Rediscovered: “Just Ask Luis Rodriquez”


So, to follow-up on the idea of doing In Memoriam: Willeford, how about we premiere a new Guest Blogger with a new series?

The blogger: Michael S. Chong, Willeford fan (who ain’t on the mean streets?). The series: articles with some Willefordian presence he’s tracked down, which aren’t cited in the biblio in my book Willeford. In short, cool new-to-almost-everyone stuff.

Plus, you’ll find Michael’s story “Suitcase Pimp” in the forthcoming “sexy” issue of the magazine Crime Factory, going out under the moniker Pink Factory.

Here’s Michael:

Quite recently, I was in a used bookstore in London, Ontario and while browsing,
I heard a younger man asking the clerk, also quite young, if they had any books
by Charles Willeford.  After the clerk said she had never heard of Willeford, I
pulled him aside and spoke to him.  It seems he had read Cockfighter and (being
bit by the Willeford bug) was looking for more.  I walked him over to the Mystery
section where I saw a Black Lizard copy of The Burnt Orange Heresy.

It made my day. Hopefully, writing these pieces will have the same effect.

Working as a researcher has its perqs. While my colleagues are going for cigarettes and drinking their coffees, I will take the time to look for something interesting to read.

During one of these, I typed “Charles Willeford” into the archive I was already working in and up came some unknown articles. They were ones I had not read in Dennis McMillan’s collection Writing and Other Blood Sports, mostly from John Keasler’s column written for The Miami News.

In Miami Blues, Willeford writes about this column:

“Sergeant Bill Henderson, Hoke’s hefty partner, sat on a royal blue couch and read John Keasler’s humor column in The Miami News.”

Mr. Keasler and Willeford were friends for 25 years and the amount of times Willeford shows up in his column makes you think they were pretty tight.

In the obituary from March 29, 1988 for his friend, Keasler wrote: “The more serious he looked, the closer you had to watch him.  He was the confidence man supreme, and the more con-proof you thought you were, the more joy he took in stinging you.

“Willeford, a friend once said, had the rare ability to tell the truth and make you think he was lying.  And vice versa.  (Once he convinced outraged Thomas Mann admirers that Hollywood was substituting a pretty girl for the pretty boy in Death in Venice to get rid of the homosexual angle and thereby get a PG rating.)

“He looked right straight down the bore of life and, essentially, laughed at it.

“He was at home at a literary tea, and he was at home at an alley crap game.  And he was good at both.  Charles leaves great memories.  His humor is a rare thing.  A friend once wrote, ‘Charles, the old centurion, wearing his rue with a jaunty difference. . .’

“Different indeed, different indeed.  He lived enough life for an entire platoon.  He wasted nothing.  He wrote it all down.”

John Keasler’s Miami News column was syndicated and the pieces by and about Willeford I found are from all over the United States.  “Just Ask Luis Rodriquez,” is from Mount Carmel Daily Republican Register for Wednesday, April 18, 1979, a guest column by Charles Willeford — while the circumstances depicted may not seem based in reality, the way Willeford writes about them, with a wry bluntness, makes them so.


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