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3.0 

Pick-Up

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

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.”

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2 Reviews

3.0
“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.”

About Charles Willeford

Charles Willeford's (1919-1988) varied life included stints riding the rails in the midst of the Great Depression, serving as a tank commander in World War II, and working as a professional horse trainer, boxer, radio announcer, and painter. The author of twenty novels, he created the Miami detective series featuring Hoke Moseley, which includes Miami Blues, Sideswipe, The Way We Die Now, and New Hope for the Dead.

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