Wild Wives

ISBN: 1400032474
ISBN 13: 9781400032471
By: Charles Willeford

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Crime Crime Fiction Fiction Hard Boiled Noir Pulp Mystery Noir Novellas Pulp To Read Willeford

About this book

Jake Blake is a private detective short on cash when he meets a rich and beautiful young woman looking to escape her father’s smothering influence. Unfortunately for Jake, the smothering influence includes two thugs hired to protect her—and the woman is in fact not the daughter of the man she wants to escape, but his wife. Now Jake has two angry thugs and one jealous husband on his case. As Jake becomes more deeply involved with this glamorous and possibly crazy woman, he becomes entangled in a web of deceit, intrigue—and multiple murders. Brilliant, sardonic, and full of surprises, Wild Wives is one wild ride.

Reader's Thoughts


Though sporting a catchy title that's a clear misnomer -- don't wait for multiple wives, wild or otherwise, to show up -- this is vintage Willeford. Stop me if you've heard this one before: Jake Blake is a hardboiled dick in a seedy, rundown office who gets lured into a messy situation by a femme, possibly fatale. But this is Willeford, so none of it plays out quite as expected. Instead, it's a dark, demented shaggy dog joke, as our brutal, opportunistic, amoral antihero tap-dances with his inevitable comeuppance, staying just one half-step ahead of much-deserved payback for his many failings. It's a James M. Cain style plot played for cruel laughs. Willeford breathes new life into his own grubby corner of the noir universe, populated by a menagerie of memorable grotesques.


This fast-paced novella is an unconventional private eye tale populated with seedy, greedy characters. Willeford, having written it under a pseudonym in 1956, rehashes the usual private-eye-falls-for-a-femme-fatale formula. But he throws in enough curveballs to keep the reader off-balance, starting with the first scene where a beautiful young lady struts into the private eye's office. Our lovers eventually make their way to no-holds-bar Las Vegas where the action grows even weirder. I'd say WILD WIVES is great fun to read on a rainy or snowy day.


Woo Woo, What fun. I read this this a long time ago and wasn't impredssed. I needed a quick read for the bus and tried it agian. Love it. A bit short on profund statements on the meaning of life; but maybe not. Love the tryst at the restaurant. Bad Bobby . And Bad Mrs .Weintraub. I know people who talk like Jake Blake. Gotta check out more Willeford.

Warren Stalley

For me this writer is just as good as Hammett or Chandler. This pulp noir story follows a small time private detective through a hellish journey when he is hired by a mysterious woman. I was gripped from the first page to the last and urge any curious reader to give this short novel a chance.


Nutty as fuck sleaze from Charles Willeford, mixing noir with hepcat beatnikisms. The PI is named Jake Blake and he hangs out at the Knockout Club. The book is full of booze, babes and spankings, and reads smoothly like a good shot of straight rye. The "girlfriend who turns out to be a psycho" yarn is a noir shaggy dog story but Willeford does it better than most.


I love fiction that's based in San Francisco. Dashiell Hammett, Jack Kerouac, I love it all!!!

Bill Chance

Pulp Noir is my guilty pleasure and Willeford is as guilty and as pleasurable as their is.


Well, so far I've read 2 of Willeford's early works, (50's) and several of the later ones (80's). Like them all, but the angry, sardonic, stylized tone of the earlier ones reek with ambition and desires whilst really shitting on the same. dirty and piercing. Totally captivating reading.

Patrick James

Certainly not nearly as good a story as Pick-Up. Borrows a few elements from the former to little effect. Much less sympathetic protagonist than Harry from Pick-Up. Madness referred to, shown, but not probed. Coasts along nicely for a while then crashes. But a nice quick read.


It was a very quick read, and it was a fun story. It had a twist ending that I didn't see coming. I like how Willeford always seems to introduce characters, have them disappear, and then bring them back right when you'd least expect it. They're interesting characters, too, doing things you'd didn't expect.


Charles Willeford originally published this under the title Until I am Dead and is often paired with High Priest of California. They bear similarities. In both cases does a man fall under the spell of a demented or wicked woman. Jacob Blake is completely taking in by the “dame” who shows up in his office requesting that he protect her from her bodyguards. Things go from bad to worse as Blake discovers he has been a complete fool. It’s classic noir with the down-trodden P.I. who drinks too much and seems never to get an even break. Very short, quick, read. If you like noir, this is a good example of early Willeford before he started writing the Hoke Mosley series (which is better.)P.S. You can get these really cheap now for your Kindle. I must admit to liking the more salacious original cover, although I would have covered it with brown paper. Note that the title has absolutely little to do with the story.

Kathy Davie

A hardboiled PI who's just a bit desperate for cash.My TakeThis was a bit Alfred Hitchcock with a flavor of 39 Steps about it. I kept waiting for one betrayal, but got several others.For a private investigator, Blake seems a bit clueless and pretty lazy. Letting those thugs get the jump on him. He simply takes Florence's story at face value. Jumps to conclusions. Fluffs off Bobby.It seems too that a guy like him would have reacted quite differently to Davis's come-on. That was just not believable. And what was with his bundling up his suit like that to get rid of it? It was like he had something to hide. Then there's the motorcycle cop at the end. If Blake was accused of this particular murder, why would the cop give him his gun??Willeford did capture the flavor of the times though, and his characterizations were otherwise right on the money if somewhat exaggerated. Something of a necessity in a story as short as this---102 pages.The StoryWork is slow and Jake Blake jumps at the chance for some easy money helping out a beautiful dame with cash to burn. Too bad he didn't question the circumstances.Then karma rolls back to bite for his treatment of Bobby.The CharactersJake Blake is a hardboiled, cocky private investigator whose business isn't doing well.Florence Weintraub is a much put-upon twenty-six-year-old whose daddy has surrounded her with bodyguards. Milton Weintraub is an architect involved in a number of city projects and they seem to have some sort of sick relationship. Ferguson and Melvin are the bodyguards.Detective Sergeant Ernest Tone is a friend. Lieutenant Stanley Pulaski is not.Freddy Allen is a gay man supported by a wealthy art dealer, Jefferson Davis. His sister Barbara Ann is a pushy troublemaker who really doesn't deserve what Blake sets her up for. But then, neither does he.Jefferson Davis is a fellow resident of the hotel and he isn't sure if he has a problem or not.The CoverThe cover is very 1940ish, 50ish with its fluorescent pink appearing in the background wallpaper, the title, and a curved border at the bottom. The wallpaper itself is a white bamboo print against a radial gradation of pink scattering to gold. Then there's the black-and-white of Florence Weintraub in her diamonds and marabou-trimmed dress.The title is a misnomer as it's only one wild wife.

Peter Martin

Wild, indeed. Willeford's writing is rich and vivid, the tone rough and tumble. The narrator spits venom. Stumbles as it rushes to its ending, but a potent and menacing read, nonetheless.

Cathy DuPont

Willeford's description of characters is unique and all his own which is just one reason I like to take a break with his books.This one is shorter than most books and I can't point to one person as the real 'bad guy' since every person has his (or her) flaws, deep flaws. One reviewer said 'deadpan' humor, and another said 'wry off-beat humor.' I agree with both. Charles Willeford gave writers who read him and who came after him, something use in their writing. I'm sure Willeford would have been flattered. Maybe.


Amazing what a good writer can do with just a main plot and a very simple subplot. Good downbeat ending.

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