It's typical of the mystery world that Charles Willeford became popular after thirty years by producing his most genre-bound work. The Hoke Moseley series of books, while excellent, are also easily identified as mysteries, and brought widespread recognition to Willeford, who'd been writing since the heyday of the paperback originals in the 1950s. Novels such as Pick-Up and Cockfighter do not fall in the standard mystery tradition, but are more slice-of-lowlife books in the way they explore people pushed to the margins of society. In addition to his clear-eyed perception of human nature, Willeford brought a sense of black humor to most of his best work.
Willeford had an eventful life. As a teenager during the Depression he decided that his family couldn't afford to support him, so he took off to ride the rails. During the Second World War he was a decorated tank commander and saw action in the Battle of the Bulge. After the war he studied painting in Paris and South America; as a result, art figures in several of his novels. The main character in Pick-Up is an artist, and The Burnt Orange Heresay is essentially a long satirical critique of the art world. Later, Willeford became a college professor, finally settling in Florida, where Heresay and the Hoke Moseley books are set.
Links Website - Dennis McMillan's Charles Willeford site. Website - Charles Willeford: Something About A Writer. Profile - The Atlantic profiles Charles Willeford. Profile - A brief profile at Cadence90. Article - A Willeford article by Jesse Sublett. Article - "Collecting Charles Willeford" by Willeford biographer Don Herron.