New Hope for Charles Willeford

New Hope for Charles Willeford

In 1961, paperback press Fawcett Gold Medal published a typically lurid book by one W. Franklin Sanders titled The Whip Hand. Its cover featured a curvaceous blonde wearing high heels while brandishing a bullwhip. "Lash by bloody lash, the she-devil from Dallas would get her revenge," the text on the cover screamed. The Whip Hand seemed to be a classic pulp novel -- and nothing more -- until Austin writer and Chronicle contributor Jesse Sublett got ahold of it. The Whip Hand, as it turns out, may have been written a little bit by Sanders. It was at the very least co-written by Charles Willeford, the hard-boiled/noir lit, tough-guy scribe of such bestsellers as Miami Blues, New Hope for the Dead, Sideswipe, and The Way We Die Now (the Hoke Moseley novels) but also lesser-known titles like Cockfighter, which was made into a 1974 Monte Hellman/Warren Oates movie. The original manuscript, titled Deliver Me From Dallas, about an L.A. police detective who flees to Dallas after he roughs up a motorist a tad too forcibly, was found among Willeford's papers after his death in 1988.

Now a new edition of The Whip Hand is in stores, but this time the author is Willeford, not Sanders, and Deliver Me From Dallas (Dennis McMillan Publications, $30) has been restored as the title. What was the giveaway for Sublett, whose tragic story of his own appeared in Sunday's New York Times Magazine? "It's got his absurdist take on reality," he writes in the introduction. "The poker-faced, deadpan violence and sly, deadpan humor. The gabardine suit. It's Willeford, no doubt about it."

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