Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Wild Wives” as Want to Read:
Blank 133x176
Wild Wives
Charles Willeford
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Wild Wives

3.69  ·  Rating Details ·  327 Ratings  ·  43 Reviews
A classic of hardboiled fiction, Charles Willeford's WILD WIVES is amoral, sexy, and brutal. Written in a sleazy San Francisco hotel in the early 1950's while on leave from the Army, Willeford creates a tale of deception featuring the crooked detective Jacob C. Blake and his nemesis — a beautiful, insane young woman who is the wife of a socially prominent San Francisco arc ...more
Nook, 83 pages
Published March 19th 2011 by Classic Mysteries (first published 1956)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Wild Wives, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Wild Wives

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
James Thane
First published in 1956, Wild Wives is a short but very entertaining novel from Charles Willeford, the author of Miami Blues and a number of other crime novels.

Jake Blake is a struggling San Francisco P.I. who lives in the same cheap hotel where he has his office. One slow afternoon, Florence Weintraub, the inevitable Hot Babe essential to the beginning of practically any classic P.I. story, waltzes into his office insisting that she's desperately in need of his help. Even though she's twenty-si
Richard Vialet
Wild Wives begins with a beautiful, young femme fatale walking into a private detective's office. Sound familiar? Yep, it's a well-used, ordinary convention in hard-boiled detective fiction. But writer Charles Willeford is anything but ordinary. As he did in the last Willeford book I read, Pick-up, he turns the genre on it's head. In the first two pages of Wild Wives, we realize that the femme fatale is a 16-year-old girl, who shoots the detective with a water pistol, bends over his desk, and pr ...more
Aug 12, 2012 Ed rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: private eye/crime noir fans
Recommended to Ed by: Longtime Willeford fan
This fast-paced novella is an unconventional private eye tale populated with seedy, greedy characters. Willeford, having written it under a pseudonym in 1956, rehashes the usual private-eye-falls-for-a-femme-fatale formula. But he throws in enough curveballs to keep the reader off-balance, starting with the first scene where a beautiful young lady struts into the private eye's office. Our lovers eventually make their way to no-holds-bar Las Vegas where the action grows even weirder. I'd say WILD ...more
Mar 14, 2012 Tfitoby rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: black-as-night
Cockfighter keeps popping up on one shelf or another of my recommendations here on Goodreads so when I found this classic hard-boiled novel in an op-shop for $1 I knew I HAD to try Charles Willeford for myself.

And I wasn't disappointed. It's a tiny novella filled with seedy and conflicted characters and a simple yet convoluted plot. Perfect pulp material.

Three seperate parts are vivid in my mind for different reasons; the first being the description and behaviour of Barbara Ann Allen is graphic
Bran Gustafson
Nov 13, 2016 Bran Gustafson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This early book by Charles Willeford has depth beyond it's deceptively simple plot. At first glance, it's just another detective story, but beneath the surface is an examination of post-war America, with a noir protagonist who has been changed by the war he fought in, and even may be suffering from PTSD beneath his always cool, sarcastic exterior.

Not Willeford's best work, but definitely worth reading if you like noir with a little more depth.
Jan 28, 2016 Edwin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Willeford takes what seemingly starts out to be a typical hard-boiled private eye story and turns it on it's head with with this fast paced and insanely plotted noir.
Nov 27, 2015 Jim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well, this certainly is a fast and fun read!

Liked the twists that happened all the way to the end. My only complaint was the title.
Kathy Davie
Aug 21, 2012 Kathy Davie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
A hardboiled PI who's just a bit desperate for cash.

My Take
This was a bit Alfred Hitchcock with a flavor of 39 Steps about it. I kept waiting for one betrayal, but got several others.

For a private investigator, Blake seems a bit clueless and pretty lazy. Letting those thugs get the jump on him. He simply takes Florence's story at face value. Jumps to conclusions. Fluffs off Bobby.

It seems too that a guy like him would have reacted quite differently to Davis's come-on. That was just not believabl
Mar 06, 2015 Paul rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting novel, utterly bleak and delivered in pithy prose style by Willeford. The narrative is punctuated by moments of excess: casual scenes of dialogue explode into savage violence. A conversation between the protagonist/narrator, his client/lover and her husband is interrupted by her incessant screaming and a close-quarters bout of fisticuffs between the two men. It's hard to tell if this is a cruel fantasy or a deadpan satire of the hardboiled genre (Spillane et al). Given the qualities ...more
Cathy DuPont
Feb 20, 2012 Cathy DuPont rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Willeford's description of characters is unique and all his own which is just one reason I like to take a break with his books.

