REVIEWED BY TONY BAER:

   

CHARLES WILLEFORD – Kiss Your Ass Goodbye. Dennis McMillan, hardcover, 1987.

   What Willeford left us with is a series of novels demonstrating the psychopathology of everyday life. The anti-heroes that populate his books aren’t weirdos. They are more often than not quite socially acceptable. Even exemplary. They’re not the ex-cons of Jim Thompson who the reader can always dismiss with a: “well — of course there ARE psychos out there—I’m just lucky I’ve never met one of these crazy people.” Willeford’s psychopaths are frequently very successful in business: art critics, pharma executives, preachers, used car salesmen. Even the most successful.

   Add to this that unlike Jim Thompson’s anti-heroes, who nearly always perish at the end (with a nod to the Hays Commission) — Willeford’s psychos are frequently still out there. There’s no justice in Willeford’s world. Just ick. You’d better watch your step.

   Willeford shows us that rather than being the exception to the rule; rather than being a hindrance to social climbing — sociopathology is a time-worn path to success. And it’s out there. Objects appearing in the mirror are closer than you think.

   Here Willeford excerpts and amends Hank’s story from The Shark Infested Custard. Where Custard is a woven narrative of four friends in Miami and the dark side of the wild oats they sow, Kiss Your Ass Goodbye focuses only on one of the players: Hank. My understanding is that Willeford was having trouble finding a publisher for Custard — so this constitutes a pared down version (in word count — not misanthropy) for Dennis McMillan Publications.

   It’s got a great first paragraph:

   “I had been running around with Jannaire for almost six weeks before I found out that she was married. At ten p.m., Sunday night, when I started to leave my apartment house, planning to buy the early edition of the Monday morning Miami Herald at the 7/Eleven store a block away, I knew that her husband, Mr. Wright, meant to kill me.”

   
   When Hank, a highly successful big-pharma sales rep (and renowned cocksman) first encounters Jannaire he finds himself ineluctably drawn to her reek “of primeval swamp, dark guanoed caves, sea water in movement, armpit sweat, mangroves at low tide, Mayan sacrificial blood, Bartolin glands, Dial soap, mulberry leaves, jungle vegetation, saffron, kittens in a cardboard box, YWCA volleyball courts, conch shells, Underground Atlanta, the Isle of Lesbos, and sheer joy”.

   Jannaire has a big surprise for Hank, however. And not the kind he’s hoping for.

   It’s very Willefordian. But it’s not my favorite of the Willefords just because Hank is so unlikeable. I felt the same as I did reading Custard awhile back. I grew up in Miami in the 80’s and I knew these guys and I hated them then. I hate them now. I hate that there’s frequently no justice in this world and this book only serves to remind me. None of the characters are likeable. I’m rooting for no one. And I’m left not giving a shit one way or the other.

   Which probably is just the way Willeford wanted.