Miami Blues

ISBN: 1400032466
ISBN 13: 9781400032464
By: Charles Willeford Elmore Leonard

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Reader's Thoughts

Martyn V. (aka Baron Sang Froid) Halm

I loved this book. The quirky characters, the weird situations, the interaction. Junior Frenger, a freeloading sociopath recently released from prison, arrives in Miami, where he uses his skills at deception and violence to twist situations into his advantage.Weary police detective Hoke Moseley investigates the carnage in Frenger's wake and falls victim himself, which leads to hilarious situations.Strongly recommended to fans of Elmore Leonard and noir crime novels.


Better than Chandler, better than MacDonald... This is probably one of the better crime novels I've read... Not that I've read a ton, but this one takes the cake. One thing that makes it unique among almost anything I've read is the author's dual psychological understanding and un-sentimentality toward his characters. What I'm trying to say is that he doesn't seem to empathize with everyone, yet he still gives us very human and accurate portraits of the characters. Its beautiful and gritty and also very funny and surreal.


Now that was definitely one of the best crime novels I've read recently. At the same time I'm not quite sure why this is supposed to be a "Penguin Modern Classic". I'll explain later!Anyway... so this is a story about a crazy badass who spent a long time in jail and now that he's out he wants to do something with his life... meaning that he wants to continue his illegal lifestyle and finish a big job that would send him to "semi retirement". This character is probably the book's biggest strength as he is really well described and even though he is more of a typical bad guy there are some shades of grey in his personality. Fpr example whenever he tries to help others he gets into trouble so he thinks that he has no other choice than to think only about himself. On his adventures he meets a young hooker who soon becomes his girlfriend. That girl is called Susan, she is quite dumb but very likeable. She is probably the main reason that there are a lot of scenes in this brutal and violent book that can make you laugh or at least grin like an idiot. I had one major issue with her portrayal, though. Whenever there was a chance she was described as extremely young looking, like 14 or something. At the same time she was involved in a couple of sex scenes. That felt REALLY wrong. It was like the author wanted to present this 20 year old character as a sexy looking 14 year old. What the fuck? That was somehow twisted... The detective on the other hand was a very poor guy, much different than your usual crime heroes who may be shady guys but would never get bullied by other people because they're so fragile. They definitely wouldn't lose their fake teeth in a fight. All in all it was a very fast and easy read, the author has a clear style and voice. So it is an entertaining novel with weird characters but why exactly is it a modern classic? I mean there was nothing revolutionary, thought provoking or deep about this book. That's what I don't understand at all. Maybe somebody can explain that to me. Why 3 stars you may ask. Well it was entertaining but that's all. If you're looking for that go ahead and read it.

Patrick McCoy

I was a fan of the George Artimage film (1990) based on Charles Willeford's Hoke Moseley novel Miami Blues (1984) before reading it. This edition has an introduction written by Elmore Leonard. And, indeed, I see similarities between the two authors-they are both masters of the literary crime novel. I really enjoyed inhabiting the seedy 80s Miami in Willeford's novel. I like how Willeford uses Junior's introduction to Miami as a way to introduce the city to those of us who are also not familiar with it: the dimensions of the city with the Everglades, the distinctions of Miami proper with Miami Beach, Colombian murder squads, how Carter's offer of refugee status for Cubans in opposition to Castro destroyed the city when Castro emptied his prisons in Marioelito (referred by Moseley as Marielitos), and other aspects specific to Miami. Hoke Mosley is also a original crime fighting protagonist-like Kurosawa's Murakami in Stray Dog he loses his gun. However, that's not the worst of it, because he also is savagely beaten within an inch of his life and loses his badge in the bargain as well. He also has dentures that are a constant source of worry, but these do not detract from the fact that he is a first rate detective and completely devoted to his job. The perpetrator of this offense is one of the more memorable psychopaths in recent history as well-the musclebound Frederick J. Frenger, Jr.-known as Junior. A man who never even considered going straight once released from prison. Instead he mugs three men and flies to his fate in Miami. He accidentally kills a Hare Krishna upon arrival at the airport after breaking his finger and coincidentally ends up in a relationship with the man's dim-witted sister. The movie follows the book very closely, but there is great pleasure in the details. I will definitely be reading more Willeford in the future.

