Friday, June 8, 2012

Forgotten Books: Wild Wives by Charles Willeford

First, some numbers:
Wild Wives, Charles Willeford's fourth novel, was first published in 1956, and, according to Don Herron's Willeford, was the author's one and only private detective novel. It's only the second Willeford book I've read, the other being his first, High Priest of California (1953).

Why this was titled Wild Wives is a mystery (at least to me). There's only one wild wife in the story. As a marketing ploy the plural might make sense, but in its first lifetime the novel was published only as a back-up to High Priest, and received very little cover space (see below).Wild Wives did not appear as a stand-alone book (right) until 1995, another factoid gleaned from Don Herron's meaty study

In any case, the wild wife of Wild Wives is wild enough for two, so readers get more than their money's worth. She's a bundle of beautiful hell who gets private eye Jake Blake into so much trouble he's forced to take it on the lam. But even more dangerous to Jake is teenage girl eager to become an apprentice detective. This is a guy who just can't win.

While I enjoyed High Priest of California, I liked this one a little better. Maybe it's because Jake is a more likable character than the titular sleazy car salesman of High Priest. And maybe because this one has a real plot, with an actual resolution. High Priest was just about nasty people doing nasty things.

In both books, though, Willeford takes his characters in unusual directions and keeps the reader (meaning me) off-balance. I have a feeling it will take a few more books to get a handle on him.

Wild Wives, along with most of his other early novels, is free in multiple electronic formats from Munseys.com. You'll find it HERE.

 And you'll find more Forgotten Books at pattinase.

3 comments:

pattinase (abbott) said...

Didn't know about this one.

George said...

Charles Willeford always puts the reader off-balance, Evan. His later books are much more detailed.

Oscar said...

Sounds like one of those sex tales that were popular some time back.