By 1960, author Charles Willeford (1919-1988) had already been an orphan at age 8, a school dropout at age 13, a U.S. Army combat veteran, a U.S. Air Force airman, a published poet and novelist. His writing always seemed more literate, humorous, and philosophical than his hard-boiled fiction cohorts. His seventh novel was submitted with the title “The Director” and was published in 1960 as “The Woman Chaser.”
The novel is narrated by a smooth-talking Los Angeles used car salesman turned lot owner named Richard Hudson, and it is written in a first-person narrative style in which Hudson regularly breaks the literary fourth wall to explain to the reader that he is writing this book using flashbacks and narrative hooks he learned from watching movies. At times the hilarious meta-narrative style begins to resemble Kurt Vonnegut which I really like, but your mileage may vary. There’s also lots of sexist content that makes the book a true throwback to its era: “Women are made for bed, and men are made for war,” a character observes. They certainly don’t write them like that anymore. You get to decide if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.
Anyway, the book is so much fun to read, you almost lose track of the fact that the plot doesn’t really get off the ground until about halfway through the paperback. Richard is a fan of movies and decides that he’s got what it takes to write and direct a feature film. His step-father is connected within the industry and finds a studio that will back a production based on Richard’s harebrained plot synopsis. Anyone with an interest in film-making will find the paperback utterly fascinating.
“The Woman Chaser” is a great read but not much of a crime novel. It’s written in a hardboiled style, but it’s ultimately just the story of a schemer trying to get a movie made and released. To be sure, it is one of the best books I’ve read this year, but it’s not the kind of gun-fighting bloodbath we normally cover here. It’s just a damned interesting paperback by a crime novelist adapting his noir style to a mainstream plot with a dark ending.
Despite the publisher’s title, there’s really not much woman chasing happening within the pages. To be sure, the narrator gets laid, but not much cardio was involved in making it happen. Overall, “The Woman Chaser” was an excellent novel that I can highly recommend without reservations. But you should know what you’re getting before you purchase a copy for yourself.
Buy a copy of this book HERE