Χάλι Κάλλυ

Το βιβλίο χωρίζεται σε δύο αφηγηματικά πλαίσια.Αυτό του Φρέντι Φρένγκεν και του ντετέκτιβ Χοκ Μόσλι.Η Σούζαν και ο Φρέντι,δύο από τους βασικούς χαρακτήρες του βιβλίου,εξωτερικά μοιάζουν με συνηθισμένα άτομα.Αυτή διωγμένη από το πατρικό της σπίτι,προσπαθεί να φτιάξει τη ζωή της στη μεγαλούπολη.Αυτός πρώην κατάδικος,προσπαθεί να φτιάξει τη ζωή του σύμφωνα με τα νόμιμα πρότυπα.Η τυχαία γνωριμία τους δημιουργεί μια νοσηρή σχέση αλληλεξάρτησης.Η επιθυμία νορμαλοποίησης της καθημερινότητάς που μοιράζονται από κοινού,με μη νόμιμες δραστηριότητες,καθώς και το ένστικτο της επιβίωσης που κυριαρχεί και στους δυο,θα οδηγήσει σε μια απροσδόκητη σύγκρουση συμφερόντων μεταξύ τους και θα ολοκληρωθεί με ένα επίσης μη αναμενόμενο τέλος.Από την άλλη,ο Χοκ Μόσλι που ερευνά την υπόθεση θανάτου του αδερφού της Σούζαν,έρχεται αντιμέτωπος μέσα από τα γεγονότα που συμβαίνουν,με την καταστρατήγηση της προσωπικού του χώρου και την αμφισβήτηση της ικανότητάς του να παρέχει ασφάλεια στον εαυτό του.Ο καθένας,από τους βασικούς ήρωες του βιβλίου,μοιάζει να προσπαθεί να αλλάξει κάτι που τον ενοχλεί,χρησιμοποιώντας τον λάθος τρόπο.Η ιστορία πλέκεται περίτεχνα,ο Ουίλφορντ χρησιμοποιεί το στοιχείο της έκπληξης και της τραγικής ειρωνείας σα να είναι ο εφευρέτης τους και καταγράφει τα αληθινά συναισθήματα των πρωταγωνιστών με ωμό κυνισμό και χωρίς επιπλέον σχόλια.Άξιος ο τίτλος του "πατριάρχη του Psycho-Pulp".


A good, simply told story about an amoral crook, his not too bright girl, and the worn-out, false-teeth wearing Miami cop on their trail. On the whole, though, not nearly as enjoyable as The Woman Chaser or The Burnt Orange Heresy.I'm a big fan of the late '80s movie of this book, so it was interesting to finally read the source material. The screenwriter really did a great job of simplifying the story in exactly the right ways, and altering the ending ever so slightly for maximum effect. All told, the movie is better.


I'd seen (and enjoyed) the movie of course and as a rule I never read a book after seeing the movie, but I came across Willeford's name in an interview with Jim Knipfel, who wrote the entertaining Slackjaw and spoke admiringly of his work. With a little research I discovered that no less an authority than Elmore Leonard said Willeford is the best crime writer in America. That's good enough for me. I also learned that Miami Blues was the first of a series of detective Hoke Moseley books. So I had no choice but start at the first, and I can say it did not disappoint in the least – I liked it, liked its energy, story, and its pop pop speed, and I finished it in two sittings. Is it going to inspire you or move you or change your life? No. But it's the kind of book every kind of writer should read more often to tell better stories and it's also the kind of book that I'd like to read more often. Something so easy, smart, and breezy is extremely hard to do. Of course, there are tricks in this trade, and if a genre writer is prolific enough you start to see those tricks everywhere as a distraction. Still, I look forward to finishing off the Moseley series and maybe looking around the rest of the Willeford oeuvre.

