Willeford, Charles

Hoke Moseley Series

Miami Blues
Miami Blues (1984)
Freddy "Junior" Frenger, psycho fresh out of San Quentin, flies into Miami airport with a pocketful of stolen credit cards and disappears leaving behind the corpse of a Hare Krishna. Soon homicide detective Hoke Moseley is pursuing the chameleon like Frenger and his airhead hooker girlfriend through the smart hotels, Cuban ghettoes and seedy suburban malls of Miami in a deadly game of hide and seek.

New Hope for the Dead
New Hope for the Dead (1985)
From Publishers Weekly
Sgt. Hoke Moseley, whom readers first met in Willeford's Miami Blues, is an unlikely hero, even to himself. He's a Miami cop, near retirement, who's always taking out or putting in his dentures; he dines regularly on 711 Slurpees and hard-boiled eggs; and he has a strict moral code flexible enough for him to let someone get away with a hard-to-prove murder in exchange for a sublet on a house he badly needs. Here, Moseley wants to solve the murder of a junkie whose death looks like an accidental overdose, but the zeal of his pursuit is tempered by manifold obstacles: his ex-wife's sudden decision to impose upon him the disruptive custody of his two teenage daughters, his boss's insistence that he clear up a file of old, unsolved crimes, and his new partner's worries over an unexpected first pregnancy. This is a telling slice of Miami life, only coincidentally cop-life, whose gritty realism contributes to a good read. December 31
Copyright 1985 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Sideswipe (1987)
Willeford's black-comic novels featuring Miami cop Hoke Moseley (Miami Blues, New Hope for the Dead) manage to sustain suspense despite plots that are unabashedly disjointed and/or digressive. And this third outing is the most unconventional of all - with two entirely separate stories, in alternating chapters, that don't link up until the last 40 pages. Story #1 follows overworked Hoke, 43, as he goes through midlife "burnout" - starting with his sudden descent into catatonia after breakfast one day. Taken to recuperate at his rich father's house on Singer I. near Palm Beach, Hoke begins functioning again - but decides to simplify his life, to quit his job and get by as live-in manager of a small apartment-building (complete with kooky tenants) owned by Moseley, Sr. Complications crop up nonetheless, of course. A visit from 14-year-old daughter Aileen has a nightmarish (but funny) end when Hoke discovers that she's secretly suffering from bulimia. And there's a brief busman's holiday when Hoke solves a series of local robberies. If story #1 is shambling, low-key character-comedy, however, story #2 is an unnerving mixture of pathos, farce, and grotesquerie - as timid Stanley Sinkiewicz of Riviera Beach, 71, a retired auto-worker and utterly ordinary sort, finds himself caught up in a bizarre, clearly doomed adventure. First Stanley loses his wife (no great loss, he decides) when he's unjustly accused of child molestation. Then, during his few hours in jail, Stanley meets Troy Louden, a cheerful, articulate psychopath (a veteran robber/killer) who wins the naive, lonely old man's heart. And soon Stanley is in Miami-where Troy has planned a big supermarket heist with a pathetic gang: a would-be painter from Barbados; a curvaceous would-be stripper with a dreadfully disfigured face; and Stanley himself - as reluctant money-man and passive accomplice. The heist turns into a ghastly bloodbath, with Hoke's former partner Ellita (now very pregnant) among the wounded. So, as Hoke returns to Miami to lead the investigation, the two plotlines merge - in a quick, rather perfunctory track-down of poor Stanley. Still, even if readers feel disappointed (even tricked) by the lack of clever, suspenseful interweaving here, the chapter-by-chapter entertainment is rich, distinctive, disturbing - with a grimly fanciful view of human nature reminiscent of Thomas Berger. (Kirkus Reviews)
The Way We Die Now
The Way We Die Now (1988)
Stripped of his wallet, gun - even his false teeth - Hoke is sent South to the migrant farms where rumours of slavery and sudden death abound. Now things are really going to heat up... because a guy without protection in that no man's land is as good as dead!

Crime Fiction
Lust Is a Woman
Made in Miami originally released as Lust is a Woman (1958)
Art student Ralph Tone is working in Miami as a bellboy. He meets Hollywood hopeful Maria Duigan and falls head over heels for the ambitious beauty. As Ralph fuels his obsession by booze, pills, and lack of sleep, they both quickly become entangled with sleazy pornographer Donald McKay. Charles Willeford's MADE IN MIAMI was originally released to the unsuspecting masses in 1958 under the title LUST IS A WOMAN by a publisher incapable of spelling the author's name correctly on the cover. Written in white heat by "the unlikely father of Miami crime fiction" (Atlantic Monthly) to match the requirements of the market, the book remains a textbook example of lurid 1950s pulp fiction. It was also a springboard to the author's later masterpieces MIAMI BLUES and SIDESWIPE.

The Black Mass of Brother Springer
The Black Mass of Brother Springer (1958)
THE BLACK MASS OF BROTHER SPRINGER tells the story of Sam Springer, a drifter novelist who meets Jack Dover, the retiring Abbot of the Church of God's Flock. Dover's final official act is to ordain Springer and send him off to serve as pastor of an all-Black church in Jacksonville, Florida. Springer soon becomes entangled in the city's growing civil rights movement ... and with the church deacon's earthy young wife, Merita. The Washington post calls this darkly humorous novel by Charles Willeford, one of the great crime writers of the 20th century, "his masterpiece."
Understudy for Death
Understudy for Death also published as Understudy for Love (1961)

The Burnt Orange Heresy
The Burnt Orange Heresy (1971)
Crossing the art world with the underworld, Willeford expands his noir palette to include hues of Florida and tints of Surrealism when Figueras takes a job for an art collector who doesn't care how his art is collected, even if it involves murder.

The Shark Infested Custard
The Shark Infested Custard (1993)
They are just four regular guys by the pool: ex-cop Larry 'Fuzz' Dolman, airline pilot Eddie Miller, salesman Don Luchessi and drug company rep Hank Norton. They live in a 'singles only' Miami apartment block. They like regular-guy things: booze, broads, cars, and a good card game.

The Shark-infested Custard is a startlingly amoral update of Dumas' The Three Musketeers set in 1970s Miami. As our four male swingers commit increasingly barbarous crimes it becomes clear that their only guiding principle is not to get caught - by adhering to the 'all for one, one for all' maxim.

Willeford joyfully applies the scalpel to the vacuous heart of male America, where being one of the guys is always going to be more important than mere life and death.

Charles Willeford's picture

Learn more about Charles Willeford.

Check out more Mystery books set in Florida.

Visit It Takes Place in Florida and discover more books with a Florida setting.

More pages