Wild Wives By Charles Willeford

    Willeford takes what seemingly starts out to be a typical hard-boiled private eye story and turns it on it's head with with this fast paced and insanely plotted noir. 9781400032471 Cockfighter keeps popping up on one shelf or another of my recommendations here on Goodreads so when I found this classic hard-boiled novel in an op-shop for $1 I knew I HAD to try Charles Willeford for myself.

    And I wasn't disappointed. It's a tiny novella filled with seedy and conflicted characters and a simple yet convoluted plot. Perfect pulp material.

    Three seperate parts are vivid in my mind for different reasons; the first being the description and behaviour of Barbara Ann Allen is graphic and shocking in it's content like a slap to the face with a block of ice, if you weren't sure that this novel was going to be anything different than a cheap Dashiell Hammett knockoff already then by page 4 you will be 100% convinced.

    Willeford follows this up with some gratuitous and unnecessary violence; first you're given a hint as Jake Blake nonchalently attacks a man without prior warning and a few pages later what amounts to a hate crime with some self-loathing thrown in and some latent homosexuality undertones, is as brutal a beating as I've seen described in literature for quite some time.

    The final image I'll leave you with is the climax, Willeford manages to pull a rabbit out of a hat when you didn't even see the hat or the arm reaching in to it, with as true a depressing, existential and classically pulp noir ending as you've ever read.

    A fast and enjoyable read but not long enough to truly be called amazing. 9781400032471 Willeford’s forte is not adhering to a stereotype. Sure, this is hard-boiled noir, but few things are as expected in his novels.
    Here, what on the surface of it seems to be a fairly typical Private Investigator as protagonist, gradually gets turned on its head. Initially Jake Blake comes across as just another hard up and short of work detective..

    The rain hit hard at my window. It slowed down to a whisper, then hit hard again. All afternoon the rain had been doing this while I sat behind my desk with my feet up, doing nothing. I looked around at the ratty little office and wondered vaguely what time it was.
    It wasn’t much of an office. The four walls were painted a sickly lime-green, and the only bright spot in the room was the famous Marilyn Monroe calendar with its flame-red background. Two ladder-backed straight chairs, a two-drawer file cabinet, a cheap combination typing-and-writing desk and a swivel chair completed the furnishings. The rugless floor was laid with brown and yellow linoleum blocks.

    Blake is aghast when the unexpected happens. It seems his luck is in. A beautiful, but psychotic young woman, the wife of a socially prominent San Francisco architect, calls at his office requesting his help for plenty of cash.

    But as the story develops, his methods become more and more unorthodox, and his behaviour eccentric and often bizarre.
    It’s evident that even early in his writing career, this was published in 1956, Willeford feels obliged to experiment with the genre. There’s an evident nod to Hammett / Goodis / Thompson / Leonard here, but always with a sense of irony. Law and order are out the window. Willeford’s plot is driven by fate. For anyone coming to Willeford for the first time, don’t expect a happy ending.

    Just unfortunately, this isn’t as well developed as many of his other novels, and loses something because of it. It’s too short, and consequently some of the aspects of the plot are slight and appear hurried. The novel was apparently written in a sleazy San Francisco hotel room in a few hours when Willeford was at home on leave from the Army.
    Nonetheless, it’s very different to your usual US noir writing, and easily read inside a couple of hours. 9781400032471 Second Time Through

    This is real good and full of surprises.

    There's only one wife, but she's wild enough to be plural. 9781400032471 This fast-paced novella is an unconventional private eye tale populated with seedy, greedy characters. Willeford, having written it under a pseudonym in 1956, rehashes the usual private-eye-falls-for-a-femme-fatale formula. But he throws in enough curveballs to keep the reader off-balance, starting with the first scene where a beautiful young lady struts into the private eye's office. Our lovers eventually make their way to no-holds-bar Las Vegas where the action grows even weirder. I'd say WILD WIVES is great fun to read on a rainy or snowy day. 9781400032471


    Summary 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. Wild Wives

    Wild Wives begins with a beautiful, young femme fatale walking into a private detective's office. Sound familiar? Yep, it's a well-used, ordinary convention in hard-boiled detective fiction. But writer Charles Willeford is anything but ordinary. As he did in the last Willeford book I read, Pick-up, he turns the genre on it's head. In the first two pages of Wild Wives, we realize that the femme fatale is a 16-year-old girl, who shoots the detective with a water pistol, bends over his desk, and proceeds to ask him for a spanking.

