Monday, September 1, 2008

Flight to Nowhere by Charles Williams

Flight To Nowhere by Charles Williams
Short Story in Manhunt, Sept 1955

Charles Williams wrote many excellent crime suspense novels, some of which take place with a sailing setting as a backdrop. The same is true with this Manhunt short story. It's wildly exciting, keeps you on edge, and could be one of the finest tales he wrote.

Three-quarters of a million dollars was the prize. Brutality was their profession, I thought of it and felt chilly along the back.

The story involves the "flight" of diver Bill Manning who quickly is offered a proposition by lovely Shannon Wayne to recover a shotgun lost in a lake by her husband. A couple of thugs show up looking for the woman's husband and Manning discovers her real name is Shannon Macauley. She gives Manning another story about why she needs a diver, to recover stolen diamonds that are in a small plane at the bottom of the sea. Her husband was into some shady doings with the thugs and Manning believes the husband is now on the lam from the mob. Later, he learns that is not true. Manning needs the cash and accepts the offer and with it gets hooked into a deadly adventure. Lust and love spins Manning, who has the cops hunting him for a murder rap, into taking the risk against the two thugs. Williams has us tensely waiting to see if Manning and the girl come out of this one. It all ends gravely, at sea aboard the recovery sloop. Thrilling heart-pounding action on land and at sea in this story, and a mesmerizing plot. This one is up there with the best published in any Manhunt Magazine.
Charles Williams excels....

Note: Harry Whittington authored a short story in 1953 with the same title. A neat coincidence, both are fine writers and both stories are excellent.

There are many gems included in this Manhunt issue. One that stands out is a short five-pager called "The Muscle" by Philp Weck. It takes place in a dingy city diner through the eyes of the counter cook. The cook recognizes two hired killers, along with another guy, entering during the end of the lunch hour and they take a booth. We wait it out with the cook to find out which of the customers receives the "hit." It's hardboiled and creepy.

Contents in this Manhunt issue:

"Flight To Nowhere" by Charles Williams
'The War" by Richard Deming (Clancy Ross story)
"The Big Day" by Richard Marsten
"Side Street" by James T. Farrell
"Pickup" by Hal Ellson
"Uncle Tom" by David Alexander
"Cast Off, A Police Files Story" by Jonathan Craig
'The Muscle" by Philip Weck
"Mass Production" by Andrew J. Burris

I thought Philip Weck was a pseud., but digging I discovered not. Actually he was an accomplished short story author and journalist. Here is a listing of his work. ( I'll gladly read more stories by Philip Weck)

Welcome Home, Sucker! (nv) Detective Tales Mar 1947
I Love You Dead! (ss) Detective Tales Jan 1948
Poor, Dead Charlie! (ss) Detective Tales Jul 1948
Don’t Kid with Morrissey! (ss) Detective Tales Oct 1948
Hot-Hate Alley (ss) Dime Detective Magazine Jan 1949
Vicious Circle (ss) Detective Tales May 1949
Leave It to the Little Men! (ss) Dime Mystery Magazine Aug 1949
No Time for Death! (ss) Dime Mystery Magazine Dec 1949
No-Know Nora (ss) Detective Tales Jan 1950
A Body on the House (ss) Detective Tales Feb 1950
Eyes to Kill With (nv) Detective Tales Mar 1950
You Can’t Run Away (ss) Suspense Magazine Fll 1951
Murder with Onions (ss) Popular Detective Jan 1952
City of Strangers (na) Popular Detective Nov 1952
Love Me - Love My Corpse! (nv) Popular Detective Mar 1953
Murder Bait (ss) Triple Detective Spr 1953
The Cop War (nv) Popular Detective May 1953
The Corpse Came Back (ss) Triple Detective Sum 1953
Deadlier Than the Male (ss) Popular Detective Fll 1953
Terror Street (ss) Fifteen Detective Stories Dec 1953
The Devil’s Judge (ss) Fifteen Detective Stories Apr 1954
The Muscle (ss) Manhunt Sep 1955
Thanks for the Drink, Mac (ss) Manhunt Aug 1956
One Day of Fear (ss) Trapped Detective Story Magazine May 1961


Chris said...

There's a slew of excellent titles here. My favorite: "Love Me--Love My Corpse!" Nice.

Enjoyed reading this post.

Gary Dobbs/Jack Martin said...

I agree with Chris, a great post.I'm starting to discover loads of old hardboiled stuff for the first time. For instance until recently I'd never read Chandler but, of course, knew the characters and stories through the movies. I thought Killer in the Rain, which was the first I ever read, was excellent. I think I may try the Big Sleep next but have been putting it off because I've seen the film a million and one times.

Frank Loose said...

August ... The plot you describe here is identical to the book, Scorpion Reef, by Charles Williams, which is copyrighted in Oct of 1955, two months after the magazine. Bet the s.s. was a cut-down version of the novel. Let me tell ya, it was one great book! I love Charles Williams and this tale is one of the best. I forget the literary term to describe it, but Williams "bookends" Scorpion Reef with an intro and a post script of sorts. You have to pay close attention because it is the "tell all" of what really happens to the main characters. Track down a copy of the book. You'll love it! --- Frank