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Group Reads > August 2016 - High Priest of California

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message 1: by Melki, Femme Fatale (new)

Melki | 875 comments Mod
The winner of our Californication poll takes us to San Francisco during the fifties where a sleazy used car salesman (Is there any other kind?) makes a game of seducing married women.

There's a pretty good review of the book here - https://vintagesleazepaperbacks.wordp...

And a decent write-up about Willeford on wiki - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles...


message 2: by Algernon (Darth Anyan), Hard-Boiled (new)

Algernon (Darth Anyan) | 569 comments Mod
I was hoping for L A Confidential - it came three times at number two in our polls. I might just read it for myself anyway.

Willeford looks like a good choice also. A bit on the short side, but promising premise.


message 3: by Nancy, Fallen Angel (new)

Nancy Oakes (quinnsmom) | 482 comments Mod
Algernon wrote: "I was hoping for L A Confidential - it came three times at number two in our polls. I might just read it for myself anyway.

Willeford looks like a good choice also. A bit on the short side, but pr..."


Same here, re LA Confidential. But that's okay.


message 4: by Franky (new)

Franky | 411 comments I wasn't particularly fond of Miami Blues, but I went ahead on got this one on Amazon kindle. I'll try to get to it later this month if possible.


message 5: by Melki, Femme Fatale (new)

Melki | 875 comments Mod
I started this morning. For a book that has so far offered only chit chat, I'm finding it strangely mesmerizing.


message 6: by Algernon (Darth Anyan), Hard-Boiled (new)

Algernon (Darth Anyan) | 569 comments Mod
Franky wrote: "I wasn't particularly fond of Miami Blues, but I went ahead on got this one on Amazon kindle. I'll try to get to it later this month if possible."

Miami Blues was OK, but not the game changer or the wild ride it was supposed to be. Same as you, I liked it enough to try more from Willeford.


message 7: by Melki, Femme Fatale (new)

Melki | 875 comments Mod
Finished. The homicidal protagonist of last month's read - The Name of the Game Is Death - had more integrity than sleazy Russel Haxby. I lost count of how many times I muttered "What a d*ck!" while reading this.


message 8: by Franky (new)

Franky | 411 comments Melki wrote: "Finished. The homicidal protagonist of last month's read - The Name of the Game Is Death - had more integrity than sleazy Russel Haxby. I lost count of how many times I muttered "What..."

Yep, started it today. Two chapters in and I already hate this guy. This is a very quick read though so far.


message 9: by [deleted user] (new)

Franky wrote: "I wasn't particularly fond of Miami Blues, but I went ahead on got this one on Amazon kindle. I'll try to get to it later this month if possible."

Yeah? I thought it was very entertaining. Love the opening, and the last line.

I read High Priest a while back. It's a simple tale from early in his career but I liked its uncompromising stance. The edition I read was from the punk publisher Re/Search & it was packaged with Wild Wives, which I didn't care for.


message 10: by Franky (last edited Aug 10, 2016 09:36PM) (new)

Franky | 411 comments Sorry, I'm done with this author. Apparently he only writes about scumbags.....

To me this was a bit ridiculous/nonsensical, not really noir, but just about a jerk who is a jerk for the sake of it...not antihero or anything like that. Characters are all flat and predictable (or stupid), and Russell seriously needs to be punched...lol.

At least it was quick, though.


message 11: by Ralph (new)

Ralph Loder | 34 comments Melki wrote: "I started this morning. For a book that has so far offered only chit chat, I'm finding it strangely mesmerizing."

Yes, “strangely mesmerizing.” Well put. I finished in one day. Something about it just made me want to keep turning the pages.


message 12: by Frank (last edited Aug 13, 2016 04:01PM) (new)

Frank | 88 comments I like reading about horrible people, combined with sarcastic humour and simple, crisp writing. So this was the book for me, I enjoyed it. Still, it all felt a little uneventful. It didn't bother me so much that it hindered my enjoyment, but it did feel a bit empty and pointless at times.

