"His narrator is generally an ordinary, curiously amoral fellow fueled by greed and lust but curiously detached from his own crimes." Geoffrey O'Brien on Charles Williams
O'Brien's description is apt for virtually all of Williams' paperback orignals except one, that being 1954's Go Home, Stranger. Here Williams gives us a true hero--named Reno--a true heroine and even a tender brother-sister relationship.
Reno's sister is a famous actress who is accused of murdering her husband in a fit of jealousy. She is being held in a small Gulf Coast jail and already convicted in the minds of everybody except her attorney and her brother. The novel focuses on Reno's search for the killer who framed his sister.
Stranger is a good mystery. Williams sets up an almost mythic individual much like Graham Greene's Harry Lime--a rich spoiled psychopath possessed of deadly charm and animal cunning. Reno believes he's hiding in the swamps that surround the town. Williams' place descriptions are Conradian--place becomes a character at least as powerful as the human beings. The bayous have never been more sinister. There are three set pieces involving chases through the woods that are among the most vivid actions scenes Williams ever wrote.
It's interesting to watch Williams work with more conventional material than usual. He certainly knew how to handle it. But I suspect that in the course of writing it he wished he could make Reno at least bit like his other protagonists, "a curiously amoral fellow fueled by greed and lust."
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Nice to see a Williams book mentioned other than the usual suspects. I loved the swamp locations for this book, and thought the bad guy was similar to someone JDM might have created for McGee to go up against. Those final show-down scenes were well staged. I think Williams wrote a couple other books where the protagonist was straight arrow. Talk of The Town, and Man on The Run, come to mind. Maybe Williams used those as "palate cleansers." I've enjoyed everything I've read by Williams, but i agree the books with the protagonists driven by greed and lust are more memorable. For another title that doesn't get mentioned much, but is terrific: Operator. It features one amoral dude. And then there's the terrific sea books. Williams was top drawer!
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