I don’t know what really to make of Charles Willeford’s Pick-Up in 250 words. It’s a good book but having seen another book do the same trick the author does here, and more effectively in my opinion, it’s tough to really have sentiments about it.
On the one hand, the tale itself is interesting on face value before the last two sentences. A familiar noir fable of two losers playing out the string. The art angle is interesting as Willeford’s art fascination is not something you see in his contemporaries. All of it is fine.
And then, something happens that kind of annoys me as it’s a familiar trope in crime tales. So we go through the song-and-dance with that. But it gets somewhat interesting. And then near the end, I’m wondering what all of this was for…only to be hit with the twist.
As I read this, Jason Starr’s Twisted City came to mind (no, that’s not the book I’m referencing in the first place). I don’t know how I feel about a story that pulls the rug out from under you at the very end. I think I appreciate what the writer tries to do more than how they actually do it. I like getting lost in a story and when it turns out that I should have been reading it differently all along, I often feel cheated. Which is why I appreciated the other book pulling off it’s trick earlier in the story rather than in the final words. It forced me to grapple with what I had read while moving forward with the rest of the difficult tale.
Anyway, this is still a good noir story and it would have shocked in the 50s. But I’m also annoyed with it.