But on the street, career criminal Troy Louden is hatching plans of his own with a gang including a disfigured hooker, a talentless artist, and a clueless retiree. But when his simple robbery results in ruthless and indiscriminate bloodshed, Hoke quickly remembers why he is a cop and hurls himself back into the world he meant to leave behind forever. A masterly tale of both mid-life crisis and murder, Sideswipe is a page-turning thriller packed with laughs, loaded with suspense, and featuring one of the truly original detectives of all time.”

According to the book description of The Shark-Infested Custard, “From the master of Miami noir comes this tale of four regular guys living in a singles apartment building who experience firsthand that there's more than one type of heat in Miami. Larry Dolman is a rather literal minded ex-cop who now works private security. Eddie Miller is an airline pilot who's studying to get his real estate license. Don Luchessi is a silver salesman who's separated from his wife but too Catholic to get a divorce. Hank Norton is a drug company rep who gets four times as many dames as any of the other guys. They are all regular guys who like to drink, play cards, meet broads, and shoot a little pool. But when a friendly bet goes horribly awry, they find themselves with two dead bodies on their hands and a homicidal husband in the wings—and acting more like hardened criminals than upstanding citizens.”

According to the book description of The Way We Die Now, “When Miami Homicide Detective Hoke Moseley receives an unexplained order to let his beard grow, he doesn't think much about it. He has too much going on at home, especially with a man he helped convict ten years before moving in across the street. Hoke immediately assumes the worst, and considering he has his former partner, who happens to be nursing a newborn, and his two teenage daughters living with him, he doesn't like the situation on bit. It doesn't help matters when he is suddenly assigned to work undercover, miles away, outside of his jurisdiction and without his badge, his gun, or his teeth. Soon, he is impersonating a drifter and tring to infiltrate a farm operation suspected of murdering migrant workers. But when he gets there for his job interview, the last thing he is offered is work. In this final installment of the highly acclaimed Hoke Moseley novels, Charles Willeford's brilliance and expertise show on every page. Equally funny, thrilling, and disturbing, The Way We Die Now is a triumphant finish to one of the most original detective series of all time.”

According to the book description of Cockfighter, “A former professional boxer, actor, horse trainer and radio announcer, Charles Willeford (1919-1988) is best known for his Miami-based crime novels featuring hard-boiled detective Hoke Moseley, including Miami Blues and Sideswipe. His career as a writer began in the late 1940s, but it was his 1972 novel Cockfighter that announced his name to a wider audience. Of that book, Harry Crews said, "Charles Willeford renders the sport with such knowledge and attention to detail that... I had the almost inexpressible impression of being on my knees again beside the great fighting pits of the southern circuit." Considered to be Willeford's masterpiece, Cockfighter is a brutal and beautiful fiction of the American South, loosely modeled, according to the author, on Homer's Odyssey. Frank Mansfield is the titular cockfighter: a silent and fiercely contrary man whose obsession with winning will cost him almost everything. Mansfield haunts the cockpits, bars and roads of the rural South in the early 1960s, adrift but always capable of nearly anything. First published in complete form in 1972, and adapted by Willeford for a Monte Hellman film in 1974 (which became infamous for its use of real animals in the fight scenes), the novel Cockfighter has been out of print for nearly 20 years. Cockfighter is issued here with an introduction by Jesse Pearson and is the second volume in PictureBox's ongoing Charles Willeford reissue series.”

According to the book description of The Woman Chaser, “Richard Hudson, woman chaser and used car salesman, possesses a pimp's understanding of the ways in which women (and men) are most vulnerable. One day Richard decides to make an ambitious film, which turns into a fiasco. Enraged, he exacts revenge on all who have crossed him.”

According to the book description of The Black Mass of Brother Springer, “No one writes a better crime novel than Charles Willeford" Elmore Leonard THE BLACK MASS OF BROTHER SPRINGER tells the story of Sam Springer, a drifter novelist who meets Jack Dover, the retiring Abbot of the Church of God's Flock. Dover's final official act is to ordain Springer and send him off to serve as pastor of an all-Black church in Jacksonville, Florida. Springer soon becomes entangled in the city's growing civil rights movement . . . and with the church deacon's earthy young wife, Merita. The Washington post calls this darkly humorous novel by Charles Willeford, one of the great crime writers of the 20th century, "his masterpiece." This new edition is introduced by James Sallis and contains Willeford's previously unpublished play based on the novel.”

According to the book description of The Machine in Ward Eleven, “This reissue of Willeford's 1963 pulp classic is a timely reminder that madness is truly the dark heart of politics. Written at a time when people still had faith in their elected leaders, Willeford's book laid bare the American dream. There is an almost Chekhovian wistfulness in the treatment of his stories, which belies their considerable — and still relevant — impact. "The most eloquently brainy and exacting pulp fiction ever fabricated!”

According to the book description of Wild Wives, “Jake Blake is a private detective short on cash when he meets a rich and beautiful young woman looking to escape her father’s smothering influence. Unfortunately for Jake, the smothering influence includes two thugs hired to protect her—and the woman is in fact not the daughter of the man she wants to escape, but his wife. Now Jake has two angry thugs and one jealous husband on his case. As Jake becomes more deeply involved with this glamorous and possibly crazy woman, he becomes entangled in a web of deceit, intrigue—and multiple murders. Brilliant, sardonic, and full of surprises, Wild Wives is one wild ride.”

According to the book description of I Was Looking for a Street, “I'm proud to say I knew the man who wrote this book," writes Elmore Leonard of cult crime writer Charles Willeford's moving memoir of his youth. "It is pure writing, never pretentious or forced, never melodramatic, but honest storytelling of the highest order. This is how to do it, if anyone wants to know: how to write simple prose from a young boy's point of view and hold the reader spellbound." I Was Looking for a Street tells the story of the author's childhood and adolescence as an orphan, as he moves from railroad yards to hobo tent cities, to soup kitchens and deserts around Los Angeles and across the United States. The ensuing tale is at once a picaresque adventure through Depression-era America and a portrait of the writer as a young man of seemingly little promise but great spirit. Written after Willeford's later literary success with Cockfighter, Miami Blues and The Woman Chaser, this memoir is the work of a writer at the height of his powers, looking back without nostalgia or regret, and preserving in his clear and powerful prose the great American adventure of his youth.”

According to the book description of Burnt Orange Heresy, “A new paperback edition of the neo-noir novel book critics have called Willeford's best. Fast-talking, backstabbing, womanizing art critic Jacques Figueras will do anything - blackmail, burglary, fencing, assassination - to further his career. Crossing the art world with the underworld, Willeford expands his noir palette to include hues of sunny Florida and weird tints of Surrealism when Figueras takes a job for an art collector who doesn't care how his art is collected, even if it involves murder.”

According to the book description of The Second Half of the Double Feature, “In this new collection of short stories, vignettes and autobiographical sketches-many previously unpublished-Charles Willeford, author of Miami Blues and The Burnt Orange Heresy creates a mosaic of the absurdities of life in the 20th century. From a malicious grandmother to prophetic depictions of the power of reality television, with his wry humor and sudden shifts to violence, Willeford seduces, amuses and repeatedly surprises you. This expanded hardcover edition adds Willeford's complete published poetry, as well as nearly 50 previously unpublished poems”

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