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N of the cockpits and criminal underbelly of the rural south First published in 1962 by Charles Willeford later made into a Roger Corman film Books like Cockfighter remind me of how I came to love literature in the first place It offers a wonderful sense of being transported to an entirely different place seeing the world through the eyes of others and then ensuring that I’m so captivated by a series of events that all I want to do in life at a given moment well most given moments is return to the next pageThe uote at the beginning of the book is from Ezra Pound – “What matters is not the idea a man holds but the depth at which he holds it” There’s plenty of depth in evidence here as protagonist Frank takes the reader into the life of a serious cockfighterFrank is such a passionate man that he’s vowed unbeknownst to anyone else to remain silent until he gains the coveted mark of respect that is the silver medal that marks someone out as the cock handler of the year sniggers really don’t fit on this occasion He explains himself a little here‘No one other than myself knew about my vow and I could have broken it at any time without losing face But I would know and I had to shave every day”That last phrase is the kind of poetic turn that give the story an extra edge – Willeford allows his character to tell his tale without relying on the mundaneWhen we meet Frank he’s on the cusp of losing everything – his money his last fighting bird his car and his trailer home – on one fight with an old adversary It’s a hugely dramatic opening and at risk of spoiling that drama look away now it ends up with Frank leaving the pit with only 10 a coop a few clothes and a guitarGiven a lift by an old friend who has been forced to retire he’s offered the chance to buy the perfect bird Icarus for the hugely inflated sum of 500 Frank has a choice – to promise to buy the bird or to give up the game and return home to marry his patient conservative fiancée Frank’s passion means there’s only one option and he sets off to find the money he needsWhat follows is the engrossing seuence of events that will lead up to Frank having the chance to make his personal dream come trueCockfighter reads like a novel from the depression era but is set in the 1960s In some ways it points to the hangover of values that are old fashioned in ways that might be seen as good and bad Frank has his own mixture of values and his own liberalish views are often contradicted by his animal self or by society Race and gender are particular areas of interest hereHe holds strong opinions on the nature of work and the illusions created by a capitalist society When looking for a job he comments‘The majority of the situations that were open in the agate columns were for salesmen And a man who can’t talk can’t sell anything’Or on bigger dreams‘I liked the man for what he was and respected him for what he was trying to be But unlike me Doc lived with a dream that was practically unattainable All I wanted to be was the best cockfighter who had ever lived Doc who had already reached his late fifties wanted to be a big time capitalist and financier’The series of adventures in the book are brilliantly told There’s a wonderful use of dramatic tension which left me hungry to find out what would happen next When the final full stop was reached my appetite was entirely satisfied Here’s a book the likes of which I wish I could write myself Given the talent on show and my own limitations that’s