Okay, I've already fallen down on the blogging effort. It was an exciting week: my story in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine finally came out (more on that later), so I became eligible for and sent my membership fee to the Mystery Writers of America. At this point, my hope is to have the opportunity through the MWA to submit some stories (waiting in the wings) to anthologies.
I became interested in crime fiction at first as a means of procrastination while in graduate school. Through a strange set of circumstances, I ended up writing and delivering a conference paper on Charles Willeford, with the focus on his 1960 novel, The Woman Chaser. (The novel was the source of a really great 1999 movie of the same title.) A couple years later, I wrote the biographical essay on Willeford for the standard reference work, the Dictionary of Literary Biography (Volume 226, American Hard-Boiled Writers). And then I had the honor of being invited to Florida to talk about Willeford when a number of his papers were donated and exhibited at the Florida Center of the Book. I think my biographical essay provides a good background on Willeford, though it likely has its mistakes. Even more detail on Willeford is provided in Don Herron's book, Willeford. I'll say more about Willeford in a future post. All of his books are good, but some are more, for lack of a better word, accessible. Miami Blues might be his most straightforward crime novel (a police procedural). When it came out, Donald Westlake (another of my favorites, in Richard Stark mode, but more later) really raved about it. An early, very dark Willeford novel, Pick-Up, can be found in the second volume of the Library of America volume, Crime Novels: American Noir of the 1950s.