His career as a writer began in the late 1940s, but it was his 1972 novel Cockfighter that announced his name to a wider audience. Of that book, Harry Crews said, "Charles Willeford renders the sport with such knowledge and attention to detail that... I had the almost inexpressible impression of being on my knees again beside the great fighting pits of the southern circuit."
Considered to be Willeford's masterpiece, Cockfighter is a brutal and beautiful fiction of the American South, loosely modeled, according to the author, on Homer's Odyssey. Frank Mansfield is the titular cockfighter: a silent and fiercely contrary man whose obsession with winning will cost him almost everything. Mansfield haunts the cockpits, bars and roads of the rural South in the early 1960s, adrift but always capable of nearly anything.
First published in complete form in 1972, and adapted by Willeford for a Monte Hellman film in 1974 (which became infamous for its use of real animals in the fight scenes), the novel Cockfighter has been out of print for nearly 20 years. Cockfighter is issued here with an introduction by Jesse Pearson and is the second volume in PictureBox's ongoing Charles Willeford reissue series.