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Pick-Up Paperback – October 3, 1990


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Paperback, October 3, 1990
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 166 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (October 3, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679732535
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679732532
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 5.2 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,018,709 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

In Pick-Up, Charles Willeford has created a work of psychological suspense that is at once poignant, terrifying, and utterly authentic in its depcition of alcoholic desire and destruction.

Customer Reviews

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See all 13 customer reviews
This book is a must read for Charles Willeford fans.
Christopher J. Vance
The story is very depressing, but I guess that's part of the plot so I shouldn't complain.
tloeschk@bmt.net
The characterizations are fine but perhaps a bit thin (..well, it is a short novel).
lazza

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By rD Hawk on July 6, 2001
Format: Paperback
***½ Pick-up by Charles Willeford
Ever open up the paper and read a reported story -- not more than a column long -- about a crime, or near-crime, of tabloid interest, that you know has more involved details than what is reported? This is a book that could be based on one of those true-life experiences, deserving of more than a cursory reporting in the paper.
This is a psychological tale with a thriller's edge and a suggestion of criminality. The story centers on two seemingly blue-collared alcoholics attempting to find validity in lives that once promised and should mean and hold something more. As any good noir fiction, this is a story about an attempt to find a connection, with another like-minded individual, which comes close but ultimately fails. And of course, as any good noir fiction, it deals with a connection, which could have worked, if not for unfortunate and ill-fated timing.
The central character, Harry Jordan, if not admirable, is likeable and identifiable as a man who has not succeeded in failing; although, he has fallen markedly short of his own expectations. Jordan is an over-qualified greasy spoon counter-man, who has a surprising artistic pedigree. By happenstance, he meets Helen, who is a blueblood scion cum alcoholic attempting to escape herself and her heredity in each new town she encounters. Initially, the couple finds commonality in their mutual and separate love for alcohol.
How can two people who have so thoroughly disappointed themselves, join together and succeed as a couple - that is the obstacle faced by Harry and Helen. The suspense lies in whether they, as a couple, can salvage the remainder of their lives together. The fate of their love is pre-ordained. The mystery is how they ended-up at this level in the first place.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Keith Nichols on May 4, 2000
Format: Paperback
This is another strangely absorbing novel from a unique writer. In his later works, Charles Willeford seemed to view the world as greedier and more desperate, and society seemed to be falling apart. He used sardonic humor to chronicle the desperation of various unsavory characters, and no one appears to be uninfected by ulterior motives. Disturbing scenes of sex and violence occupy more pages. The earlier work Pick Up takes place in a much kinder world. People are more civil to each other, and not everybody has a hidden agenda. The main character in this book, Harry Jordan, wishes to die, but he is so passive and ineffectual that his best hope of achieving it turns out to be a possibility of execution by the state when he is arrested for the death of his woman companion. In Willeford's hands, the prison where Jordan awaits trial resembles a well-run three-star hotel. Jordan is given a single room, which he describes as being quiet (there seem to be no other inmates in this facility), food is good, and there is a jailer who performs like a competent hall porter, providing Jordan with various amenities to make his stay pleasant. In one scene, Jordan finds his street clothes have been returned to him laundered, with his shirt in cellophane. Law-enforcement personnel are depicted as bent only on serving justice, contrary to the image accorded them in today's news reports and fiction. Although I lived during this time, the world didn't seem quite so benevolent. I read this book with more amazement at its sociological point of view than with interest for its characters, whose self-destructive aspirations seemed more affectation or the product of mental illness than the logical result of social forces or personal inadequacy.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 4, 1999
Format: Paperback
This is first class willeford all the way. He gnaws down to the marrow of the bone of the downtrodden people on the edge of the universe. Absorbing, passionate and brutal.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Christopher J. Vance on September 11, 1999
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is a must read for Charles Willeford fans. This dark and disturbing book of alcohol abuse and personal tragedy is as poignant today as it was first published in the 50's. There are very few Willeford books in print today; get your hands on a copy of the Pick-Up before it is too late.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Professor on October 20, 2005
Don't miss this one. This absurdist noir story is from 1955, but it's amazing how it resonates today. There is absolutely no one like Willeford. I'm finding that his early "pulp" works like this one are just as profound and meaningful as his later "successful" books.

The fun thing for Willeford readers is going through the abundance of published work over four decades. The man was amazingly prolific. Some of his earlier books have been re-printed; some are hard to find.

Willeford is the boss!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Baron Von Cool on August 3, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As another reviewer said, the Black Lizard edition of Pick-Up is beautifully put together, from the easy-to-read typeface to the gorgeous cover art and design, but for all its hype, Pick-Up feels like an inferior version of John Fante's Ask the Dust (P.S.) (my favorite novel). Pick-Up is good but not great; it's bleak but not bleak enough in its depiction of a desperate, down-and-out love affair between two unstable alcoholics who can't live with or without each other. Just about anything by David Goodis (the master of despair) is bigger, badder and bleaker than this. It does have a few Jim Thompson like moments of brutal, unpredictable violence but lacks the overall mean-spirited fun and psychotic suspense of that author. There is a throwaway "shock-twist-surprise" ending (or what must have passed for it in the 1950s) that had me scratching my head instead. First off, because it is no big deal when viewed through modern eyes and, second, even if you take it in the context of the time period in which it was written, while controversial, it just did not seem to tie in that well with anything that came before it except for one quick scene with the psychiatrist that made me understand why he asked a particular question that seemed bizarre at the time. The book also fails to deliver in the sleaze department, a fact I found odd, since it was originally written for 1950s smut paperback powerhouse, Beacon Books, to which Willeford also contributed Wild Wives/High Priest of California.Read more ›
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