Understudy for Death

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Understudy for Death by famous crime writer Charles Willeford (Pick-UpThe Burnt Orange Heresy, Miami Blues) has become available again after nearly 60 years. This crime novel was out of print, a collector’s item, for generations. It is still chilling and controversial even though it was written in what some would now consider the good ol’ days (1961). There was shocking crime back then also, as the movies also showed. Willeford (1919-1988) is considered the “father of Miami crime fiction” but defied genre boundaries. This sordid tale about a troubled journalist is set in this hot and sometimes-dangerous local.

The story follows the ruminations of a reporter who is assigned to write an article about a married woman who kills herself and her children. It is not clear to the journalist who wants to write more thoughtful articles about suicide and crime. Also a distraction from the investigation is his literary ambition and his relationships with women, both his wife and others, which are far from wholesome, and it is sad to see what was considered normal back then. We can still see such tales in the movies, but this is darker than noir, which usually ends with a criminal being caught. The book is not a crime-investigation procedural, but rather a search into the dark areas of marriage and relationships between the sexes. Maybe Willeford will convince us that we all have been cursed, that society is at fault, and that other options available now will make traditional marriages more challenging, and better for it. One is left with an uncomfortable and unpleasant emotion from this book, but look at what people are willing to do to get away from some of this book’s dark truths.

Reviewed By:

Author Charles Willeford
Star Count 4/5
Format Trade
Page Count 224 pages
Publisher Titan Books
Publish Date 2018-Jul-17
ISBN 9781785656989
Bookshop.org Buy this Book
Issue September 2018
Category Mystery, Crime & Thriller


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