Blowhard, Esq. writes:
As the quote I posted a few days ago implied, I just read the first volume of crime writer Charles Willeford’s memoirs. It might be one of the best things I’ve ever read. The book covers the author’s childhood in Depression-era Los Angeles and his adventures at age 14 (!) riding the rails from California to Texas. The prose is easygoing yet direct, nostalgic without being overly sentimental. To contemporary ears, his early life could be read as a catalog of Dickensian horrors — both parents dead from tuberculosis, a stint in boarding school where children were also required to labor as farmers, begging for food on the streets of El Paso — but Willeford looks back upon these years with wry amusement and good humor.
There are wonderful scenes and passages on almost every page. His storytelling is so assured, he’s in such command of the form, that the writing feels artless and natural. Willeford’s work seems to have somewhat fallen by the wayside (he’s not nearly as well-known Leonard or Westlake, for example), but publishers Family and PictureBox have thankfully rescued this gem from undeserved obscurity.
- GQ excerpts the book with the best 907 words about hats you’ll read this year.
- VICE presents a longer excerpt.
- Here’s a good profile of Willeford from The Atlantic that focuses on his Miami-based crime novels.