Hoke Moseley truly is a one of a kind protagonist and Sideswipe is his most uniquely Willefordian case yet. A detective novel where the crime occurs in the last chapter, that alternates between the plotting of a heist and the workings of a policeman are not exactly rare you might say but in the hands of Charles Willeford this generic plot takes on a whole new life.
Instead of intricate details of who goes where and when, a recce of the bank in question and potential getaway routes led by a criminal mastermind we are treated to the chess like machinations of a criminal psychopath as seen through the eyes of a clueless Florida retiree.
And anybody who's picked up a Hoke Moseley novel will happily tell you that Hoke is no hero cop, no genius detective, no gumshoe with keen insight in to the criminal mind, Hoke is a middle aged man without any teeth currently going through a midlife crisis as he faces up to living with his two teenaged daughters and his former detective partner currently eight months pregnant, all the while being inundated with mind numbing desk work.
The majority of the novel then is NOT your typical pulp crime shenanigans; it is a treatise on how two men are lost in an America changing beyond their recognition or their abilities to cope, there's an affecting look at how family can mean many different things to different people and can be made up of many different people not just those you are born to, and yet Hoke is still a decent cop who does some solid work when not wearing yellow jumpsuits and moonlighting as an apartment manager to avoid responsibilities.
The invention of Stanley the retired automotive worker is a particular high point for me, the poor clueless guy who just wants to find a place for himself in society with what's left of his life has a true innocence to the way he sees the world and the way he is introduced to the reader is the work of a genius. Willeford twists and turns the reader around in that opening chapter until it ends with a full on "holy fuck, did that really just happen?!" moment. Willeford was a prolific and much respected author but this has to be right up there with his finest moments, and probably the finest moments ever captured in crime fiction.
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