Friday, February 25, 2011

Review of Miami Blues by Charles Willeford (No Exit Press, 1984)

Psychotic Freddie Frenger Jr has just got out prison in California. Wanting a new life he mugs three men, takes their money and credit cards and heads to Miami. In the airport he’s approached by a Hari Krishna who won’t take no for answer. Freddie’s solution is to break his middle finger, not expecting the man to die of shock. Sergeant Hoke Moseley is assigned to the case, unsure whether this is an accidental death, manslaughter or murder one. Moseley’s life is in a hole: he’s living in a down-at-heel motel and most of his salary going on alimony payments. In a twist of fate Frenger has hooked up with Susan Waggoner, a simple-minded young woman who is working as a prostitute in a hotel, and happens to be the dead Krishna’s brother. Hoke breaks the news to Susan and Frenger, quickly picking up on the fact that Frenger is an ex-con. Where Hoke sees potential trouble, Frenger sees an opportunity. A gun and a badge will give him free license to get people to do what he wants; and what he wants is for Susan to be his common-in-law wife and for him to prowl the mall and prey on pickpockets and drug dealers. All he needs to do is turnover Hoke and relieve him of his gun, badge and handcuffs. When Hoke wakes up in a hospital with his jaw wired shut, he suspects Frenger, but he’s no evidence. Moreover he’s on sick leave and he’s been told to stay away from duty. But such inconveniences never keep a good cop down.

Miami Blues is the first of four Hoke Moseley novels. It was made into a movie in 1990. In many ways, Willeford was the forerunner for the comic noir set of Sunshine State novels by the likes of Carl Hiaasen, Elmore Leonard, Tim Dorsey, Victor Gischler, Randy Wade White, James Hall, Laurence Shames. The novel was darkly amusing, without being laugh out loud funny and in many ways the novel kind of aimlessly unfolds, lacking in a strong narrative drive. The plot is rather straightforward, and I was expecting a few more twists and turns. Certainly much more could have been done with the resolution. The characterisation is good, with the relationship between Frengler and Susan nicely explored, though Hoke seemed a little underdeveloped. Overall, an enjoyable enough read. I’ve heard that it’s the weakest of the Hoke novels, so I’ll probably give the others a go at some point.

7 comments:

pattinase (abbott) said...

Sideswipe and New Hope for the Dead are much more fun although non-traditional to say the least.

George said...

I'm a fan of THE WAY WE DIE NOW.

Private Zoo said...

When are you going to review some Scandinavian crime novels, you cant ignore Larsson for ever...

Dorte H said...

It´s amazing how many criminals have this idea of beginning a new life by committing one more crime. But hardly unrealistic, though.

Datrappert said...

This is the best of the Series, but it doesn't hold a candle to Willeford's truly deranged earlier work. See my reviews of many Willeford works on Librarything, user datrappert.

sonny said...

i' ve read all the hoke books and other willefords, also.

i recommend that you read the unpublished sequel (Grimhaven) ito Miami Bluesf you can find it. legally it's only available in ms. form at the Broward County Library, Florida, and cannot be taken out of the library, only read there.

however, files of it are fairly easy to find online. don't pay for it (money doesn't go to willeford's heirs/estate).

his agent said it would be career suicide to publish it. but it's not because it's bad. it's killer.

Miami dentist said...

Nice one.