Thursday, January 10, 2008

A TOUCH OF DEATH

I spent a good share of last night reading Hard Case Crime's snappy edition of A Touch of Death by Charles Williams and I'll say what I've said before about this book. It likely has more plot turns than just about any suspense novel I can ever recall reading.

One of Charles Williams' amoral failed men narrate. He was briefly a football star. Now he's a busted real estate agent. No wonder he gets interested, after initial reluctance, in stealing an one hundred twenty thousand dollars that a bank president took from his own bank. The woman who convinces him to help her makes it sound simple. It's probably in this mansion. All you have to do is get in there and find it. The bank president's wife won't be home for two days. You'll have plenty of time.

Right. Well, we know better than that, don't we? Yes, he gets in but he finds he's not alone. The woman is there, beautiful beyond description, and drunk beyond belief. But so is a killer. After saving her life, failed star takes her to a cabin in the woods where he plans to persuade her to tell him where the money is.

That's the beginning. Everybody in this book is a professional liar. And the bank president's wife is the most fatale of femmes. She lies on virtually every page and occasionally almost gets them killed. That she knows where the money is is obvious. That she killed her husband is also obvious. But who is trying to kill her and why?

While Touch isn't as rich in characterization as most Williams its story is so daazling it doesn't matter for once. More evidence that a good share of his work should be returned to print.

4 comments:

Bill Crider said...

I've never figured out why Williams' books aren't sought out as eagerly as those by some other writers of his era. He was certainly among the best.

August West said...

Williams had such a hot streak from 1951 to 1963, I agree with Bill. I see HB copies of "The Sailcoth Shroud" and "Aground" regularly-no one picking them up. Enjoy his work.
"Hell Hath No Fury" is a noir classic.-plus not a bad movie version directed by Dennis Hopper.(The Hot Spot)

Anonymous said...

Well, unfortunately many of his other books are really expensive on abebooks. I wish more of his titles were in print. I've read a half dozen - they're all excellent.

gb

John Hocking said...

My favorite Williams remains Man on the Run, which which lays down narrative drive fast enough to stun even speed-jaded modern readers.
Black Lizard was going to reprint the book but got swallowed by Random House and never got around to it.

John