Saturday, November 13, 2010

And More Charles Willeford... Book Covers

A strange meeting of American originals: Davy Crockett and Charles Willeford. Evan (aka Dave) Lewis runs a great blog called Davy Crockett's Almanack, where he shares a lot of pulp and paperback fiction -- covers and text. Cross-referencing my recent Willeford article on the Mulholland Books site, he has put up a post with about 20 covers from Willeford books from several decades. Check it out here.

I should note too (by way of disclosure and admiration) that Mr. Lewis and I are in a writing group, and the man has a way with words -- and he's starting to pop up. In the last year, he's had a story in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, and his work also appears in two new anthologies, Discount Noir (an eb00k with buzz -- Kindle and other formats) and Beat to a Pulp, Round 1.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Charles Willeford on Mulholland Books

Mulholland Books, the new crime imprint of Little, Brown, has been hosting a great blog since the imprint launched. It has musings about noir, appreciations of writers, fiction, interviews, and more. Today, they were kind enough to run a piece of mine on one of my favorite writers, Charles Willeford. Even if you don't want to read about Willeford, it's worth looking at the piece to see two of the pulpy covers from Willeford's books (and a photo of the writer himself). Here's the lead...

When I hit certain moments in works by Charles Willeford (1919–1988), I feel like the top of my head is going to rip right off. This is my brain teetering on the strange mental precipice that is the hallmark of Willeford’s odd and destabilizing fiction.


(Addendum: Piece highlighted online in the Oregonian's books section: "Portland writer Doug Levin on Charles Willeford's crime classics.")

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The End of War: All Quiet on the Western Front

I'm going to try to wind down my war reading for a bit, but I thought I would read another classic that I've missed: Erich Maria Remarque's World War I novel All Quiet on the Western Front. My expectations were moderate: I thought it might strike me as quaint or dated, and somehow I've come to associate the book with high school curriculum -- perhaps accessible and yearning youth in the trenches. Finally, the title made me expect attention to lulls in the war ("All Quiet" -- a questionable translation for "Nichts Neues").

These expectations were misguided, to say the least. This book is bloody, brutal, anguished, and unredemptive. It has several scenes that capture the unspeakable fear, chaos, and inhumanity of battle. Here, a description of a counterattack: "We have lost all feeling for one another. We can hardly control ourselves when our glance lights on the form of some other man. We are insensible, dead men, who through some trick, some dreadful magic, are still able to run and to kill."

The narrator later reflects on the wounded in hospitals, and how hospitals filled with maimed men are spread across Europe: "How senseless is everything that can ever be written, done, or thought, when such things are possible. It must be all lies and of no account when the culture of a thousand years could not prevent this stream of blood being poured out, these torture chambers in their hundreds of thousands. A hospital alone shows what war is."

Remarque (so I read in Wikipedia) left Germany in 1931 and emigrated to the U.S. in 1939 (returning to Switzerland after the war). The Nazis burned his books and guillotined his sister.