Willeford Cult Classic “THE WOMAN CHASER” Lives Again Via Streaming

“I’m not going to ruin my movie because of some stupid ruling that it has to be ninety minutes long. That’s just like adding three more plates to the last supper, or an extra wing to the Pentagon.”
― Charles Willeford, The Woman Chaser

Producer Joe McSpadden has announced that the 1999 adaptation of Charles Willeford’s “The Woman Chaser” will be available for streaming on I-Tunes and Amazon May 1st and Netflix and Hulu in June 2014. The announcement comes with a new trailer featuring a post-incarceration interview with Patrick Warburton, who played anti-hero protagonist used-car-salesman-turned-movie-producer Richard Hudson in the film. Watch the interview on youtube here.

The Woman Chaser, originally released in 1999, has new life via online streaming on May 1.

The Woman Chaser, originally released in 1999, has new life via online streaming on May 1.

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“I’m not going to ruin my movie because of some stupid ruling that it has to be ninety minutes long. That’s just like adding three more plates to the last supper, or an extra wing to the Pentagon.”
― Charles Willeford, The Woman Chaser

Jesse Sublett, noir fiction author & blues singer

Some of the books from my Charles Willeford Collection

Jesse Sublett, noir fiction author & blues singer, fan of Charles Willeford

Charles Willeford novels

Charles Willeford, who died in 1984, is hailed by many as the greatest crime fiction novelist of the late 20th century.

“The Woman Chaser” adeptly captures Willeford’s philosophy and tone, which often has the reader or viewer laughing out loud at a slapstick moment just before things turn grisly–leaving some to wonder if they missed something or the writer was possibly putting them on. With Willeford, you may never know. This is the razor’s edge tap dance at which he excelled more than anyone else.

Jesse Sublett, noir fiction author & blues singer, fan of Charles Willeford

The Burnt Orange Hersey, by Charles Willeford

I wrote about “The Woman Chaser” and Willeford in a piece for the New York Times published in 2000.

“Just tell the truth,” Willeford once said, “and they’ll accuse you of writing black humor.”

Charles Willeford, probably the greatest noir author of the late 20th century.

Charles Willeford, probably the greatest noir author of the late 20th century.

This could be a really good year for Willeford fans. Last fall, Variety announced that FX had ordered a pilot titled “Hoke,” with Paul Giamatti in the starring role for a potential series based on Willeford’s great Hoke Moseley novels. The pilot has been described as a “dark comedy” about the “hardboiled… maybe insane homicide detective in 1985 Miami. Screenwriter Scott Frank adapted the pilot and will come on board as show runner if the pilot is successful. Frank’s screenwriting credits include “Get Shorty” and “Heaven’s Prisoners” (adaptations of novels by, respectively, Elmore Leonard and James Lee Burke). Curtis Hanson (LA Confidential) is one of the executive producers.

Now, if you know anything about noir, you know that Miami is the home of weird crime in America, and that means that a number of very fine crime fiction writers have made art out of that tragically flawed environment. And then you would also know that Charles Willeford is the godfather of all that.

The Atlantic ran a fine article about Willeford in 2000 titled “The Unlikely Father of Miami Crime Fiction.”

Not long after I met Charles Willeford, he told me the secret to writing. “Never allow yourself to take a leak in the morning,” he said, “until you’ve written a page. That way you’re guaranteed a page a day, and at the end of a year you have a novel.” Here was Willeford in a nutshell: the crudeness, the humor, and above all the love of the lie. One doubted whether he followed any of the advice he was so fond of dispensing.
Willeford, who died twelve years ago this spring, might be called the progenitor of the modern South Florida crime novel. John D. MacDonald had put the region on the mystery map in the 1960s, with his Travis McGee novels, but that was an older, sleepier South Florida. Willeford’s last four novels (1984-1988) spanned Miami’s metamorphosis from vacationer and retiree haven to the nation’s capital of glamour, drugs, and weird crime, and these inspired the post-Miami Vice group of Miami writers, including Carl Hiaasen and James W. Hall. “Miami Blues [1984] launched the modern era of Miami crime fiction,” Mitch Kaplan, the owner of Books & Books, Miami’s leading literary bookstore, told me recently. “There’s a direct line from Charles through just about everyone writing crime fiction in Miami today.”

Read the rest of the article here.

Jesse Sublett, noir fiction author & blues singer, fan of Charles Willeford

New Hope for the Dead, by Charles Willeford

“A man should always observe fanaticism when he gets the chance.” (The Machine in Ward Eleven)

Fanaticism for Willeford’s writing certainly elevated my life. Living in Los Angeles in the late 1980s–early 1990s, I was a huge fan of Willeford’s novels. One day in 1991 I ran into Dennis McMillan in Vagabond Books. McMillan published boutique editions of a number of Willeford’s more obscure works. McMillan and I hit it off, and later, he loaned me a bunch of manuscripts of Willeford’s remaining unpublished works. Through this chance encounter, I ended up making an important discovery: The novel “Deliver Me From Dallas,” co-written with W. Franklin Sanders, one of Willeford’s pals from the service, had been published by Fawcett Gold Medal in 1961 under Sanders’ name and with the title “The Whip Hand.” I made this conclusion and announced it after comparing the manuscript with a great looking Gold Medal paperback I first seen in a little used bookstore up in Big Bear Lake in the late 1980s (I was collecting pulp fiction by the truckload in those days).

"Jesse Sublett" "Charles Willeford" "crime fiction" "Denis Johnson" "Grave Digger B

The 1961 paperback original was published without Willeford’s knowledge, apparently. The editor at Fawcett hated Willeford’s writing, but when it was submitted without his name, he bought this book.

After I made this discovery I told Dennis, who was astounded, and he told Betsy. I clued book dealer Lyn Munroe, who issued a special Charles Willeford catalog, featuring the Gold Medal edition, which shot up in value from $1.00 to as much as $400 at auctions. I wrote a piece for the Austin Chronicle about it, and Dennis ended up publishing Willeford’s original manuscript (superior to the Sanders/Gold Medal rewrite), with the original title (“Deliver Me from Dallas”) and my own introduction, which I completed with help from Betsy, who gave me info on Willeford’s dates in the Army and Air Force, and other facts that helped confirm my conclusions. At some point word was also passed on to Don Herron, the Hammett tour guide and Willeford biographer, though he doesn’t mention the chain of events in his survey of Willeford’s work “Collecting Charles Willeford,” but it’s still a good, informative article.

Novelist Lawrence Block wrote a great piece about Willeford for Mystery Scene.

Here’s another fine piece on the Mulholland books site, by Doug Levin.

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