A small letdown after having such high expectations from reading Pick-Up recently. Enjoyable enough and a quick read. I'd say 3.25 stars

I wondered, has Willeford's writing been a great influence on Neil Labute's scripts/movies? feels very much alike.


message 13: by Jay (new)

Jay Gertzman | 265 comments That's a good comparison. Both were iconoclasts for sure, and had painfully clear focuses on America. Todd Solendt (sp?) comes to mind also, esp. Life During Wartime although not a crime film of course, except for the almost criminal self-indulgent delusions of the characters.


message 14: by Algernon (Darth Anyan), Hard-Boiled (last edited Aug 15, 2016 06:20AM) (new)

Algernon (Darth Anyan) | 569 comments Mod
I have started today, and I feel like I could lick it in a couple of hours, if I were not so busy grumbling on Goodreadst about the new homepage design .

What can I say? Simple, straightforward storytelling about a creepy guy who likes to beat up strangers. Plus the obligatory hot, mysterious 'femme'. I'm waiting to see which way it goes from here.

also, I got past the part where the title is explained. It has nothing to do with a kinky religious cult, as I first believed.


message 15: by Frank (new)

Frank | 88 comments would´ve been awesome if it did...


message 16: by Melki, Femme Fatale (new)

Melki | 875 comments Mod
Frank wrote: "would´ve been awesome if it did..."

Shades of Solomon's Vineyard.


message 17: by Frank (new)

Frank | 88 comments sounds like a good reccomendation. thanks!


message 18: by Melki, Femme Fatale (new)

Melki | 875 comments Mod
Frank wrote: "sounds like a good reccomendation. thanks!"

You're welcome. It was a better read than this one, I think.


message 19: by Algernon (Darth Anyan), Hard-Boiled (new)

Algernon (Darth Anyan) | 569 comments Mod
Melki wrote: "Frank wrote: "sounds like a good reccomendation. thanks!"

You're welcome. It was a better read than this one, I think."


This seems to be the consensus around here : a good read, but not one of the top picks. I have read some of the Goodreads reviews after I finished mine, and I really dig what Jay was saying - that there is more than meets the eye about Willeford's characters.


message 20: by David (new)

David Trendall | 2 comments The book really does keep you turning pages. And I don't know how. The main character is a weasel but you do want to know how things pan out and if all ends well. The minute you think he's acutally just a guy with issues, he does something that prevents you thinking anything but negatively about him.

I did, however, find it a quick read and thoroughly enjoyed it - but probably won't be going back for more from the author.


message 21: by Melki, Femme Fatale (new)

Melki | 875 comments Mod
David wrote: "The book really does keep you turning pages. And I don't know how. The main character is a weasel but you do want to know how things pan out and if all ends well. The minute you think he's acutally..."

I thought there was kind of a Mad Men vibe to the book. Here's a complicated, not particularly likable main character, and we're trying to figure out what makes him tick. Not a lot of action, but compelling, all the same.


message 22: by Kate (new)

Kate (kate_writes) | 1 comments Russell Haxby, the "High Priest of California," is, using the parlance of his era (1950s) a cad. Neither he, nor Alyce, nor the other players in the story are likeable characters - each self-centered, playing off each other. Though all the characters show their most unlikeable sides, through the first person eyes of Russell J., I found myself reading through in large bites, a fun read.

The copy I got came with a play based on the story, which was appropriately noir, but after reading the story, I found it a pale shadow of the original.

The story was also packaged with "Wild Wives," I believe the author's second story. Again told first person, this time by a non-typical noir private eye, Jake Blake, Private Investigator. Again, the characters are not empathetic. The clues are hidden in plain sight in this fun read. I found the plot lines a bit rushed, but the read entertaining.

These are my first books by Charles Willeford. I enjoy the up front noir attitude, detail in even minor characters, dialogue that reinforces the tactile details with innuendo and 'attitude'. I'm glad for the introduction to his work and I will be reading more by Charles Willeford.


message 23: by Jay (new)

Jay Gertzman | 265 comments Willeford is, IMO, right up there with Thompson, Dorothy B Hughes, Highsmith, and Horace McCoy. His Richard Haxby is very much like Richard Hudson in The Woman Chaser 1960), although High Priest is a better title. He writes about sociopaths, I suppose, but they are high priests of their culture. They can't really be dismissed as "evil," b/c they are clear products of their culture: its obsessions, its ability to provide people with the lies they want to believe. Try The Burnt Orange Heresy for a dissection of the art-as-acquisition complex, or Pick Up (1967) as an example of tabooed love. And Hoke Mosely is an antidote for the policemen are our protectors mantra. All of this great books were first published by pulp newsstand pbk. outfits!


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