very unlikely but just like Frank I don’t see the harm in setting such a high goal Maybe I should take a vow of silence; if nothing else I suspect my wife and colleagues would be happier that wayTremendous The Ear Book next pageThe uote at the beginning of the book is from Ezra Pound – “What matters is Doors Open not the idea a man holds but the depth at which he holds it” There’s plenty of depth in evidence here as protagonist Frank takes the reader into the life of a serious cockfighterFrank is such a passionate man that he’s vowed unbeknownst to anyone else to remain silent until he gains the coveted mark of respect that is the silver medal that marks someone out as the cock handler of the year sniggers really don’t fit on this occasion He explains himself a little here‘No one other than myself knew about my vow and I could have broken it at any time without losing face But I would know and I had to shave every day”That last phrase is the kind of poetic turn that give the story an extra edge – Willeford allows his character to tell his tale without relying on the mundaneWhen we meet Frank he’s on the cusp of losing everything – his money his last fighting bird his car and his trailer home – on one fight with an old adversary It’s a hugely dramatic opening and at risk of spoiling that drama look away I Blame The Scapegoats now it ends up with Frank leaving the pit with only 10 a coop a few clothes and a guitarGiven a lift by an old friend who has been forced to retire he’s offered the chance to buy the perfect bird Icarus for the hugely inflated sum of 500 Frank has a choice – to promise to buy the bird or to give up the game and return home to marry his patient conservative fiancée Frank’s passion means there’s only one option and he sets off to find the money he Beneath the Earth needsWhat follows is the engrossing seuence of events that will lead up to Frank having the chance to make his personal dream come trueCockfighter reads like a Gagged novel from the depression era but is set in the 1960s In some ways it points to the hangover of values that are old fashioned in ways that might be seen as good and bad Frank has his own mixture of values and his own liberalish views are often contradicted by his animal self or by society Race and gender are particular areas of interest hereHe holds strong opinions on the Aristocrats nature of work and the illusions created by a capitalist society When looking for a job he comments‘The majority of the situations that were open in the agate columns were for salesmen And a man who can’t talk can’t sell anything’Or on bigger dreams‘I liked the man for what he was and respected him for what he was trying to be But unlike me Doc lived with a dream that was practically unattainable All I wanted to be was the best cockfighter who had ever lived Doc who had already reached his late fifties wanted to be a big time capitalist and financier’The series of adventures in the book are brilliantly told There’s a wonderful use of dramatic tension which left me hungry to find out what would happen A Dark and Twisted Tide (Lacey Flint, next When the final full stop was reached my appetite was entirely satisfied Here’s a book the likes of which I wish I could write myself Given the talent on show and my own limitations that’s very unlikely but just like Frank I don’t see the harm in setting such a high goal Maybe I should take a vow of silence; if Wild Horses (Saddle Club, nothing else I suspect my wife and colleagues would be happier that wayTremendous

