The Woman Chaser

ISBN: 1842430017
ISBN 13: 9781842430019
By: Charles Willeford

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About this book

Richard Hudson, woman chaser and used car salesman, has a pimp's awareness of the ways women (and men) are most vulnerable. One day Richard decides to make an ambitious film, which turns into a fiasco. Enraged, he exacts revenge on all who have crossed him.

Reader's Thoughts


Someone called this book Willeford's masterpiece -- and I would agree. A very funny, complex, brutal, strange book. The 1960 publisher gave it the name "The Woman Chaser." Willeford called it "The Director" and also considered titling it after the movie within the book, "The Man Who Got Away." The film adaptation is the best of the Willeford movies.


DO NOT READ THE BLACK MASK EDITION AS IT HAS A RIDICULOUS NUMBER OF TYPOS!!Ahem, ok, The Woman Chaser. Another book I first heard of in the bonus features for Down By Law when Jim Jarmusch listed some of his favorite books. Then the Onion AV Club had it in their bookclub and my lovely lady sent me her copy to read. Richard Hudson has problems. Part megalomania, raging Oedipus complex, and some pretty frightening sociopathic tendencies especially when it comes to the ladies. But the man wants to somehow transcend all that and the futility of "Eisenhower USA" by making a movie. But naturally this doesn't go quite as planned and people have to be taught a lesson as he sees fit.Definitely absorbing even though it takes a while to feel any kind of connection with such a weird guy. But it has its moments both comical (just check out how he phrases the synopsis of his movie) and just surreal (the dance sequence with his mother) and in a way the whole quest to create a piece of art rather than the movie itself becomes the "masterpiece" Hudson is going for. And this book, written as a film script, is the relic surviving it all. Probably a grower but definitely one I enjoyed reading and am still thinking about a week after I finished it.


Willeford is worth checking out - he's an underrated writer of the 1950s-1980s. He wrote mostly hard-boiled stuff but with a humorous touch. He's great on what it's like to be poor and hungry for work. This is one of my favorite L.A. novels.


Holy crap, every time I read a Charles Willeford novel I find myself wondering why this guy isn't treated like a major talent. I think this is the best of the few I've read. Time to look for more.


“I don’t work like other writers,” I replied cryptically. “Let’s dance.” - Charles Willeford


The weird, noirish story of a car salesman in '60s L.A. who decides to make a movie. Things do not work out well. The salesman, who narrates the story, has an attitude and a way with words that's both hilarious and demented. The movie version of the book is perhaps even better, but alas, is still not on DVD.


The A.V. Club's Wrapped Up In Books selection for July.


Basically a character study in masculine excess, this is one of those nasty little books where everyone (especially the protagonist) is utterly horrid and ambitious and all productivity, even ostensibly artistic, goes down a lot like selling used cars. Deeply sexist, explicitly Oedipean and punch-a-pregnant-woman-in-the-stomach violent in its treatment of women, this reads a lot like a progenitor of American Psycho without the murders but with the same bizarre digressions into pop culture and equal sensitivity to its historical moment - this book is very much set in the 1960 in which it is written, and it's hard for me to tell how much of the stern, square-jawed stoicism is a parody of the 60's pulp hero and how much is more a requirement of the pulp novel itself.Oh, there's very little actual woman chasing. They usually chase him, first of all, and the actual doin' it is usually more about the casual brutality than any joy he seems to get out of it. This is Man Writ Large - handsome, stubbled, obsessed, selfish, drunk, ultimately only interested in his mother.

Cathy DuPont

Hummm. Another book by Charles Willeford and again, how would this be classified, what genre? As a writer, Willeford is very difficult to categorize and rightly so. I’ve read almost all of his books and they range from absurd to zany from intense to humorous. The Woman Chaser falls somewhere between a to z starting with the opening paragraph which begins like a movie script. For good reason, too. After a few chapters that's what it's about; a movie script and Richard Hudson's life in humdrum Amercia, living (or not) the Amercian dream. Hudson is an off-the-chart great used car salesman who gets bored with all the money he’s made selling used cars. With the big ‘thumbs up’ from his boss in San Francisco, Richard buys a used car lot in Los Angeles, gussies it up, staffs it, reconnects with his family (he grew up in LA) and soon thereafter leaves for a hotel room to write his first movie script. He has a strong desire, an urgent need to be creative apparently having lost his himself in making money in the used car business. Richard is like 'is this all there is?' or ‘What’s it all About, Alfie?”His family consists of his ‘forever a ballerina’ mother, step-father who is about his age and a down and out movie producer, and his step-sister, a nubile teenager. Beginning with absurd or ending with zany, either term will do, my favorite part in the book is when he finds his mother in the well-appointed basement ballet dancing to The Miraculous Mandarin. He strips off his shirt and begins dancing with her becoming the “the Miraculous Mandarin himself, the damndest Chinaman anybody ever saw! I chased, I pursued, I made impossible leaps and came down as lightly as a wind-wafted cigarette paper.” What a sight, in my mind, to behold when Richard “pranced, cavorted, darted, turned, glided, bent, stretched, and did a mad fouetee on one leg” until he almost lost reason, he says. That was the turning point, when he decided that writing and directing the movie was his destiny. The only reason for his existence at this point in his life.I found myself from time to time thinking about the movie American Beauty, a mid-life crisis in the making. Here's Richard, in mid-life crisis mode, and I'm reading it line by line. And the title, well, women are throwaways for him, but then so is everything else when he decides his life is not complete until his movie is written, directed (by himself, of course) and in the theaters as the biggest success since Gone With the Wind. When his masterpiece is completed, well, that’s the story, so I’ll leave it up to you to take the time to read this little jewel of a book, a scant 192 pages. In my view, Willeford is underestimated, if estimated at all on anyone’s radar. He’s relatively unknown except for those interested in noir (he wrote from the 1950's-1980's) although he can’t, in my mind, be classified in that category either. But he was a great underrated talent who should be studied in creative writing classes and read by even more readers than some of the noted authors of today. He's a vivid and a simply great writer in my opinion. In my list of favorite authors, Willeford is right up there with my favorites. My only regret is that he went long periods of time (12 years) without writing or publishing anything so he has a very small library of books; unfortunately, I’m near the end of reading them. Too bad for me but good for you if you haven’t read him. He’s a must in on my list and you are missing out if you haven't read him yet.