Jay Hinman

Charles Willeford was an offbeat noir/crime writer whose oeuvre I've been hoping to dive deeper into for years; it's probably been about 20 since I read his "The Burnt Orange Heresy" (1971), which has got to be one of the funniest, most absurd "crime" novels ever written. I also tackled his 50s pure-noir "High Priest of California" and "Wild Wives" hardboilers around that time, and remember them to this day as being quite pleasingly vicious and raw. To the extent that Willeford is known outside (or even inside) the crime enthusiast world, it's for a series he wrote in the 1980s just before his 1988 death featuring a derelict detective named Hoke Moseley, the most famous of which is the first one, "MIAMI BLUES", which was made into a film some time after that and which I just finished reading this past weekend.I have no hesitation in the slightest pronouncing it as having delivered. Willeford is no Jim Thompson nor Elmore Leonard; both his gumshoes and his criminals are pretty bent, odd characters, and his writing zags off into strange tangents that are ridiculously funny and somehow still an integral if bizarre part of the larger story. 42-year-old detective Hoke Mosely's premature dentures, for instance, get into all sorts of conundrums in this tale, and the story also has some pretty offbeat digressions into the nature of Japanese haiku and all manner of health foods. I obviously haven't read the other three Hoke Moseley novels, but I enjoyed greatly how his personal and find-the-bad-guy story was told only in alternating chapters, and in an only slightly linear fashion as well. The other alternating chapters are given over to psychopath Freddie "Junior" Frenger and his doofus "platonic wife" Susan Waggoner, whom Freddie meets when she shows up upon his arrival in his Miami hotel room as a prostitute. Freddie has just gotten out of prison in California, see, and his chief aim is to do something big that even he knows will land him in prison again - he's just not sure what. He's a vicious bodybuilding thug whom we only learn about in spurts; most of his action is in real time, as he breaks fingers (sending a Hare Krishna into death by shock), robs people blind, breaks jaws and emotionally & physically abuses Susan. Frenger is on a collision course with Moseley, and even he seems to know it. He decides that his "big splash" is going to be a coin dealer in downtown Miami, and let's just say things don't really go as planned, as crimes planned by psychopathic, prison-lifer muscle-thugs often don't.Willeford seems to be simultaneously laughing and pointing fingers at the crime genre and spinning a ripping crime yarn at the same time. It's what endeared me so much to "The Burnt Orange Heresy", and much of his same sardonic art is alive and well in this one.


I don't why it took me so long to get to the Hoke Moseley books. I've read and enjoyed a lot of Willeford, but somehow these books just remained on my ever-growing stack.A spare, quick read. There is no fat on this one. Great characters and an original approach. I highly recommend this one (Made into a good, underrated movie, too).If I had any gripe, it is that some of the story hinges on a pretty big coincidence. But if you're willing to suspend a tad of disbelief, then you're in for a great ride.


I realize this book might not be everyone's cup of tea, but this is basically everything I want in a book. Super violent, sort of hilarious, simply written, psychopath characters. I couldn't put it down. Why don't I read more crime novels? Well, I'm about to because I just ordered the other 3 books in the Hoke Moseley series.

John Onoda

Charles Willeford reminds me of Elmore Leonard. Both write about criminals with as much affection and understanding as they write about cops. All characters are presented as human and flawed, often with both good and bad traits. In Miami Blues, the mains character are the sociopathic Freddy Frenger and the dysfunction Hoke Moseley, a cop who is living in a seedy Miami hotel and who really ought to retire.The portrait of Miami in the 1980's is from the perspective of people on the fringes. It isn't pretty but it's believable. So is the blurred line between right and wrong, as cops and law breakers interact in a kind of No Mans Land where normal rules of behavior don't really hold sway.