    Thus begins this bizarre, sleazy little hard-boiled novella that has a hefty dose of sex and violence, not to mention a fitting title! 9781400032471 2020:
    From 1953
    Gritty and graphic, violent Pulp Novella. Great action suspense, especially as it goes on. I love all this, but there are such interesting character details, such strange entertaining sequences. This made it stand out. The scenes in Vegas, the wedding chapel, are funny and fun. And the almost appropriate encounters with the fifteen year old girl are unusual, not exactly genre cliche.
    Back in like 2010 I found a cache of his older books at a used booksale. Like someone had collected them and then died (they are mostly 1980s reprints). Sorry to be so morbid, but if you collected five of his books, why would you knowingly donate them to a charity booksale? At least I got them. This is why I'd read so many of his books before the Hoke Mosley series.

    Another totally fun and satisfying 50s noir. This is the fourth Willeford I've read, and I'm very into him now. 9781400032471 An early Charles Willeford I found in a used bookstore, and all the early ones are pulpy noir experiments that seem initially like trashy Dashiell Hammett knockoffs--and they mostly are--though in the end he tries to disrupt your expectations, make you see he knows just what he is doing. Jake Blake might be the name of a slick Hollywood detective, but he’s really just another part of what Tony Hillerman calls Willeford’s “asocial trash” in a back cover blurb. There are no good guys or gals with conscience in these books.

    So Wild Wives, a novella coming in at around 100 pages, from the title and cover you expect will be a drunken orgy of a tale where everything goes wrong, and you are not that far from the mark, though since it is 1956 it is not that explicit, and thus not quite so wild.

    Jake is living in a cheap hotel where his crummy office is also located:

    “Behind me was my single window with its excellent view of the airshaft.”

    A hot dame (required for any pulpy noir) named Florence walks into his office wanting to get two bodyguards off her trail for a couple hours. Her Daddy thinks she is bad and gives her no room to breathe. Blake knows what to do with those two hours with her:

    “She wasn’t the type who is hard to get; she was anxious to get!”

    Haw! And yeah, so much of the early parts of the book seem played for cheap laughs, but then we
    meet Flo’s gay brother Freddy, and violence ensues, so we firmly establish our Jake is a (homophobic) snake. And then when Flo’s Daddy confronts Blake we find he is not actually her Daddy. . . but her husband. Oops! And Daddy falls down, goes boom, we are on the run, the road to ruin. Turns out Flo just got out of a mental hospital and is a little. . . unbalanced still. Example: If Flo tells you to turn off the radio, you turn off the radio, bud! Or she takes off her high heel and smashes it to bits!

    She drives them 100 miles-an-hour across the desert so they can get married in a pretty funny Vegas “wedding” at a cheap motel. Flo says she has plenty of cash stashed in various places from her rich hubby, including Vegas, so they want to get to Mexico and start a new life together, the sweet couple. Love! You can't beat it! And things not surprisingly go south for the young sleazeballs, though not quite in the way you expect.

    This is not Hammett or Chandler; this is quick pulpy gutter trash written with a sardonic poison pen, in the manner of Willeford’s own Pick Up, Cockfighter, or The High Priest of California, before he figured out how to make some real money in Hollywood with his funny schleppy Detective Hoke novels and the films that followed. 9781400032471 It feels like Willeford banged this out under a tight deadline. On the plus side, there's hardly a dull moment. 9781400032471 First published in 1956, Wild Wives is a short but very entertaining novel from Charles Willeford, the author of Miami Blues and a number of other crime novels.

    Jake Blake is a struggling San Francisco P.I. who lives in the same cheap hotel where he has his office. One slow afternoon, Florence Weintraub, the inevitable Hot Babe essential to the beginning of practically any classic P.I. story, waltzes into his office insisting that she's desperately in need of his help. Even though she's twenty-six years old, her father allows her absolutely no freedom whatsoever and has her accompanied wherever she goes by two goons who are allegedly there to protect her. She'd just like a couple of hours to herself, she says. Could Jake possibly help her lose the two thugs?

    Well, of course he can, for twenty-five bucks a day plus expenses. And when the lovely Florence agrees to the terms, one thing inevitably leads to another. Florence is very attracted to Jake and once they finally elude her guardians, they go out to dinner, which Jake naturally adds to the expense account. Other more interesting activities accompany the dinner, and Florence insists that she'd like to see Jake again the following day.

    Complications ensue and poor Jake soon finds himself entangled in a mess he never envisioned when he accepted Florence's seemingly simple assignment. It's an engaging story with plenty of Willeford's deadpan humor and enough action to propel the story forward at a fairly rapid clip. While not quite on a par with some of Willeford's better known books, it's still a fun read and will appeal especially to those who have read and enjoyed the author's other work. 9781400032471