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High priest of California by Charles…
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High priest of California (1953)

by Charles Willeford

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Williford populates his books with truly despicable characters. Russell Hixby, a used car salesman, spends his time cheating his customers, mistreating the lot's mechanic, taking advantage of people, randomly hitting people in bars, and rewriting Joyce. His way of spending his free time is to take paragraphs from Ulysses and using a thesaurus simplify the words and writing for the simple people. When he's not at work he's trying to seduce every woman he meets. He listens to Bartok and reads T.S. Eliot. (Let's hope there's no cause-and-effect.) And he likes Kafka because he has a sense of humor.

Alyce Vitale's husband suffers from advanced syphilis, has been to a rehab center where he is on the mend but his brain has been addled. She meets Russell at a dance, he takes her home, and begins his slow seduction, getting her to "fall in love" with him. Russell is intrigued by her "differentness," wondering if "she was mysterious or just plain stupid."

No a pretty story. If you like feel-good-happy-ending stories, I do not recommend Williford. Some good writing with an undercurrent of sophisticated sarcasm. ( )
  ecw0647 | Sep 30, 2013 |
I think I've read all of Willeford, now. They are uniformly interesting, especially as representative of fifties noir. Willeford was a master of language, and I doubt if there is a more unlikeable character than Russell Hixby, used car salesman, who meets a woman and schemes to get her into the sack. Willeford populates his books with truly despicable characters. Russell Hixby spends his time cheating his customers, mistreating the lot's mechanic, taking advantage of people, randomly hitting people in bars, and rewriting Joyce. His way of spending his free time is to take paragraphs from Ulysses and using a thesaurus simplify the words and rewrite for the "simple" people. When he's not at work he's trying to seduce every woman he meets. He listens to Bartok and reads T.S. Eliot. (Let's hope there's no cause-and-effect.) And he likes Kafka because he has a sense of humor.

Alyce Vitale's husband suffers from advanced syphilis, has been to a rehab center where he is on the mend but his brain has been addled. She meets Russell at a dance, he takes her home, and begins his slow seduction, getting her to "fall in love" with him. Russell is intrigued by her "differentness," wondering if "she was mysterious or just plain stupid."

Not a pretty story. If you like feel-good-happy-ending stories, I do not recommend Willeford. Some good writing with an undercurrent of sophisticated sarcasm.

Willeford writes superior pulp fiction and I'm glad they are returning in print. Available ridiculously cheap for your Kindle. ( )
  ecw0647 | Sep 30, 2013 |
I'm beginning to see a pattern as I read more Willeford. His male protagonists act with total disregard for what would be considered normal behavior, and they stop at nothing to get what they want. In this case, our used car dealer "hero" (though his name is different, I think he is really the same one who reappears in the even weirder "The Woman Chaser") has his eye on a girl - unfortunately she has a husband suffering from the latter stages of syphilis that he needs to get out of the way before he can bed her. And that's really the story. It's not a detective story or a murder mystery; just the story of a single amoral individual. No subplots to speak of. Willeford continued writing about this type of character almost to the end of his career, when he created one of his most memorable characters, Freddy Frenger, in Miami Blues.

Of course, along the way, we get all sorts of things thrown in. In his spare time at home, Haxby, the protagonist, is re-writing James Joyce's Ulysses page by page, substituting words in common use for Joyce's archaisms with the goal of turning it into something that anyone can read.

While not exactly scintillating, the story holds a strange fascination as we see a whole bunch of characters dealing in their own ways with the cards life has dealt them. All in all, probably more insight into real human nature than you would find in a dozen mainstream novels. ( )
  datrappert | Jun 18, 2009 |
An early pulp novel by Willeford, originally published in 1953. Russell Haxby, a callous used car salesman in San Francisco, seduces a naive younger woman with a complicated life. Willeford's straight ahead and hard-nosed style is in force as Haxby closes what appears to be another deal with the vulnerable Alyce Vitale. ( )
  Hagelstein | Jan 18, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0940642301, Paperback)

hard-boiled pulp fiction author of MIAMI BLUES

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:38:57 -0400)

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