This book by Charles Willeford (along with The Friends of Eddie Coyle by George V. Higgins) is the basis of the great crime fiction of Elmore Leonard. He was heavily influenced by these two authors and it shows. This is not to say that Leonard copied the style – instead he has improved upon the approach to writing that these authors have themselves mastered.In Miami Blues, the reader spends just as much time with the bad guy as the good guy (maybe even more time..) and he seems like a real person, not just a criminal to be arrested by the police. We spend time with this antagonist, Freddy the psychopathic ex-con, and learn about his motivations, his likes, dislikes, worries, etc. You’ll see the roots of Leonard when you read this book.The “good guy” cop Hoke a unique denture-wearing guy who is sympathetic yet slightly stand-offish. You don’t learn to love him but you like him as well as feel bad for him. He’s not overly macho and therefore he seems all the more real for that.Some of the language and references are dated and there some racist/homophobic/sexist language that may turn off some readers. However, that language is put there to show the attitudes of people you’d meet everyday. It’s a frank and honest portrayal of real people. The plot relies on a far-fetched coincidence but it’s not too distracting. There’s some pretty brutal scenes in here, too, so fans of violent crime fiction will love it. Even though the roots of Elmore Leonard lie in the fiction of Willeford and Higgins, I think Leonard has improved upon that style, tightening up the writing and making it more laid-back (and more fast-paced, if that makes sense). There is also some humor in Miami Blues, some of it quite funny (the “Crisco” part is pretty hilarious). So, if you like good crime fiction that isn’t a “whodunit”, read this book. If you like Elmore Leonard, read this book. And for Tarantino fans, QT has also name-dropped Willeford as an influence so if that gets you excited, read this book.


I registered a book at!

Scott E

I only have a few Crime Fiction reads that I've given 5-stars. Miami Blues clearly joins them. I doubt that I'll like Willeford as much as I like James Lee Burke, Elmore Leonard, Michael Connelly and a few others...but this book is top notch crime fiction. Kicked off by a series of incredible (although believable) coincidences, the narrative alternates between psychopath Freddy Frenger and Miami Homicide detective Hoke Moseley (who is the protagonist of three additional Willeford outings). Like my favorites (Burke & Leonard especially), Willeford does wonders in creating the atmosphere of 1980s Miami. If you think you'll recognize the same Miami you see each week on CSI won't.


Treasure of the Rubbermaids 10: Good Cop - Bad CopThe on-going discoveries of priceless books and comics found in a stack of Rubbermaid containers previously stored and forgotten at my parent’s house and untouched for almost 20 years. Thanks to my father dumping them back on me, I now spend my spare time unearthing lost treasures from their plastic depths. Junior Frenger has just gotten out of prison in California, and he promptly heads to Miami with a pocket full of stolen cash and credit cards. No sooner does he arrive at the airport than a Hare Krishna annoys him so Junior breaks his finger before leaving to embark on a one-man crime wave. Freakishly, the Krishna dies from the shock of the broken digit, and homicide detective Hoke Mosley gets the case. Junior goes on to meet part-time call girl Susan, and then unlikely coincidence brings Hoke into contact with both of them. Hoke doesn’t realize that Junior is the guy who inadvertently killed the Krishna, but he picks up on Junior being an ex-con and starts nosing around him and Susan. This annoys Junior who goes on the offensive and ends up in a position to impersonate a police officer while complicating Hoke’s life.This is a slick and original crime thriller with off-beat characters. Junior is described as a ‘blithe psychopath‘, and he lives up to that billing. Since he’s sure that he’ll end up in jail eventually no matter what he does, Junior is only interested in instant gratification and fast cash with no real concern about long term consequences. Susan is so grateful to have someone to take care of her that she quickly begins complying with Junior’s instructions.Hoke isn’t your typical hero cop, either. Just over 40 with a failed marriage and a mouthful of false teeth as well as a taste for bourbon, Hoke‘s personal life is a mess. With every spare dime going towards alimony and child support, he has to live in a shabby hotel and can’t even keep up with his bar tab. Hoke’s also losing most of his friends on the police force as an increasingly dangerous Miami of the late ‘80s is causing most of them to flee to safer jobs. Anyone looking for an fast paced crime novel with a dark sense of humor would enjoy this book. The movie version from 1990 with Alec Baldwin and Fred Ward is a good adaptation of this also.

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