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Wild Wives

3.71 of 5 stars 3.71  ·  rating details  ·  258 ratings  ·  33 reviews
Jake Blake is a private detective short on cash when he meets a rich and beautiful young woman looking to escape her father’s smothering influence. Unfortunately for Jake, the smothering influence includes two thugs hired to protect her—and the woman is in fact not the daughter of the man she wants to escape, but his wife. Now Jake has two angry thugs and one jealous husba ...more
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Published September 9th 2009 by Vintage (first published 1956)
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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, 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 proceeds to ask ...more
Aug 12, 2012 Ed rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  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
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
Kathy Davie
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
Cathy DuPont
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
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
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.
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!):
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
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
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
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
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!
Warren Stalley
For me this writer is just as good as Hammett or Chandler. This pulp noir story follows a small time private detective through a hellish journey when he is hired by a mysterious woman. I was gripped from the first page to the last and urge any curious reader to give this short novel a chance.
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
Carla Remy
Another totally fun and satisfying 50s noir. This is the fourth Willeford I've read, and I'm very into him now.
Lil' Grogan
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 5 of 5 stars  ·  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.
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.
It was a very quick read, and it was a fun story. It had a twist ending that I didn't see coming. I like how Willeford always seems to introduce characters, have them disappear, and then bring them back right when you'd least expect it. They're interesting characters, too, doing things you'd didn't expect.
Douglas Castagna
Reminiscent of James Cain, this one is a wild ride, with a wild woman and a man who is in lust with her. PI Jake Blake becomes involved with the wife of a rich man and finds out a bit too late she isnt what she seems to be. Action and fun to read, another early hit for WIlleford.
Well, so far I've read 2 of Willeford's early works, (50's) and several of the later ones (80's). Like them all, but the angry, sardonic, stylized tone of the earlier ones reek with ambition and desires whilst really shitting on the same. dirty and piercing. Totally captivating reading.
Patrick James
Certainly not nearly as good a story as Pick-Up. Borrows a few elements from the former to little effect. Much less sympathetic protagonist than Harry from Pick-Up. Madness referred to, shown, but not probed. Coasts along nicely for a while then crashes. But a nice quick read.
Definitely has that old pulp style, and I dig it - some patches are predictable, but the final twist is so perfectly noir that I can forgive all the rest. A lot of fun and a fast read for summer.
Amazing what a good writer can do with just a main plot and a very simple subplot. Good downbeat ending.
Karl Wiemer
Worth reading for the cover art alone! I really dig Willeford's stuff, and this one's another brief gem.
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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
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