Saturday, July 29, 2006

Profile: The Unlikely Father of Miami Crime Fiction

(Editor's note: We often try to find profiles of mystery authors that are published in newspapers or magazines that have online editions; they're usually charming, witty, and offer a unique perspective on the author's bibliography and style of writing. Today, we came across an article in the Atlantic Monthly written over 6 years ago on Charles Willeford. We're not sure why this article suddenly reappeared, possibly having some peripheral association with the release this weekend of the new movie Miami Vice, but it is worthy of a summary here.)

Charles Willeford, who died 18 years ago, might be called the progenitor of the modern South Florida crime novel though his detectives do precious little detecting, writes Marshall Jon Fisher on The Atlantic Online. Willeford's last four novels (1984-1988) spanned Miami's metamorphosis from vacationer and retiree haven to the nation's capital of glamour, drugs, and weird crime, and these inspired the post-Miami Vice group of Miami writers, including Carl Hiaasen and James W. Hall.

Fisher adds that as a very young man, Willeford considered himself a poet, and he continued to write poetry throughout his life. His real writing career, though, began with a series of eight novels published as pulp paperbacks in the 1950s and early 1960s. In them Willeford fashioned his own brand of hard-boiled prose.

Miami Blues, published in 1984, and the three subsequent novels featuring Hoke Moseley - Willeford's first cop protagonist - present a Miami in transition. After a career of paying dues, Willeford finally found commercial success in the Moseley series. He didn't have long to enjoy it. Although he was only 68, a lifetime of hard drinking and smoking was taking its toll, and he died in March, 1988.

Read the entire profile of Charles Willeford on The Atlantic Online here.

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