RARA-AVIS: RE: Charles Williams

From: Duane Spurlock ( duane@emazing.com)
Date: 18 Apr 2001

Mario Taboada < matrxtech@yahoo.com> wrote:

<< Bill Crider:

<<This has been a mystery to me for years. I can't understand why Williams isn't more highly regarded. Didn't John D. MacDonald say something like, "he was the best of us at Gold Medal" or words to that effect?>>

I don't think a writer like Williams, who is neither flashy nor weird, has much of a chance of rediscovery by today's public. I find his best novels unforgettable, deep, very carefully developed, with big crescendos of well-prepared action. I don't think MacDonald was wrong, though there were many good writers at Gold Medal.

The more relevant question may be: Are *any* Gold Medal writers remembered today?

Only among those who appreciate them, I'd say. McDonald is the closest to being remembered outside the narrower confines of HB readers, probably, because of the number of titles he wrote (both in and out of the TMc series), the fact that they were accepted by the mainstream media (he had hardcover publications, remember, and someone like Kurt Vonnegut or such gave him a commendable review in the NYTimes or some similar organ), and his publishers made a concerted effort to keep him in print once his name hit the big time. (Perhaps Elmore Leonard is our closest current analogous HB writer.)

Next closest to be remembered might be Donald Hamilton? He had wide exposure because of the Matt Helm movies, but I don't think he ever made it big into the hardcover and mainstream critical channels.

Vague sidetrack here..I was reading a Sam Durrell adventure at lunch in a cafeteria-style restuarant one day, and an older gentlemen walked by and said, "Hey! Old Sam Durrell! I used to love those books! I haven't read one in years." I directed him to the used book shop that I frequented that normally stocked lots of GM series. (Since then, unfortunately, the lady who ran the shop sold it to a couple who continually exhibit a lack of knowledge of pop-culture reading, and they've ditched nearly all the GM stock, hardboiled and westerns. They're a couple of boobs.)

But old GMs haven't been too hard to find around here, because Fawcett had a printing plant here once upon a time. A curmudgeonly fellow who happens to own another used book store here told me that when he was in high school, the dad of one of his buddies worked at the printing plant. His buddy frequently brought batches of GMs to school and shared with his pals.


Charles Willams, to return to topic, probably will fare less well in the rememberance and rediscovery category because (1) he didn't write a series, unlike McDonald and Hamilton, (2) his books aren't over-the-top psychological ravages like Jim THompson's tales, and (3) the mainstream critical media never noted Williams at all, even though he did break into the hardcover market. Meanwhile, I've yet to pick up and read a Williams that I didn't enjoy and that wasn't excellently written.

A question: Did Williams ever write for the pulps, or was he strictly a novel writer?

<< The other day my wife reminded me that all those yellow(ed) paperbacks that I cherish *are last-century stuff*. How's that for a well-prepared spousal stabbing? Needless to say, a dead calm followed. I had it coming for suggesting that certain shelves be cleared of Anais Nin, Simone de Beauvoir and, first of all and Salvation Army-bound, Lillian Hellman's books of memoirs. Hellman stays, the Gold Medals stay. I never thought I would owe anything to Hell Lilly.

Brr. Lillian Hellman. Well, if that's what you gotta do to keep your GMs around, you gotta do what you gotta do.

-- Duane

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