This one is shorter than most books and I can't point to one person as the real 'bad guy' since every person has his (or her) flaws, deep flaws. One reviewer said 'deadpan' humor, and another said 'wry off-beat humor.' I agree with both. Charles Willeford gave writers who read him and who came after him, something use in their writing. I'm sure Willeford would have been
Tom Stamper
The purpose of Wild Wives seems to be a lesson in what would happen if a private eye like Sam Spade had to actually face the music for his smart ass behavior. He seems to pay for everything in this tale. Punching a thug, smarting off to a lieutenant, and playing a practical joke on a teenage girl all come back to bite him. It's a short book and maybe the first time I literally read a whole story in one sitting. It wasn't difficult. Willeford's prose moves smoothly and never lacks for action. It' ...more
Dec 29, 2014 Steven rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a fast-paced archetypal noir. Reads more like a treatment for screenplay and I'm surprised this one was never made into a movie, because it has all the classic 1950s noir elements. The opening scene, though, with the girl with the water pistol and her schoolgirl skirt flipped up as she's bent over the private eye's desk asking him to spank her, well, that is surely unique to the noir canon!
Carla Remy
Another totally fun and satisfying 50s noir. This is the fourth Willeford I've read, and I'm very into him now.
Peter Martin
Wild, indeed. Willeford's writing is rich and vivid, the tone rough and tumble. The narrator spits venom. Stumbles as it rushes to its ending, but a potent and menacing read, nonetheless.
Mar 19, 2017 Jim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A lot of twists and turns in this fast paced pulp fiction novel. P.I. Jake Blake crosses paths with 2 women he'll wish he never laid eyes on.
R.W. Clark
Oct 03, 2016 R.W. Clark rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pulp-and-mystery
“'I think I’ll give you a spanking.' I was having a lot of fun with the girl. Barbara Ann had put some life into a dull, dreary day. Her eyes widened, and for a moment, she stared at me with a scared expression on her innocent face. Then the corners of her mouth turned up slightly and formed a knowing, truly feminine smile. Without a word she got up from her chair, removed her raincoat, folded it, and put it on the seat. She leaned well over the desk, reached behind her and lifted her plaid skir ...more
Mar 12, 2012 wally rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: willeford
This will be the 4th or 5th Willeford I've read...the last one High Priest Of California that a review or two or more say has been paired with this one. The synopsis has some similarities to that other from Willeford...although this one features a detective, whereas the other featured a used-car salesman...detective work only figured into the story in the way that Frank "Dolly"...I forget his last name...detected who the woman is that he met at the dance blub....(update:edit: it was Russell Haxb ...more
Aug 13, 2009 Drew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
At 93 pages, this book is more like a novella than a novel, which makes sense, as it was originally issued in 1956 as the second half of a double novel, with Willeford's "High Priest Of California" in front of it. Like a B-movie at a double feature, the second half of a double novel doesn't really have to be that long. Willeford's "Wild Wives" is also similar to a B-movie in that it has an action-packed plot, with lots of lurid sex and violence. Finally, like a B-movie, it spends a great deal of ...more
Jul 23, 2012 George rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime-mystery
Δεύτερο βιβλίο του Τσαρλς Ουίλφορντ που διαβάζω, μετά το καταπληκτικό Miami Blues, το οποίο φυσικά είναι ένα σκαλί πάνω από το Wild Wives, αν και πρέπει να λάβουμε υπόψιν ότι το Wild Wives γράφηκε τριάντα ολόκληρα χρόνια πριν το Miami Blues. Αποτελεί τον ορισμό του καλού παλπ αστυνομικού μυθιστορήματος, στο ίδιο στιλ με τα βιβλία των Τζιμ Τόμσον και Τζέιμς Κέιν. Μικρό σε μέγεθος που όμως με την πλοκή του ικανοποιεί τον αναγνώστη.

Ο Τζέικ Μπλέικ είναι ένας ιδιωτικός ντετέκτιβ που μόλις έχει αφήσε
Charles Willeford originally published this under the title Until I am Dead and is often paired with High Priest of California. They bear similarities. In both cases does a man fall under the spell of a demented or wicked woman. Jacob Blake is completely taking in by the “dame” who shows up in his office requesting that he protect her from her bodyguards. Things go from bad to worse as Blake discovers he has been a complete fool. It’s classic noir with the down-trodden P.I. who drinks too much a ...more
Patrick McCoy
Mar 22, 2015 Patrick McCoy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime-noir
Charles Willeford's early 1956 novel Wild Wives is the hard-boiled equivalent of a punk song. Fast, furious, and short. It feels a bit more of a product of his crime story detective predecessors (Raymond Chandler, Dashielle Hammett, etc.) in the characterization of the tough guy private dick, Jake Blake, who gets mixed up with the beautiful but crazy Florence Weintraub. Before you know it Blake is into it knee deep due to his lack of due diligence. While I feel the story is overall an archetype ...more
Blake Wu
It's a fast read, with a quirky cast of characters set in San Francisco. However, there are some odd similarities to a 1950 film noir starring Robert Mitchum, Claude Rains, and Faith Domergue. Both the movie and Willeford's novella dealt with a (comparatively) young man who fell for a beautiful "wild" (mentally imbalanced) woman who lied about being controlled by her "father" (he turned out to be her rich and much older husband). In the resulting confrontation, the femme fatale smothered the hus ...more
Eric Juneau
Damn, this thing is short. It's one of those pulp novels that were all the rage during the depression - hastily written, cheaply produced. I'm glad I got the opportunity to read one, but I'm really surprised how short it is, not more than 50,000 words.

