Thursday, May 31, 2012

Cockfighter by Charles Willeford

(hb; 1972)

From the inside flap:

"Here is the fully realized portrait of the world of the cockfighter - the competitiveness, risk-taking, and brutality that surrounds him in his daily pursuits of the ultimate victory in the pit. Frank Mansfield is a dedicated professional cockfighter, a man whose destiny rides and falls on the crest of an ever-beckoning triumph, and who single-mindedly pursues it to the exclusion of all else.

"Cockfighter. . . details Frank's relationships with the women in his life - Mary Elizabeth, the lovely and ingenuous girl who loves him but hates his sport; and Bernice, the beautiful widow who tempts and attracts him, although both are only accessories in his obsessive and demanding existence; his family, who are neglected in favor of the game; and his friends, who admire him for his strength and his courage, but are ruthlessly eliminated from his life if their loyalty wavers."


Cockfighter is an intense and compelling novel, one that was not only a pleasure to read, but taught me a few new tricks as a writer (regarding characterization).

This is a perfect book - a hyper-focused, reader-hooking work, with its fast-track pacing and effective tone-mix of understated ruthlessness, tenderness and indifference.

Worth owning, this.


The resulting film was released stateside in August 1974.

Warren Oates played Frank Mansfield. Richard B. Shull played Omar Baradinsky. Harry Dean Stanton played Jack Burke.

Patricia Pearcy played Mary Elizabeth. Laurie Bird played Dodie White Burke. Troy Donahue played Randall Mansfield. Millie Perkins played Frances Mansfield.

Ed Begley Jr. played Tom Peeples. Tom Spratley played Mister Peeples. Steve Railsback played Junior.

Monte Hellman directed the film, from a script penned by Charles Willeford (who played Ed Middleton in the film).

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