Hummm. Another book by Charles Willeford and again, how would this be classified, what genre?
As a writer, Willeford is very difficult to categorize and rightly so. I’ve read almost all of his books and they range from absurd to zany from intense to humorous. The Woman Chaser
falls somewhere between a to z starting with the opening paragraph which begins like a movie script. For good reason, too. After a few chapters that's what it's about; a movie script and Richard Hudson's life in humdrum Amercia, living (or not) the Amercian dream.
Hudson is an off-the-chart great used car salesman who gets bored with all the money he’s made selling used cars. With the big ‘thumbs up’ from his boss in San Francisco, Richard buys a used car lot in Los Angeles, gussies it up, staffs it, reconnects with his family (he grew up in LA) and soon thereafter leaves for a hotel room to write his first movie script. He has a strong desire, an urgent need to be creative apparently having lost his himself in making money in the used car business. Richard is like 'is this all there is?' or ‘What’s it all About, Alfie?”
His family consists of his ‘forever a ballerina’ mother, step-father who is about his age and a down and out movie producer, and his step-sister, a nubile teenager. Beginning with absurd or ending with zany, either term will do, my favorite part in the book is when he finds his mother in the well-appointed basement ballet dancing to The Miraculous Mandarin.
He strips off his shirt and begins dancing with her becoming the “the Miraculous Mandarin himself, the damndest Chinaman anybody ever saw! I chased, I pursued, I made impossible leaps and came down as lightly as a wind-wafted cigarette paper.” What a sight, in my mind, to behold when Richard “pranced, cavorted, darted, turned, glided, bent, stretched, and did a mad fouetee
on one leg” until he almost lost reason, he says. That was the turning point, when he decided that writing and directing the movie was his destiny. The only reason for his existence at this point in his life.
I found myself from time to time thinking about the movie American Beauty,
a mid-life crisis in the making. Here's Richard, in mid-life crisis mode, and I'm reading it line by line. And the title, well, women are throwaways for him, but then so is everything else when he decides his life is not complete until his movie is written, directed (by himself, of course) and in the theaters as the biggest success since Gone With the Wind.
When his masterpiece is completed, well, that’s the story, so I’ll leave it up to you to take the time to read this little jewel of a book, a scant 192 pages.
In my view, Willeford is underestimated, if estimated at all on anyone’s radar. He’s relatively unknown except for those interested in noir (he wrote from the 1950's-1980's) although he can’t, in my mind, be classified in that category either. But he was a great underrated talent who should be studied in creative writing classes and read by even more readers than some of the noted authors of today. He's a vivid and a simply great writer in my opinion.
In my list of favorite authors, Willeford is right up there with my favorites. My only regret is that he went long periods of time (12 years) without writing or publishing anything so he has a very small library of books; unfortunately, I’m near the end of reading them. Too bad for me but good for you if you haven’t read him. He’s a must in on my list and you are missing out if you haven't read him yet.