Charles Willeford is a very engaging writer, technically his novels are considered crime or noir fiction, but I think those are reductive labels. I always feel like I learn something new when I read one of his books, and his characters are memorable and seem very believable and true to life as well. Sideswipe (1987) is a great example of this. This is the third Hoke Moseley novel and he is not your conventional hero: divorced, broke, balding, wears dentures, single father of two adolescent girls and at the onset of this novel is going through a nervous breakdown. His pregnant partner Elita Sanchez moves him into his father's house in Singer Island, his birthplace and his version of peace on earth. Moseley decides to retire from the force and manage a small long term stay hotel. During this time he befriends an entomologist, nicknamed "Itai," a professor who is on sabbatical writing a novel and whose speciality is the Ethiopian horse fly. The professor got his nickname from his colleagues after he returned from a year in Kyoto at a zen monastery and couldn't stop talking to people about it (by the way "itai" means "painful" in Japanese). Itai brings to his attention that his daughter Aileen is bulimic and Moseley has deal with that mess. But detective work is in his blood as he helps the local police solve a series of art thefts in an expensive luxury condominium. Here, like in The Burnt Orange Heresy, he can show off his knowledge about art and collecting have some fun at the expense of the art world. This can also be seen in his treatment of the primitive, non objectionist artist from Barbados. There is a parallel story taking place about a retired autoworker, Stanley Sinkiewicz, from Detroit now living in Florida who through a series of events meets a true criminal psychopath in Troy Louden. That's not to say that Troy doesn't have his charms, and manages to put together a crew with Sinkiewicz and the painter to make a stake on a big heist so that they can go to Haiti to get his grotesquely disfigured stripper girl friend plastic surgery,. Getting back to Sinkiewicz, he's no ordinary retiree. He has a cane in which he keeps cyanide pellets to poison dangerous seeming neighborhood dogs. The robbery goes bad and several people are needlessly killed in the melee and Moseley is called into action by his boss and end up solving the crime. Did I mention that humor abounds aplenty? This gives Miami Blues a run for its money as my favorite Willeford novel.Charlie
I like the way the characters are developed. The novel, however, seemed like two stories that kept bumping into each other and finally reached a common end. I've read other authors who have created stories from diverse viewpoints and built them to a climax much more artfully. Still, though, a good read and a lesson to be studied by budding authors.Tom
absolutely marvellous hard-boiled thriller, set in Florida - hard-bitten people scuffling along, with whipsmart dialogue and beautiful economical descriptions.Scott Phillips
Quite possibly my favorite crime novel. Willeford was a master of throwing his characters into a situation and then letting it unfold, and Sideswipe is incredibly entertaining to ride along with.Carole
Interesting characters but plot too slow moving. Good when it got going though.Matt
Willeford continues to demonstrate a real talent for characterization and ability to establish a sense of place. He paints a vivid picture of late 80s Miami and the unique collection of personalities that inhabit it. Willeford also possesses the ability to write with effective brevity; addressing issues like life and career burnout, family dynamics, and post-employment ennui within a tight page-count. A brisk, fun summer read.Anders
Haha! This guy cracks me up! Another hit in the Hoke Moseley series, a humane story sliding along with charcteristic sudden kinks in it. All of a sudden things are not the same anymore, not turning back. Marvellous.Keir
Following a breakdown of sorts, Hoke leaves Miami for Singer Island, where he hopes to create a less complicated life for himself. (Hint: it involves a wardrobe of wash-and-wear jumpsuits.) Meanwhile, psycho Troy Louden is planning a big robbery with a very unlikely gang. As I was reading, I kept thinking that this one wasn't as good as the previous series installment, New Hope for the Dead, partly because Singer Island is less interesting than Miami, partly because the two plotlines are unconnected for most of the book. But, damn it, Willeford is just so good. I'm a sucker for his deadpan humor, for the way the characters will place the same importance on a game of Monopoly as they will on a murder. And the summation--"Hoke had learned that there was no way a man could simplify his life"--is just so perfect and true.Larry Webber
A unique and vivid tale!J.R.
