Thursday, 12 September 2013


We are well into the home straight on the Crime Fiction Alphabet Journey. We've reached Week 23 and some W – authors, from the ranks of the Library shelving are offered up for consideration.

Ignoring Charlie Williams, his near-namesake Charles Williams, Jess Walter and R. D. Wingfield – the creator of Frost, the selections chosen are as follows........

Willeford, Williams, Woodrell.........3 enjoyed

Charles Willeford – Miami Blues

I would rank Willeford’s Hoke Moseley series as one of my favourites – 5 books long or 6 depending how you treat the unpublished but boot-legged manuscript for Grimhaven – which was eventually re-worked into one of the other books in the series. I think Miami Blues was also adapted for film, starring one of the multitudes of Baldwin brothers, but I've never seen it. (Can anyone tell them apart?)

Willeford in this series captured everything I love about crime fiction.....character, plot, humour and a sense of the absurd. Time for a re-read soon.

Freddy "Junior" Frenger, psycho fresh out of San Quentin, flies into Miami airport with a pocketful of stolen credit cards and disappears leaving behind the corpse of a Hare Krishna. Soon homicide detective Hoke Moseley is pursuing the chameleon like Frenger and his airhead hooker girlfriend through the smart hotels, Cuban ghettoes and seedy suburban malls of Miami in a deadly game of hide and seek.

John Williams – Into The Badlands

I ought to mention this book as reading it in the early-90’s opened my eyes to various different US crime fiction authors. Williams travelled around the US meeting writers and exploring their cities.

Quoting from an Amazon review..........” Miami >> Carl Hiassen (Lucky You, Stormy Weather), James Hall Louisiana >> James Lee Burke New Mexico >> Tony Hillerman Los Angeles >> James Ellroy, Gar Anthony Haywood San Francisco >> Joe Gores (32 Cadillacs) Missoula, MT >> James Crumley (Bordersnakes) Chicago >> Sara Partesky, Eugene Izzi Detroit >> Elmore Leonard (Be Cool, Cuba Libre, Pronto, Pagan Babies, Riding the Rap) Boston >> George V. Higgins New York >> Andrew Vachss

If it wasn’t for Williams, my reading of the last 20 years would have been markedly different.

In the summer of ‘89 John Williams donned a baseball cap and took off for the States to search out the mythical America of the crime writers, the nation’s most astute chroniclers – to find James Ellroy’s LA, Elmore Leonard’s sleazy South Beach of Miami, Sara Paretsky’s Chicago. Meeting, among others, George V Higgins in Boston and Leonard in Detroit, partying with James Crumley in Montana and undertaking an unnerving tour of New York’s underbelly with Andrew Vachss, Williams discovers an urban America at least as disturbing and mesmeric as the popular fiction of some of his interviewees and gives us an unforgettable, often hilarious commentary on his own predicament as a penniless traveller living in a string of roachy motels.

“An acute journey, alive with the stark and the surreal”

“Part travelogue, part interviews, stuffed with anecdotes, critical asides and astute observations, 'Into the Badlands' brings personality and pleasure into the stuffy and sombre world of literary commentary … a refreshingly vital approach”

“I learned a few things. There is vital sociological and moral comment here too”

“An interesting, engaging literary travelogue”

“A vital mixture of literary criticism, personality profiles and imaginary geography”

Daniel Woodrell – The Ones You Do

Loved it, loved it, loved it! Read it at least 10 years ago and whilst it was fantastic, at its climax I found it extremely sad. Woodrell is the kind of writer who could entertain me, if I was reading his shopping list.

"It's like dyin' old men all over the world will tell you - when you get aged and rackety and think back across your entire lifespan, why it ain't the ones you do, you regret, it's the ones you don't." Lunch Pumphrey is talking about sex, but he applies his philosophy to all aspects of life - which includes dealing with anyone who has the dim wit to double cross him and the bad luck to stick around for the consequences. And that's why old John X. Shade is on the lam, his nubile young wife having run off with $47,000 of Lunch Pumphrey's ill gotten gains, leaving John X. behind with an empty safe and a wise-ass daughter, the fruit of his middle age. Given a certified sociopath like Lunch on his tail, an empty bank account and hands too shaky to hold the pool cue that once made his fame and fortune, John X. has only one way to go: Home to the first wife and three sons - now grown - he abandoned years ago, back to the steamy bayou town of St Bruno.