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Cockfighter

The sport is cockfighting and Frank Mansfield is the cockfighter a silent and fiercely contrary man whose obsession with winning will cost hi I have absolutely no idea how this book and its movie came back to the surface of my mind I watched the film in 1975 I think and I'm sure it was with Paul the film student He was also a drunk and to date the only lover I've ever had that I allowed to hit meCome to think on it he's also the source of one of my most enduring pleasures that of watching films whose books I've read or plan to read and of making fantasy films of the books I read that haven't got films Thanks Paul for growing me a spine and for giving me that deeply satisfying fantasy life He died in 1986 so this is in the nature of valediction than praiseAnywayI recommend the book to men because it's about us at our most male and least woman centered It's brutal and tough and awful It's a clarion call to the smarter ones of us to look at what's actually going on in our heads and fucking stop it already Not because women don't like us for what they've done to us but because hurting ourselves is just damned stupid The cult of macho is a male reaction to rejection and judgment as Willeford presents it; this being what I've observed it had me nodding along as I read the bookWhere the film falls down I think is in the nature of the storytelling medium On its surface this film's about how a man decides not to live with a woman but to sell every damn thing he owns and double down on the world of cockfighting Ultimately this works out in the sense that his cock wins the championshipNot one single human female would watch this movie and think oh that was fun The image of women in it is as emasculating damaging emotional black holes Yeah great date night flick eh what? And men come off as damnfool eedjits without a lick of sense That both these things are true doesn't make them any easier to swallow And on film there are lost nuances because actors speaking lines aren't readers absorbing language use on multiple levels So it's no wonder to me that this film tankedBut it's a misunderstood work of art Cockfighter is Its darkest moments and grimmest interpretations are all true and accurate That's intentional on Willeford's part based on the entirety of his ouevre Go here to read a really really interesting academic take on Willeford as writer and man manué The levels and ideas that this brutal cruel emotionally stopped body of work contains are rewarding to unpick and enjoyable to contemplateFor Y chromosome bearers The Daughter of Time no idea how this book and its movie came back to the surface of my mind I watched the film in 1975 I think and I'm sure it was with Paul the film student He was also a drunk and to date the only lover I've ever had that I allowed to hit meCome to think on it he's also the source of one of my most enduring pleasures that of watching films whose books I've read or plan to read and of making fantasy films of the books I read that haven't got films Thanks Paul for growing me a spine and for giving me that deeply satisfying fantasy life He died in 1986 so this is in the The World of Rafael Salas nature of valediction than praiseAnywayI recommend the book to men because it's about us at our most male and least woman centered It's brutal and tough and awful It's a clarion call to the smarter ones of us to look at what's actually going on in our heads and fucking stop it already Not because women don't like us for what they've done to us but because hurting ourselves is just damned stupid The cult of macho is a male reaction to rejection and judgment as Willeford presents it; this being what I've observed it had me Camping Makes Me Happy nodding along as I read the bookWhere the film falls down I think is in the Idols for Destruction nature of the storytelling medium On its surface this film's about how a man decides The Daughter of Time (Inspector Alan Grant not to live with a woman but to sell every damn thing he owns and double down on the world of cockfighting Ultimately this works out in the sense that his cock wins the championshipNot one single human female would watch this movie and think oh that was fun The image of women in it is as emasculating damaging emotional black holes Yeah great date Tricky Twenty-Two (Stephanie Plum, night flick eh what? And men come off as damnfool eedjits without a lick of sense That both these things are true doesn't make them any easier to swallow And on film there are lost The End of the Line nuances because actors speaking lines aren't readers absorbing language use on multiple levels So it's The Ear Book no wonder to me that this film tankedBut it's a misunderstood work of art Cockfighter is Its darkest moments and grimmest interpretations are all true and accurate That's intentional on Willeford's part based on the entirety of his ouevre Go here to read a really really interesting academic take on Willeford as writer and man manué The levels and ideas that this brutal cruel emotionally stopped body of work contains are rewarding to unpick and enjoyable to contemplateFor Y chromosome bearers