This one's about a private detective who gets involved with a woman trying to elude the bodyguards her husband's set on her. Meanwhile, there's a subplot about some beatnik chick trying to become his apprentice, and he blows her off sending her on
Jul 16, 2012 Steve rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Though sporting a catchy title that's a clear misnomer -- don't wait for multiple wives, wild or otherwise, to show up -- this is vintage Willeford. Stop me if you've heard this one before: Jake Blake is a hardboiled dick in a seedy, rundown office who gets lured into a messy situation by a femme, possibly fatale. But this is Willeford, so none of it plays out quite as expected. Instead, it's a dark, demented shaggy dog joke, as our brutal, opportunistic, amoral antihero tap-dances with his inev ...more
A very short book - a novella, actually. The beginning was good, the middle sustainable, but the ending was not to my liking. Jake Blake, a struggling PI, who lives in a hotel, where he works from a room, gets an assignment from a 27 year old rich spoilt daughter (or so she said) of a tycoon to help her disappear from the body guards arranged by her 'father'. The same day, he had received a job application from a 15 year old girl, which he foolishly accepted, as she was willing to work without p ...more
Mar 14, 2015 Jure rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Furious pace. Towards the end it reaches almost comical intensity and the Las Vegas wedding scene with a gin soaked witness sleeping in the chapel (one page) and the one in which Jake wins $1400 on a dice game (two paragraphs) are unforgettable. It says on the cover "A Novel" but with less than 100 pages I think it qualifies more as a novella. Either way, it's impossible to put it down once you start reading it.

More here (review includes spoilers!):
Benjamin L
Aug 27, 2015 Benjamin L rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ho-lee Mo-lee. Vintage noir at its finest/ grittiest. Wild, tough, and in the best ways, pretty brutal. Its novella length is also perfect. The story was such a ride, lengthening it would have made it worse. Thanks to the lady at the bookshop who recommended Charles Willeford when she saw me buying James Crumley.
Lil' Grogan
Jun 06, 2011 Lil' Grogan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime, lol, 4-5, pit-spiral, chokle
Hilarious. Deceptively simple writing that had me in hysterics.

"The Seal House is at the beach and it overlooks a pile of rocks in the ocean. Seals spend a lot of time on that particular pile of rocks. And people interested in seeing seals over rocks flock to the Seal House restaurant to eat, drink, and look at the seals. I got a table by the window, ordered a drink and looked at the seals."
Mar 12, 2008 Andy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Willeford fans, noir
Shelves: pulp-fiction
Nutty as fuck sleaze from Charles Willeford, mixing noir with hepcat beatnikisms. The PI is named Jake Blake and he hangs out at the Knockout Club. The book is full of booze, babes and spankings, and reads smoothly like a good shot of straight rye. The "girlfriend who turns out to be a psycho" yarn is a noir shaggy dog story but Willeford does it better than most.
Jan 25, 2011 Marley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Woo Woo, What fun. I read this this a long time ago and wasn't impredssed. I needed a quick read for the bus and tried it agian. Love it. A bit short on profund statements on the meaning of life; but maybe not. Love the tryst at the restaurant. Bad Bobby . And Bad Mrs .Weintraub. I know people who talk like Jake Blake. Gotta check out more Willeford.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Of Tender Sin
  • Serenade
  • Phantom Lady
  • The Hot Spot
  • A Swell-Looking Babe
  • Solomon's Vineyard
  • The Name of the Game Is Death (Drake, #1)
  • The Far Cry
  • Bucket of Face
  • Fake I.D.
  • Ride the Pink Horse
Charles Willeford was a remarkably fine, talented and prolific writer who wrote everything from poetry to crime fiction to literary criticism throughout the course of his impressively long and diverse career. His crime novels are distinguished by a mean'n'lean sense of narrative economy and an admirable dearth of sentimentality. He was born as Charles Ray Willeford III on January 2, 1919 in Little ...more
More about Charles Willeford...

Share This Book

No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »