The recent mentions of Charles Willeford caused Terry Zobeck to prowl the net for awhile, where he discovered an article from yesteryear in which Lawrence Block remembered his meetings with Willeford — pretty interesting, especially the bits about eating cat, though Block perhaps doesn’t quite “get” the appeal of the never-published novel Grimhaven. It has become almost a mythical icon in hard-boiled lit, the Hoke Moseley novel written in the wake of Miami Blues to kill off the series. Yeah, at the time it was better that Willeford tossed it in the trunk and went on to do regular novels in the series, but there’s nothing much like it.
And, yes, I think it should be published. Willeford is literature, not merely commercial product, so I think his readers could “take it,” even enjoy it. (By the way, it amuses me how among the Willeford fan crowd people go nuts trying to track down some bootleg copy of Grimhaven, but don’t seem to have much interest in the very first proto-Hoke novel, A Necklace of Hickeys. Both these novels should be in a book — call it Alt/Hoke or something and let it roll.)
If you’re surfing over to that article, don’t forget the interview with Block up on Ethan Iverson’s site, which also covers some memories of Willeford.
And if you’re just a fan of Block — Zobeck also collects Block, though I’m not sure if he’s after Willeford first editions, too — our pals over at Contrapasso magazine put up an interview with him as a web extra, covering a variety of topics.
I especially liked the bits about Dave Van Ronk, of “Teddy Bears’ Picnic” fame — basis for the title character in the Coens’ Inside Llewyn Davis. Block knew Van Ronk, lived in the Village in that era, thinks the Coens got it all wrong.
I never became a big Block fan — which is not to say I have anything against him — and consequently don’t have much to add to the topics covered in the interviews. Except, mention is made of various bad movie versions of Block novels, including 8 Million Ways to Die, a 1986 release starring Jeff Bridges. (I don’t think the populace at large even knew he was The Dude then.) Badly rated by history, terrible box office at the time. I saw it, which helped put me off Jeff Bridges movies for awhile. . . .
A song by Lonnie Mack pops up in the movie. Part of the comeback he was making at that moment with a boost from Stevie Ray Vaughan, who co-produced and sat in on his 1985 album Strike Like Lightning (featuring the instant classic, “Oreo Cookie Blues”). Probably about 1986 or 87 I caught a Lonnie Mack show in the Great American Music Hall (formerly Blanco’s, for those of you who have gumshoed the mean streets on the tour).
Before starting the number, Mack strummed his guitar a bit and said, “This song appeared in the movie 8 Million Ways to Die. . .,” more idle strumming, “. . .and they showed every one of them. . . .”