Charles Willeford ✓ 2 Read

M almost everything In this haunting ribald and percussively violent work the author of Hoke Moseley detective novels yields a floodlit visio Charles Willeford's villains are tough self assured and manly men who are convinced about their own uniueness They also have a sneering contempt for ordinary life and people who in their opinion are ordinary Here is FrederickJ Fenger Jr reacting to his newly acuired girlfriend's ambition to buy a Burger King franchise in Miami Blues I can't see any point to hanging around a Burger King all day no matter how much money you make I'll tell you why Your life would depend on the random desires of people who wanted a hamburger So you can just forget about Burger King Or Troy Louden in Sideswipe Smoking comforts ordinary men but I'm not an ordinary man There aren't many like me left And it's a good thing for the world that there isn't There'll always be a few of us in America in every generation Because only a great country like America can produce men like me I'm not a thinker I'm a doerHere is Frank Mansfield in Cockfighter It is a funny thing A man can make a promise to his God break it five minutes later and never think about it With an idle shrug of his shoulders a man can break solemn promises to his mother wife or sweetheart and except for a slight momentary twinge of conscience he still won't be bothered very much But if a man ever breaks a promise to himself he disintegrates His entire personality and character crumble into tiny pieces and he is never the same man againI remember very well a sergeant I knew in the army Before a group of five men he swore off smoking forever An hour later he sheepishly lit a cigarette and broke his vow to the five of us and to himself He was never uite the same man again not to me and not to himself Frank Mansfield is the main character in Cockfighter But he is almost like a villain tough as an axe contemptuous of women intensely judgmental of his fellow men basically a man who would not take a backward step to anyone or anything The novel is his internal solilouy after he takes a vow of silence in a year where he aims at winning the Cockfighter of the Year award There are vivid and violent descriptions of cockfighting matches and the effort that goes into training cocks It is almost like a bible or even a documentary forabout cock fighters As usual Willeford goes into minor details of monetary transactions and how much the main character spends Money is an obsession for nearly all the characters in Willeford novels and the ones in Cockfighter are no different As Willeford wrote in Honey Gal Money is the root of all goodness To talk disparagingly about money is the privilege of those who have money There are also those people who state matter of factly that money isn't everything This statement is also true but only so long as one has money I almost gave this novel a 5 it is one of the best books I've read all year But at times the vow of silence taken by Mansfield is a bit hard to digest Why would people put up with his silence? How did they simply accept that he had lost his voice? It almost makes the character a bit clownish Maybe that was the author's intention Frog Is Frog novels yields a floodlit visio Charles Willeford's villains are tough self assured and manly men who are convinced about their own uniueness They also have a sneering contempt for ordinary life and people who in their opinion are ordinary Here is FrederickJ Fenger Jr reacting to his Doctor Who newly acuired girlfriend's ambition to buy a Burger King franchise in Miami Blues I can't see any point to hanging around a Burger King all day Secrets On Morgan Hill no matter how much money you make I'll tell you why Your life would depend on the random desires of people who wanted a hamburger So you can just forget about Burger King Or Troy Louden in Sideswipe Smoking comforts ordinary men but I'm Emma (Emma Trilogy not an ordinary man There aren't many like me left And it's a good thing for the world that there isn't There'll always be a few of us in America in every generation Because only a great country like America can produce men like me I'm Conversations with James Baldwin not a thinker I'm a doerHere is Frank Mansfield in Cockfighter It is a funny thing A man can make a promise to his God break it five minutes later and Fifth Avenue, Uptown never think about it With an idle shrug of his shoulders a man can break solemn promises to his mother wife or sweetheart and except for a slight momentary twinge of conscience he still won't be bothered very much But if a man ever breaks a promise to himself he disintegrates His entire personality and character crumble into tiny pieces and he is The Children of Willesden Lane. Beyond the Kindertransport never the same man againI remember very well a sergeant I knew in the army Before a group of five men he swore off smoking forever An hour later he sheepishly lit a cigarette and broke his vow to the five of us and to himself He was Nee Naw never uite the same man again Hide and Seek not to me and A Mothers Duty not to himself Frank Mansfield is the main character in Cockfighter But he is almost like a villain tough as an axe contemptuous of women intensely judgmental of his fellow men basically a man who would Disney Tangled not take a backward step to anyone or anything The The Soprano novel is his internal solilouy after he takes a vow of silence in a year where he aims at winning the Cockfighter of the Year award There are vivid and violent descriptions of cockfighting matches and the effort that goes into training cocks It is almost like a bible or even a documentary forabout cock fighters As usual Willeford goes into minor details of monetary transactions and how much the main character spends Money is an obsession for Empire Made Me nearly all the characters in Willeford Night of Knives (Malazan Empire, novels and the ones in Cockfighter are Kestrel (Hart Brothers, no different As Willeford wrote in Honey Gal Money is the root of all goodness To talk disparagingly about money is the privilege of those who have money There are also those people who state matter of factly that money isn't everything This statement is also true but only so long as one has money I almost gave this One More Round (Gamer Boy, novel a 5 it is one of the best books I've read all year But at times the vow of silence taken by Mansfield is a bit hard to digest Why would people put up with his silence? How did they simply accept that he had lost his voice? It almost makes the character a bit clownish Maybe that was the author's intention


10 thoughts on “Cockfighter

  1. says:

    ”If a man accepts life logically the unexpected is actually the expected” Willeford played a part in the 1974 movieFrank Mansfield makes an ill advised bet that will leave him in dire straits ”All I had left was a folded ten dollar bill in my watch pocket and one dead chicken” He bets everything including his truck and trailer on one cockfight and loses He has a girlfriend of sorts named Dody ”She was as strong as a tractor but not uite as intelligent” He can’t afford her upkeep on only ten dollars so he lets her go with the trailer Frank in the midst of his trials and tribulations is always a practical man He knows what he can do and what he can’t do He has kept his fiance waiting for the past eight years because being on the cockfighting circuit keeps him away from home too much to keep a bride happy He has one goal to obtain It has been his white whale his odyssey He wants to be named Cockfighter of the Year of the Southern Conference Tournament He’s had his chances Bad luck and sometimes his own hubris have cost him a chance at the title In an effort to separate himself from his past mistakes and to free his future for success Frank takes a vow of silence He thinks his punishment is not talking but in reality it is the fact that when people find out he doesn’t talk they turn him into their confessional It makes sense right? Who is Frank going to tell? And what an opportunity to unburden themselves and boy do they ever Cockfighting is a blood sport much like bullfighting and I abhor the use of animals for sport including hunting The subject matter of this book kept me from reading it for decades but I kept reading references to it comparing it to Homer’s Odyssey and that it’s considered to be Willeford’s masterpiece I’ve been on a Willeford reading kick lately so I finally decided it was time I understand the references to the Odyssey but as I read the book I kept thinking of Ahab putting everything else aside and risking his life to finally catch his white whale Frank also puts everything on hold to do everything he can to win the coveted Cockfighter of the Year award Willeford does not candy coat cockfighting The blood will fly and there is one particularly brutal moment that I will never forget Willeford as he always does puts his readers right in the middle of the action It is readily evident that Willeford has done his research and certainly has spent some time down in the pits watching or participating I do believe I learned about cockfighting from this novel than if I’d read a manuel ”The right feel of a gamecock is indescribable Maybe it is an instinct of some kind but if a man ever gets the right feel of a perfectly conditioned gamecock in his fingers his fingers never forget” Charles Willeford wrote the screenplay for the 1974 movie based on his bookWhat Willeford is exploring in this novel is obsession He just happens to use cockfighting as his vehicle to root at the truth of an enthusiasm that becomes a neurotic passion ”It is only incidental that Frank Mansfield is a cockfighter; he is a man with an obsession and the novel could just as easily have been about an insurance salesman or an account executive for an advertising firm”Frank Mansfield is a fascinating character A man’s man who accepts setbacks stoically and continues to battle his way back to the moment that the medal he has sought for so long is within his grasp What then? I often think about who Ahab would have been if he had defeated his white whale Once you’ve achieved a goal like that what comes next? Who will Frank be? What will be the first thought on his mind when he wakes up every morning? When people put all their effort into one goal they tend to eventually be successful The problem of course is all the debris they leave in their wake of family friends career and security The journey is much exciting than the actual achievement So would Frank be fulfilled by never winning? That is what good writing is about leaving us much to ruminant on long after we finish the book If you wish to see of my most recent book and movie reviews visit also have a Facebook blogger page at


  2. says:

    I have absolutely no idea how this book and its movie came back to the surface of my mind I watched the film in 1975 I think and I'm sure it was with Paul the film student He was also a drunk and to date the only lover I've ever had that I allowed to hit meCome to think on it he's also the source of one of my most enduring pleasures that of watching films whose books I've read or plan to read and of making fantasy films of the books I read that haven't got films Thanks Paul for growing me a spine and for giving me that deeply satisfying fantasy life He died in 1986 so this is in the nature of valediction than praiseAnywayI recommend the book to men because it's about us at our most male and least woman centered It's brutal and tough and awful It's a clarion call to the smarter ones of us to look at what's actually going on in our heads and fucking stop it already Not because women don't like us for what they've done to us but because hurting ourselves is just damned stupid The cult of macho is a male reaction to rejection and judgment as Willeford presents it; this being what I've observed it had me nodding along as I read the bookWhere the film falls down I think is in the nature of the storytelling medium On its surface this film's about how a man decides not to live with a woman but to sell every damn thing he owns and double down on the world of cockfighting Ultimately this works out in the sense that his cock wins the championshipNot one single human female would watch this movie and think oh that was fun The image of women in it is as emasculating damaging emotional black holes Yeah great date night flick eh what? And men come off as damnfool eedjits without a lick of sense That both these things are true doesn't make them any easier to swallow And on film there are lost nuances because actors speaking lines aren't readers absorbing language use on multiple levels So it's no wonder to me that this film tankedBut it's a misunderstood work of art Cockfighter is Its darkest moments and grimmest interpretations are all true and accurate That's intentional on Willeford's part based on the entirety of his ouevre Go here to read a really really interesting academic take on Willeford as writer and man manué The levels and ideas that this brutal cruel emotionally stopped body of work contains are rewarding to unpick and enjoyable to contemplateFor Y chromosome bearers


