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By Charles Willeford
Pick-Up by Charles Willeford digital book - Fable

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Publisher Description

This underground classic of hard-boiled noir fiction follows two addiction-addled drifters as they struggle to make ends meet in the streets of 1950s California

First published as an unheralded paperback original, Pick-Up is an authentic underground classic, an explosive bulletin from the urban underbelly of mid-1950s America. It was Charles Willeford’s second novel, after a rough and wandering earlier life that had taken him from Depression-era hobo camps and soup kitchens to wartime battlefields.

The unblinking story of two lost and self-destructive drifters—a failed painter working as a counterman in a cheap diner and a woman in flight from domestic violence—trying to find a place for themselves in the back streets of San Francisco, Pick-Up is hardboiled writing at its nihilistic best: Willeford’s preferred title for the book was Until I Am Dead. Its bleak vision of life beyond the edge is haunted by rape, racism, alcoholism, suicide, and inescapable poverty, yet shot through with a tenderness and compassion sustained against all odds in a society offering few breaks to its outcasts and misfits. Pick-Up’s many twists and violent turns culminate in an ending that continues to surprise, confirming it as what critic Woody Haut has called “a razor-sharp narrative that rips open the genre.”

1 Review

“The reason to read this novella is definitely for the ending. It is a gritty read, but the intense scenes are short and occasional. Unfortunately, the narrative was not all that compelling to me, but after reading through it, I went back and re-read a few key sections. The book is revealing, and without giving away spoilers, I can't even suggest who I think would be intrigued by it. Pick it up if you like to question things. And if you aren't okay with reading/skimming past some graphic scenes.”

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