Overwhelmed by an abundance of cold cases Miami homicide detective Hoke Moseley retreats into a fugue state, abandons his pregnant partner/housemate Ellita Sanchez and his two daughters to seek a simpler life managing his father’s apartment complex in Riviera Beach.Hoke soon finds the simple life is easier to envision than to envelop.Like others in the series, "Sideswipe" is packed with action and wry, off-beat humor. Elmore Leonard says no one writes a better crime novel. Who am I to argue with that?Chris
The description on the back of the jacket begins with the line, “There comes a time in every detective's life when he's had enough.” After reading that, and not knowing anything about the character, Hoke Mosely, you might assume this story was about a law and order man pushed to the edge of sanity by the degenerate dredges of society, akin to a right-wing revenge fantasy like Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry or Charles Bronson as Paul Kersey in Death Wish. You’d be wrong, kind of, but you’d also be pleasantly surprised.What pushes Hoke Mosley to the edge isn’t so much the scum of the earth committing senseless acts of depravity—although there’s plenty of this; Willeford is delightfully unafraid of being politically incorrect in his depictions of police life—but more mundane, everyday problems: a teenage daughter who wants to drop out of high school, another daughter who develops an eating disorder, busywork at the office, financial strife, and a pregnant roommate/coworker who eats her eggs in the most excruciating way possible. All this leads Hoke to a nervous breakdown that takes him out of Miami and back to the sleepy rural Florida vacation community he grew up in, charged with only the mundane tasks of maintaining his father’s hotel in an effort to “simplify his life.”Meanwhile, adopting the same parallel narrative structure from Miami Blues, Willeford introduces us to Stanley, a retired auto-worker who disowns his family after they fail to rush to his aid when he’s falsely accused of molesting a child, and Troy, a self-described psychopath who enlists Stanley’s aid to get out of prison and later recruits Stanley for his gang/family (Troy also admits to being an admirer of Charles Manson), along with a struggling Barbadian painter, and an emotionally damaged and physically deformed stripper.The middle of the story dragged a little, and at first the premise of Hoke having a nervous breakdown seemed a little forced, but by the time you reach the climax, almost everything seems to come together brilliantly. Willeford has a gift for using minute but bizarre details to either set up jaw-dropping plot twists or hilarious diatribes that seem to stem from his own cynical grievances. Without giving too much away, the robbery gone awry—again an element repeated from Miami Blues—is one of the best, and most brutal chapters of crime fiction I’ve ever read. It might be his personal history as a decorated combat veteran, but the man knows how to write a gruesome gunshot wound.What I didn’t like: If there’s one criticism I have, it’s that he writes pretty weak female and minority characters. A reoccurring theme between this book and Miami Blues is whores who are good at housework, weak-willed and irrational, they sit around being told what to do by a man who abuses and exploits them, although this could be Willeford commenting on the degrading effects on the psyche of life in the sex industry. Or he could just be a misogynist.What I did like: The parallels. He jokes about this with a throwaway line in the last chapter, but I really enjoyed the way Willeford juxtaposes events in Stanley’s/Troy’s timeline with events in Hoke’s. He emulates but differentiates the climax and the ending of this book from the ending and climax of Miami Blues. Ellita, Hoke’s partner, attempts to apprehend Troy by the book, firing a warning shot when she attempts to apprehend him, and she’s punished for this, but when Hoke encounters Junior at the end of Miami Blues, he takes the law into his own hands, executing him coldly and deliberately. At the beginning of the book as Hoke’s family falls apart, Troy’s family assembles, and at the end of the book as Hoke’s family rejoins in resolution, Troy’s family disperses in bloody carnage. We’re left not entirely sure if Troy really wanted to live happily ever after at The Hotel Oluffsson (I’ve been there!) with his family/gang, or if he merely snapped when a seemingly routine robbery went haywire due to mundane details overlooked, thus serving as a callback to the inciting incident of Hoke’s nervous breakdown.Aimee
Weird book. Not sure that it qualifies as a mystery. Not much of a mystery to it. Just two stories that eventually intersect, with the detective in the story being the point of intersection.Phyllis
I have the Book Club Edition of this book published by St. Martin's Press in 1987. This is my first Hoke Moseley novel. The story started slowly for me, but the author writes with such rich detail and the characters are so quirky that I got hooked. Towards the end I couldn't put the book down for long. Using the contrast between the voices and actions of Troy Louden (a bad guy) and Stanley Sinkiewicz (a not-so-bad guy), the author takes jabs at parts of society. I think the author is a bit of a fatalist. I enjoyed the book and plan on readig anothr Hoke Moseley novel. I didn't enjoy Hoke as much as the other colorful characters; he was more interesting at the beginning of the book when he had all his problems than at the end when he had healed and rested up.Tracie
I'm not sure what's going on, but I think I've started to develop a little crush on Hoke Moseley. I know, right? I mean, he pees his pants within the first ten pages of this book. But I feel such a strong affection toward him for some reason.The structure of this book is more similar to Miami Blues in that every other chapter is about Hoke, and the odd ones deal with another storyline about a criminal sociopath (Troy) who isn't Junior, but might as well be. I completely loved the way it all came together at the end. It's shitballs crazy awesome. And I love how even though throughout the plots of these books Hoke's life is fairly shitty, at the end he gets a nice little pick me up and you're ready to move on thinking the old guy is going to be okay.My favorite thing about Willeford is the little details. The fact that Hoke tries to cheat at Monopoly. His recipe for beef stew. I love it all.Eric_W
Imagine this: adding Grape-Nuts to a sieve so you can run hot water to soften them up so you can eat them without putting in your false teeth; then gumming them at the dining room table while reading the sports section. Hoke, a homicide investigator lives with his partner Ellita who has the unbearable habit of letting the egg yolks run through her teeth. Ellita, who is pregnant, helps with the rent and the care of Hoke two teenage daughters.Shades of Ed McBain, the writing, I mean. Hoke gets fed up with trying to solve an interminable number of cold cases that seem to be forever piling up on his desk. He retreats into a catatonic state, finally decides to chuck it all, and leaves for his father's place on Riviera Beach. He has decided he wants the simple life. Right. We all know there is no such thing, and soon his bulimic daughter (recognized as such only by a neighbor) comes to visit (she gets shipped off to his ex,) he's having to deal with the myriad problems as manager of his father's apartment building (he gets free rent in one of the apartments) and Ellita calls for help in dealing with her mother's thoughts on amniocentisis.A side plot (never fear, the two will intersect) involves a retired Ford employee falsely accused of molesting his neighbor's daughter, a problem that's soon rectified but not before Stanley meets Troy in jail who has a scheme to make lots of money, also involving a painter and a former stripper whose face was mutilated by her boss. Enough of the plot. You can find that elsewhere. Hoke soon realizes that the simple life is effervescent. First rate story and writing by a master. Mislabeled as a thriller, though, unless impending disaster provides you with the sense of thrill. An engrossing, very enjoyable story. If you like McBain, Moseley, Leonard, et al, you'll very much like Williford.