  3. says:

    35 StarsThe interesting thing about this book is that it is essentially the classic underdog sports story that is popular in a lot of movies television and books but instead of focusing on a football player or boxer it's about a man who trains chickens to fight to the death It's told from the point of view of Frank Mansfield a respected cockfighter who at the books opening loses all of his money his car his mobile home and his ace cock Sandspur after being defeated by his rival Now with only a few bucks in his pocket and the clothes on his back we witness him doggedly work his way to the top in his pursuit of the Cockfighter of the Year AwardFrank isn't the best of guys and is for all intents and purposes an asshole But you feel his complete passion and dedication to not only the game but the art and craft of conditioning a fighting cock It's actually pretty inspiring but it's also pretty sad as he shuns and alienates many people who love him in his pursuit of his dream We even find him years into a vow of silence he's taken until he wins the award This level of passion is what drives the novel It's hard to see a guy so dedicated and not root for him to win Also the level of detail in depicting the world of Southern cockfighting is staggering You get the feeling that Willeford definitely has some first hand knowledgeThe story itself is actually pretty traditional and I could even see some of the cock training marathons in my head as I read and also hear the Rocky movie montage music playing in the background Maybe that was a little disappointing how traditional the plot is There's not really much else to the story which surprised me after reading both Pick up and Wild Wives from Willeford both of which felt anything but traditional And obviously there's a lot of violence involving chickens which is really hard to take at times so if you are really sensitive about that stuff you shouldn't read this one


  4. says:

    Charles Willeford's villains are tough self assured and manly men who are convinced about their own uniueness They also have a sneering contempt for ordinary life and people who in their opinion are ordinary Here is FrederickJ Fenger Jr reacting to his newly acuired girlfriend's ambition to buy a Burger King franchise in Miami Blues I can't see any point to hanging around a Burger King all day no matter how much money you make I'll tell you why Your life would depend on the random desires of people who wanted a hamburger So you can just forget about Burger King Or Troy Louden in Sideswipe Smoking comforts ordinary men but I'm not an ordinary man There aren't many like me left And it's a good thing for the world that there isn't There'll always be a few of us in America in every generation Because only a great country like America can produce men like me I'm not a thinker I'm a doerHere is Frank Mansfield in Cockfighter It is a funny thing A man can make a promise to his God break it five minutes later and never think about it With an idle shrug of his shoulders a man can break solemn promises to his mother wife or sweetheart and except for a slight momentary twinge of conscience he still won't be bothered very much But if a man ever breaks a promise to himself he disintegrates His entire personality and character crumble into tiny pieces and he is never the same man againI remember very well a sergeant I knew in the army Before a group of five men he swore off smoking forever An hour later he sheepishly lit a cigarette and broke his vow to the five of us and to himself He was never uite the same man again not to me and not to himself Frank Mansfield is the main character in Cockfighter But he is almost like a villain tough as an axe contemptuous of women intensely judgmental of his fellow men basically a man who would not take a backward step to anyone or anything The novel is his internal solilouy after he takes a vow of silence in a year where he aims at winning the Cockfighter of the Year award There are vivid and violent descriptions of cockfighting matches and the effort that goes into training cocks It is almost like a bible or even a documentary forabout cock fighters As usual Willeford goes into minor details of monetary transactions and how much the main character spends Money is an obsession for nearly all the characters in Willeford novels and the ones in Cockfighter are no different As Willeford wrote in Honey Gal Money is the root of all goodness To talk disparagingly about money is the privilege of those who have money There are also those people who state matter of factly that money isn't everything This statement is also true but only so long as one has money I almost gave this novel a 5 it is one of the best books I've read all year But at times the vow of silence taken by Mansfield is a bit hard to digest Why would people put up with his silence? How did they simply accept that he had lost his voice? It almost makes the character a bit clownish Maybe that was the author's intention


  5. says:

