Rediscovered: Understudy for Love/Death

In other Willeford News, Hard Case Crime is poised for the official release of Understudy for Death in about a month — first time Willeford’s 1961 novel Understudy for Love has seen reprint. If you’ve never been willing to fork over the loot to nab a true first edition of this classic Paperback Original, now it’ll be easier to hand.

Check out my review in Publishers Weekly — or, check out the anonymous review which uses some occasional bits of wording from the review I submitted.

One of Willeford’s weakest novels, nonetheless it is loaded down with iconic material he would use again and again — such as having someone else drink the fusel oil off a newly opened bottle of cheap liquor. (I go into greater detail about this novel and the others in my book Willeford, for those interested.)

Shortly before his death, Willeford cut an agreement with publisher Dennis McMillan to do a reprint on this one, and the re-title was the author’s — an ironic comment on the bad shape he was in. After his death, the deal fell through, though not before Dennis had had the card covers for his proposed trade paperback printed off. If you are a Willeford completist, you need a copy of the Dennis cover — flat, never machine folded — by Joe Servello.

One of the things the Hard Case edition does is give Willeford a Gold Medal-style cover — the only time he got one before was on the Gold Medal edition of The Whip Hand, a.k.a. Whip Hand, and if I remember right that was painted by Robert McGinnis, the definitive exponent of the Gold Medal look. (Details on that edition also found in Willeford.)

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