Zachary Krug

I enjoyed this, but maybe not quite as much as I expected, especially given the number of times people whose tastes I admire have recommended Willeford to me. I generally liked the writing. And the weirdness. And the disgust with so much of American culture of the era. Somewhere along the way it reminded my of Portnoy's complaint without the sex (and much of the anxiety). And the subtlety with which Richard's craziness is revealed was really well done. But I guess I would have enjoyed more thrills and less ruminations on artistry. (Also more of the used car and less of the movie business.) So much of it was building, building, building--but to what? If this was cleverly intended to show "movement" over "action," that was lost on me. Maybe because I expected it be more of a crime/revenge novel and less about movies or the american condition, I was disappointed by the last third. Still, I will definitely read some more--maybe Miami Blues or Side Swiped. Some other things I liked:The line about need 2 shifts to support such a family; 3 shifts to love them. The comfort of mummies.Vocabulary needed for Time vs Newsweek.A bottle of scotch as your only luggage. Does anyone know what "spaelean depths" (p.49) refers to?

Mharper Harper

This is a very strange book in it's way. The first half of the book Richard Hudson, a used-car salesman, has returned to his native L.A. to establish a franchise. He sets up the car lot, wanes philosophical about American greed (dividing the world into Feebs, feeble-minded rubes, and those who-understand-how-the world-works), sets up house at his childhood home with his prima-donna mother and her disgraced movie producer husband, and beds his sister. It reads a bit like American Psycho. Then in act two Hudson decides to makes a movie. He writes the script, which is dark and bizarre, and directs the thing. The book keeps things flowing with most of the action focusing on selling the movie to the studio and gathering people to make the movie. Things don't go the way he expects and all hell breaks loose.The last act is his running around doing insane things. I don't want to give away too much.The book in someways mirrors the plot of the movie, but not too much as to be tacky. The writing and pacing of the story is great, and while the main character isn't likable in the least, you can understand him. I suppose the theme of the book, or rather it's moral, is that we are the people who, carelessly, make the world a rotten place. We remember that girl who broke our hearts and callously disregard those hearts we broke. We're thieves that complain bitterly when robbed.Not a polite read, but a fun one.

Matty B

I read this after I saw the indie film version starring Patrick Warburton as the eponymous protagonist. It's about a used car salesman who decides his life is pointless unless he creates one thing. Just one thing.So he sets out to, and as his creation grows, his sanity seems to diminish.Truly a classic from pulp writer Willeford.Also, the movie is good.


Very funny noir about a psycho used car dealer who gets the itch to make a movie and walks all over everybody in sight to get it done. If the film version ever shows on the Sundance Channel or IFC drop everything and watch it. This is one of the few movies that totally gets the book right. Charles Willeford rules!


Holy cow, what a book. I just read Willeford's memoir a while back, but this was the first novel of his I've read. Steve Erickson has called Willeford the Philip K. Dick of crime writing, in that both writers refuse to fit neatly into their genre's confines. And like Dick, they were both pulp writers, in the sense, as Luc Sante puts it, that their work comes from a working class, gotta-continually-hustle-to-get-by sensibility.Anyway, this is a perfect little gem of a book. Very odd in places--the main character Richard Hudson's relationship with his mother, for instance, is like nothing I've read before--and continually fresh. Fun fun fun read.

David Neitzke

Strange combination of hard-boiled pulp and black comedy from the early '60's about a sleazy, sociopathic used car salesman who becomes obsessed with writing and directing a low budget explotation film he came up with titled "The Man Who Got Away".

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