    This is hands down the best Brett Favre biography ever I was impressed by Charles Willeford's ability twenty two years after his death to explore the competitive milieu of peen pic texting There is a whole subculture surrounding this primeval sport in which grown men digitize their dangle not merely to woo the female of the species but to compete against each other in those bloody bread and circuses arenas known as celebrity dong blogs Is Favre's prize cock with its saintly Mexican name Intercepcion able to survive in the ring against the chanticleer of Kanye West named Gold Digger natch? What are the odds that the fallen from grace B can redeem himself by defeating the prodigious genital proboscis of Santonio Holmes or Greg Oden just two of the trou dropping athletes in recent months to go full wang dang doodle?But perhaps most impressive are the strange rituals by which men gild their otherwise tumescent lilies to gain a competitive edge Who knew that Favre takes a razor blade to his Sandspur to carve grooves into it to give the appearance it’s battle scarred than it really is thus raising the odds against him? Who knew of how underhandedly bettors themselves will break into the training routines of poor Grady Size—whose name couldn’t be Dickensian than Dickens’ own in this context—to size up his chances for taking his arch and decidedly curved enemy Little David? It’s this wealth of detail that makes Willeford’s second best book after The Burnt Orange Heresy so authoritativeOf course being pulp there has to be some stock characters and impotent plotting The femme fatale in this case is the fetching and onomatopoetically ominous Michelle Metro who must keep Brett from leaving the business because she sells cockfighting magazines for com She’s hott for sure but the world of the testicular wattle isn’t for women The story structure is also delightfully shambolic a byproduct of the days when you cranked out a novel in thirty days to pay your electricity bill and to buy some pube straightener In this case the hero is one minute a master of his chosen domain name only to become out of nowhere a talented mother guitar plucker in an episodic excursion that seems included only because that’s where the author’s narrative rod led him There’s also a weird and wholly misplaced subplot about a shady pharmaceutical flim flam man—probably a veiled Viagra allegory is my guess But in the end you forgive these structural flaws because they give the hero dimension and keep him from seeming past his prime after twenty some seasons in the cocking leagues In the end that’s what we love a beautiful loser who knows he’s no hero Someone who probably understands a 31 3 castration by his former teammates is a sign from the gods that he’s wilted beyond repair Willeford was awesome at capturing those type of men; and while sportscasters grouse that we indulge in “SchadenFavre” please critics no Schadenfreude riffs; retire the fucking word already and wear something else out for a while like Ted Nugent’s favorite German catchphrase wang dang sweet weltanschauung I think what we really want is an opportunity to empathize rather than feel superior Love the fallen; they need the stroking than those still stiff with hubris


  6. says:

    I wouldn't know how to classify this novel if anyone asked me to I don't think I could even summarize it in a way that would encourage others to read it There isn't much of a plot as there is an episodic account of a top tier cockfighter's journey in and around Florida in the early 70's in his pursuit to ualify for a huge cockfighting tournament where he hopes to win the Cockfighter of the Year award You get to ride along as our hero deals with losing everything in the opening chapters to chasing down old debts running into old girlfriends running into new girlfriends and acuiring a new partner all in the space of a few months You also learn a lot about cockfighting along the way It's the kind of novel I really like because it's so different Had such a novel been written today by a flashier writer it would have been soaked in lurid hues of violence Not so in Willeford's novel


  7. says:

    Fascinating and uniue pure Willeford with a hint of Jim Thompson about things How often can you tell people that you are reading a first person narrative of a voluntarily mute cockfighter? It's incredibly well written and never what I anticipated Frank Mansfield is an arsehole one hundred percent almost Reacher esue in his sad white man wish fulfilment nature always right always better than anyone else he comes in contact with and complete with Sam Allardyce levels of hubris that I felt sure this would be an unreliable narrator who gets his comeuppence come the final chapter And yet he is such a good window in to this entirely alien world and lifestyle and me with my own collection of hens too I've seen the Warren Oates movie thanks to some fine fellow on this website sending me a copy but I can't remember much of this book being in it Both are highly enjoyable entertainment in their own right however