Wambaugh, Winslow, Westlake..........3 unread  

 Joseph Wambaugh – Hollywood Station

Wambaugh had been quiet for about 10 years or so, at least in publishing terms, with nothing to my knowledge after Floaters in 1996, until this one in 2006. He has subsequently penned about 4 other “Hollywood” novels. It has been on the shelf and gathering dust for maybe 5 years or so. I do have a load of his earlier stuff to get to as well.

They call their sergeant the Oracle. He’s a seasoned LAPD veteran who keeps a close watch over his squad from his understaffed office at Hollywood Station. They are: Budgie Polk, a 27-year-old firecracker who is begrudgingly teamed with Fausto Gamboa, the oldest, tetchiest patrol officer. Andi McCrea, a single mom who spends her days studying at the local community college. Wesley Drubb, a USC drop-out who joined the force to see some action. Flotsam and Jetsam, two aptly named surfer boys who pine after the petite but intrepid Meg Takara. And Hank Driscoll, the one who never shuts up. Together they spend their days and nights in the citys underbelly, where a string of seemingly unrelated events lures the cops of Hollywood Station to their most startling case yet: Russians, diamonds, counterfeiting, grenades a reminder that nothings too horrific or twisted for Los Angeles. Here, it’s business as usual. For the first time in 20 years, Wambaugh revisits the kind of story he tells best life in the LAPD. Not only have his fans been waiting for this comeback, but readers of the new generation of police writing will have great interest in this book.

Don Winslow –The Dawn Patrol

Winslow is one of those writers whose books I acquire but never seem to make the time to read. This came out in 2008 and was bought new. I have subsequently bought Satori, Savages and The Kings of Cool but not cracked the spine on any of them, which is fairly ridiculous. One of these years, I’ll start reading some of the back-log! I have read some of his earlier stuff, which I enjoyed.   

The author of The Winter of Frankie Machine (“another instant classic”—Lee Child) is back with a razor-sharp novel as cool and unbridled as its California surfer heroes, as heart-stopping as a wave none of them sees coming.

Boone Daniels lives to surf. Every morning he's out in the break off Pacific Beach with the other members of The Dawn Patrol: four men and one woman as single-minded about surfing as he is. Or nearly. They have “real j-o-b-s”; Boone works as a PI just enough to keep himself in fish tacos and wet suits—and in the water whenever the waves are “epic making crunchy.”

But Boone is also obsessed with the unsolved case of a young girl named Rain who was abducted back when he was on the San Diego police force. He blames himself—just as almost everyone in the department does—for not being able to save her. Now, when he can't say no to a gorgeous, bossy lawyer who wants his help investigating an insurance scam, he's unexpectedly staring at a chance to make some amends—and take some revenge—for Rain's disappearance. It might mean missing the most colossal waves he's liable to encounter (not to mention putting The Dawn Patrol in serious harm's way as he tangles with the local thuggery), but this investigation is about to give him a wilder ride than any he's ever imagined.
Harrowing and funny, righteous and outrageous, The Dawn Patrol is epic making crunchy from start to finish.

Donald Westlake – Bank Shot

I have read a fair few Westlake books in my crime fiction reading days, though mostly they were Parker books published under his Richard Stark moniker. Bank Shot has been on the shelves maybe 20 years or so, a second hand bargain that cost me about 30p. It’s the 2nd in the Dortmunder series and as I have read the 1st there’s no real excuse for not getting stuck in, apart from the usual complaint of too many books and not enough time!   

When John Dortmunder sets out to rob a bank, he really means it. He steals the whole thing. With the help of his usual crew, as well as a sophomoric ex-FBI man and a militant safecracker, Dortmunder puts a set of wheels under a trailer that just happens to be the temporary site of the Capitalists' & Immigrants' Trust Corp.
When the safe won't open and the cops close in, Dortmunder realizes he's got to find a place -- somewhere in suburban Long Island -- to hide a bank.

"One of the funniest conceptions you're going to come across...the ending is hilarious." (The New York Times)

 Please visit Mysteries in Paradise to check out other bloggers Alphabet selection, here.

Off now to peruse the shelves of the library for X's - I don't think I will be gone too long!


  1. You (and others) have almost persuaded me that I must read something by Daniel Woodrell. Don Winslow is a funny one - I loved a couple of his books, but couldn't get on with others, found them so different that I almost wondered if there are two writers of that name... Not read this one.

