Tuesday, June 10, 2008

This is the way we write now.

Behold the wonder that is Charles Willeford:
"The bank digital temperature gauge down the street had registered ninety degrees. Hoke knew that Florida bank clocks were correct, but they always set their temperature guages lower to avoid upsetting passing tourists, so it was at least ten degrees higher inside the un-air-conditioned cafeteria."

From his 1988 novel, The Way We Die Now. Willeford--who wrote about a thousand books between 1953 and 1988, when he died of a heart attack--has been a revelation. The way Kerouac was a revelation. The way Hiaasen was a revelation. The way Richler, Meltzer, and Rankin were revelations. Reading Willeford is changing the way I write and the way I look at the novel.
I've only read one and a half of his books (I'm right in the middle of The Way We Die Now and have successfully completed Sideswipe, which were his final two novels and the second half of his Hoke Moseley series that started with 1984's Miami Blues), but I recognize his disciples in Carl Hiaasen, Brad Smith, and others. The way his books meander along, seemingly just a series of excellently delivered character pieces, the plot creeping forward imperceptibly until it explodes. The courage to build a series around a schlub like Hoke Moseley, pot-bellied, toothless, and not exactly the keen mind we've come to expect from dime novel detectives. Sherlock Holmes, he ain't. But he's likable. He's the kind of guy who probably really does work for the Miami Police Homicide Dept.

I'm sitting here reassessing the pages and pages of notes and sketches that may someday become my first novel. I'm thinking that I'm going about it all wrong, that I'm putting too much upfront. It's a novel, damn it, give it some room.

I'm sitting here, wishing I was at home writing my novel.

mp3: "Dumbo Wins Again" by Ghosty

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