  8. says:

    Books like Cockfighter remind me of how I came to love literature in the first place It offers a wonderful sense of being transported to an entirely different place seeing the world through the eyes of others and then ensuring that I’m so captivated by a series of events that all I want to do in life at a given moment well most given moments is return to the next pageThe uote at the beginning of the book is from Ezra Pound – “What matters is not the idea a man holds but the depth at which he holds it” There’s plenty of depth in evidence here as protagonist Frank takes the reader into the life of a serious cockfighterFrank is such a passionate man that he’s vowed unbeknownst to anyone else to remain silent until he gains the coveted mark of respect that is the silver medal that marks someone out as the cock handler of the year sniggers really don’t fit on this occasion He explains himself a little here‘No one other than myself knew about my vow and I could have broken it at any time without losing face But I would know and I had to shave every day”That last phrase is the kind of poetic turn that give the story an extra edge – Willeford allows his character to tell his tale without relying on the mundaneWhen we meet Frank he’s on the cusp of losing everything – his money his last fighting bird his car and his trailer home – on one fight with an old adversary It’s a hugely dramatic opening and at risk of spoiling that drama look away now it ends up with Frank leaving the pit with only 10 a coop a few clothes and a guitarGiven a lift by an old friend who has been forced to retire he’s offered the chance to buy the perfect bird Icarus for the hugely inflated sum of 500 Frank has a choice – to promise to buy the bird or to give up the game and return home to marry his patient conservative fiancée Frank’s passion means there’s only one option and he sets off to find the money he needsWhat follows is the engrossing seuence of events that will lead up to Frank having the chance to make his personal dream come trueCockfighter reads like a novel from the depression era but is set in the 1960s In some ways it points to the hangover of values that are old fashioned in ways that might be seen as good and bad Frank has his own mixture of values and his own liberalish views are often contradicted by his animal self or by society Race and gender are particular areas of interest hereHe holds strong opinions on the nature of work and the illusions created by a capitalist society When looking for a job he comments‘The majority of the situations that were open in the agate columns were for salesmen And a man who can’t talk can’t sell anything’Or on bigger dreams‘I liked the man for what he was and respected him for what he was trying to be But unlike me Doc lived with a dream that was practically unattainable All I wanted to be was the best cockfighter who had ever lived Doc who had already reached his late fifties wanted to be a big time capitalist and financier’The series of adventures in the book are brilliantly told There’s a wonderful use of dramatic tension which left me hungry to find out what would happen next When the final full stop was reached my appetite was entirely satisfied Here’s a book the likes of which I wish I could write myself Given the talent on show and my own limitations that’s very unlikely but just like Frank I don’t see the harm in setting such a high goal Maybe I should take a vow of silence; if nothing else I suspect my wife and colleagues would be happier that wayTremendous


  9. says:

    On pure techniue writing style and ability to portray a culture this book should get five stars But while the shop talk about cockfighting is amazingly detailed and impressive I could give a rat's ass about cockfighting I never would have read a book with that much shop talk about anything though admittedly I loved Gun Work by David J Schow so I guess I'm a hypocrite I also find it kind of hard to take the violence involving animals Last but far from least this is not a noir or a crime novel; it's a down and outer type novel and a great portrait of a certain culture in the South But I was kinda looking for a crime novel and when I got to the end and nobody'd gotten their head blown off I was a bit disappointedTo be fair I love Willeford's The Burnt Orange Heresy and that has a murder that seems to be there for no reason other than to make it a crime novel presumably so he could sell it and it feels fairly random with a disappointing ending So I'm glad he didn't do that here On its own terms Cockfighter is a stronger novel than Heresy There's just kind of a lot of cockfighting in it


  10. says:

    This sounds very Michael Vick ish but this book seems like a how to ghost written by someone I knew For reasons I cannot disclose here I will not comment further for fear of being ironically tarred and feathered and pelted by chicken feed Thanks for the recommend Mike view spoileryou silly cock sucker 8P hide spoiler