    1. Moira, I would definitely give Woodrell a go if you have time.

      Don Winslow - yes there are two of them......there are some soft-porn/erotica books published under the same author moniker - perhaps you've been reading these as well? Ironwood? The Pleasure Machine? French Postcards? (Over 30 to choose from on Amazon!)

      Me, I'm no prude, but I have definitely stuck with the crimey-Winslow!

    2. Oh that's hilarious! I too shall definitely stick with the crime Don.

    3. Ok, if you do branch out though I'll be interested in the posting!

  2. Col - I agree with you about Daniel Woodrell; he's very talented. And I do hope you like the Westlake. And I'll be interested to learn what you think of the Wambaugh.

    1. Thanks Margot, next year I think I will try and read some of the "unread" books I have highlighted on my Alphabet journey - so only a year to wait for a reaction!

  3. I haven't read any of these. I do have a Daniel Woodrell book lined up but I'm not quite in the mood for deep sadness right now and I don't want to do the book an injustice.

    1. Bernadette, it probably wasn't the saddest book I have ever read, just one particular element resonated with me.

      Saddest book, or at least of the ones that had me in tears in places.....A Prayer For Owen Meany........not sure if I have mentioned it....ha ha!
      One Day by David Nicholls also affected me similarly! (I'm not as hard as the books I read!)

  4. After reading three books from Daniel Woodrell, I am in love. The man can write. Period. I wish he would write faster. I was reading where he was recovering from surgery from colorectal cancer when he penned his latest novel. Explains why he was absent for six years. I sincerely hope that he is on the road to a full recovery. As for your other titles/authors, I have a few of these already - Miami Blues, Bank Shot, The Dawn Patrol. I've read two Winslow novels - California Fire and Life and The Power of the Dog. Both were good reads but I still feel as though something is lacking because I am never in the mood to reach for another one.

    1. Keishon, I knew Woodrell had been quiet for a while, but I didn't know he was battling cancer. Like you I hope he is in better health currently and can look forward to some better times ahead.
      I've read and enjoyed most of his earlier stuff,though there was one about the Civil War where the setting didn't excite me. Being from Ireland/UK the American Civil War perhaps doesn't grab me, as much as it might someone closer to home. I briefly read your latest post on him - (but haven't yet commented) - this will no doubt go on the TBR pile in addition to me tracking down a copy of The Outlaw Album.

      Winslow's earlier books I have enjoyed, especially one about Bobby Z - full title escapes me, but like you I'm not compelled to read them as soon as I get them.

      I'll look forward to seeing what you think of Miami Blues, whenever you get there.

    2. As it happens I am between books. Will give Miami Blues a shot. It's only 190 pages.

    3. Fingers crossed that you like it.

  5. So much to say here. I have Back to the Badlands (unread) by John Williams, which includes parts of Into the Badlands, plus more authors. I actually thought of you when I was looking at it recently, because you like to read books set in the US. I lean more towards books set in the UK and Ireland and the rest of Europe.

    I have not read Woodrell. Besides reading recent reviews of his new book, I have read older reviews of some of his earlier books, and all make me want to try his books. I read Westlake in my early twenties and liked them a lot; not sure if I read any Richard Stark but nowadays I would probably like them better. Definitely I will try Charles Willeford, although I am a bit scared that he is too gritty and bleak for me.

    1. Tracy, I do also have a copy of "Back to...." by Williams, but the first offering was pivotal in shaping my reading. It's funny but for years and years I never wanted to read anything set in the UK....why? Because I lived there. If I couldn't least I could visit faraway places via my reading

      I have somewhat modified that view as I have gotten older.
      I've definitely read more Stark than Westlake, but enjoy both.

      Willeford's Miami Blues, I didn't find that bleak to be honest, though there is a sadness about Hoke. Woodrell - watch out for him in your book sale!

    2. So it works out really well, I read your reviews of US books and you read my reviews of UK and Ireland books.

      I am glad I came back by because it reminded me to put Woodrell on my list. The book sale is Friday (and over the weekend and beyond) and I can't wait.

      But I really wanted to say I am looking forward to what you have to say about the Carolyn Hart book. I have one book each from two of her series and one standalone but have not read any of them.

    3. Tracy - spend your money wisely! No second thought sbe reckless!

      You may have to wait for the detailed Hart response, I'm running about 4 books behind, plus I'm neglecting everyone else's posts!
      Suffice to say, I finished it and really enjoyed it, which I wasn't too sure would be the case.