Rediscovered: Willeford’s Pick-Up, from Cult to Canon

Just got a notice that the Library of America eBook of Pick-Up — usually tagged at $6.99 — is yours for $2.99 for two weeks. You’ll have to figure out the hoops you need to jump through to grab the deal.

LoA just sent around an email adding this info to their usual blurbage on this early novel by the great Charles Willeford, a stone-cold classic:

“In Rachel Kushner’s new novel The Mars Room, one of the much-talked-about books of 2018, main character Romy Hall has just begun to serve two life sentences for murder at Stanville Women’s Correctional Facility in the Central Valley of California. Out of boredom and also to work the angles a little bit, she signs up for a GRE class where she is given three books: Charles Willeford’s Pick-Up, Charles Bukowski’s Factotum, and Dennis Johnson’s Jesus’ Son. Here’s what Romy has to say about Pick-Up:

He [the instructor] got me more books. One, called Pick-Up, was about two drunks in San Francisco in the 1950s. I started reading it and could not stop. When I finished it, I read it again.

“Kushner’s tip of the hat to Pick-Up testifies to how Willeford’s noir novel, first published as a paperback original in 1955, has become an authentic underground classic.”

Yeah, what you have here is a novel that demands to be read again. A tour de force.

(And as I say in Willeford, a novel I am convinced was influenced by Hammett, though of course Willeford would never just come out and say it.)

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