RARA-AVIS: my Charles Williams mini-marathon

From: tomarmstrongmusic (tom@tomarmstrongmusic.com)
Date: 17 Jun 2009

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    just finished a couple of Williams titles, "The Big Bite" (my copy is a British printing under the title "Operator") and "Go Home Stranger".

    man I really dug "The Big Bite". it reminded me of Willeford in a way, something I can't say of any other of Williams' books. the main character isn't exactly a psycho, but he thinks he's smarter/superior to those around him, like he's in the know and everyone else is a square or a rube. it's a trait a lot of Willeford's narrators have. also the writing, which is very matter of fact and dry. and as for the perpetual "what is noir" discussions that we have on here all the time, I'd say this book is right up there as a classic example. it has some things in common with the recently reprinted "A Touch Of Death" but I think I liked this one even better. it has less of the Gil Brewer-ish hothouse sex stuff. the guy's motivation has more to do with his need to outsmart other people, or try to use them as pawns to accomplish his greed-driven scheme (at which he of course eventually fails miserably), rather than the ol' he's got a boner for a hottie bit.

    "Go Home Stranger" is a very different animal, it's more of a conventional mystery story, as the main character tries to find out who killed his best friend. a great gulf coast setting very much like the above title, but otherwise not much in common. there are a lot of boating scenes that make this somewhat of a precursor to all of those great sea-going thrillers he wrote later on like "Sailcloth Shroud" and "Dead Calm". I didn't dig it as much as the above book, but I'd say it succeeds very well on its own terms, holding my interest and creating suspense as it spun out the questions, clues, and answers. the hero character is sort of generic, but the surrounding characters are all well done. I particularly like the bitter backwoods labor radical guy - you don't see a lot of those in these types of books!

    there are several other Williams titles I've never read: River Girl, Hill Girl, Big City Girl, Nothing In Her Way, The Crooked Flamingo, Stain Of Suspicion. any of you have favorites among these?

    Tom Armstrong

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