The Way We Die Now

The Way We Die NowThe Way We Die Now by Charles Willeford
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Pulp Upward Mobility

Of the Hoke Moseley series, this is the most determinedly Pulp of them all and returns to the roots of the genre.

The sense of research, investigation, criminal pursuit have been sidelined to serve Hoke's fall from grace and his middle class redemption (which is the ultimate condemnation, a very personal and punishing hell within the gritty realm of Pulp).

An example of this arises out of his daughter's own emergence into bitter adulthood:
"Suddenly Aileen began to cry. Tears, unchecked, streamed down her cheeks.
"'What's the matter? Why are you crying?
"'Be-because," she said finally, still sobbing, 'because you can't!'"

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Sideswipe

Sideswipe: A Hoke Moseley NovelSideswipe: A Hoke Moseley Novel by Charles Willeford
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Pulp Burn-out

Willeford has always written from many points of view, and this is a superb example where the separate story lines entwine and intersect naturally. The plot is complex when viewed from a distance, but quite simple when seen from within the eyes of each character.

Willeford also reprises past motifs. One such example is with art. Willeford studied art in France and in Peru. This interests inhabits much of his early writing through his protagonist's own expressed interest in art (often idiosyncratic). This artistic pursuit is fully engaged in "Pick-up," brought to center stage in "The Burnt Orange Heresy," and then here in a surprising and satisfying lesson given by an automobile painter.

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New Hope For The Dead

New Hope for the DeadNew Hope for the Dead by Charles Willeford
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Pulp Affirmative Action

"Sanchez picked up one of the long-legged dolls. Hoke sniffed the anima of the owner---Patou's Joy, perspiration, cold cream, bath powder, soap, and stale cigarette smoke.
"'You ever notice,' he said, 'how a woman's room always smells like the inside of her purse?'
"'Nope.' Sanchez dropped the doll on the bed. 'But I've noticed that a man's bedroom smells like a YMCA locker room.'"

Later, Hoke trying to make conversation with Ellita Sanchez during the investigation:

"'You Latin girls lead a sheltered life. But the point I'm trying to make is, these marks look like hickeys to me.'
"'Maybe so. From the smile on his face, he died happy.'
"'That's not a smile, that's rictus. A lot of people who aren't happy to die grin like that.'"

Willeford, a retired Army sergeant who began writing Pulp in the service in the early 50's often brings a knowing sensibility of the professional soldier (albeit the civilian version as a police officer). In this regard, Willeford's protagonists (and especially Sgt. Hoke Moseley) have a military background, or have subordinates who are retired sergeants. And with those attributes of a military life of service comes the mix of accommodation and survival skills. This entry in the series is especially illustrative of this with Hoke's solution to his needs balanced with the solution of a crime. I won't say more given it may reveal too much to those who have not read this book.

Willeford also introduces a new (for the time, but fairly common currently) mode to the police procedural, and that is more tightly integrated story line that draws in family. Some may object this has infrequently been a side-show to the genre (the police procedural), and, as such, nothing remarkable. I would argue that Willeford brings in genuine content consistent with the character of Hoke that adds to the continuity of his earliest work; and it meshes as smoothly as Michael Connelly’s Bosch.


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Miami Blues

Miami BluesMiami Blues by Charles Willeford
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Pulp Haiku

Well, let's just jump into some dialog with Hoke Moseley talking about his dentures:
"'Bout a year ago, I had some abscessed teeth, and the only way I could chew was to hold my head over to one side and chew like a dog on the side that didn't hurt. I was having lunch with Dr. Evans, and after lunch, he took me back to the morgue, shot me up with Novocaine, and pulled all my teeth. Every one of them. Then he made an impression and had these teeth made for me by the same technician who makes all of the Miami Dolphins' false teeth."

A good reason to call this Miami blues.

Then we have an example of character categorization concerning relationships:
"That's some family, isn't it? Incest, prostitution, fanaticism, software ... "

I especially like the software (there is a legitimate tie-in) being chained into this list of perversions.

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