Monday, October 13, 2008

The Long Saturday Night by Charles Williams

The Long Saturday Night by Charles Williams
Gold Medal 1200, Copyright 1962

My first experience with the novels of Charles Williams was reading his early crime noir stories. "Hell Hath No Fury" and "The Big Bite" were knockouts for me. Later the author's seafaring suspense novels caught my attention. I remember being captivated when reading "The Sailcloth Shroud," "Aground," and "Dead Calm," with that sneaky crime element always holding our protagonists down. I have never read anything mediocre by Charles Williams, all his novels are excellent steamy mystery fiction. "The Long Saturday Night" is a novel that fits into his crime noir category, about an innocent man on the run trying to find a way to clear his name.

I flicked the lighter on again. The blood was coming from a cut on the back of my left hand. I'd left a trail of it all the way from that apartment house that a Boy Scout could follow. I let the lighter go out and stood listening to the drip, drip, drip, as it fell and splattered in the darkness. Even if I could move on the streets now, there was nowhere else to go.

The wife of real estate man John Warren returns home from a New Orleans vacation, Warren couldn't go because of business dealings. While she was away an acquaintance of Warren's was killed while hunting alone and Warren then learns there was a connection between the dead man and his wife. Warren confounds his wife and an argument ensues. Later returning home that night, he finds his wife with her head bashed in and Warren becomes the prime suspect for both murders. Everything is going wrong for him so he runs, but later with more information and assistance from his secretary, he secretly returns to his hometown to seek out the real murderer.

I expected this one to be good and I wasn't disappointed. "The Long Saturday Night" is almost up there with the two Charles Williams crime noir books that I mentioned above. I liked the way Warren starts to use his noodle when he gets in the jam. He cleverly hires three P.I.s in different states (using the yellow pages) to get the lowdown on his wife. Of course, she has a past and wasn't the woman that Warren thought she was. After a series of risky exploits, Warren and his secretary figure out who the real murderer is, but struggle to find a way to get the goods on him. Eventually it's the secretary who devises a scheme to flush him out. I kept thinking there was a flaw as the story was ending, but I was wrong, Williams covered all the bases.

Very enjoyable, this story moves at a fast clip. If you read "A Touch of Death," which was recently published again by Hard Case Crime, this one is just as good. One thing I always liked about Charles Williams' novels was that he kept the story simple. The plots are never complicated and he doesn't overload the story with unnecessary characters. He had a way of getting you right there in the main character's shoes, and you become entrenched in the story-maybe that is what draws me to his novels. "The Long Saturday Night" might not be the author's most well-known novel, but it's one that should not be overlooked. I hope there is a renewed interest in his work, Charles Williams was one of the best crime/suspense authors that came out of the post-war era.


David Cranmer said...

Great passage. Sadly, I haven't read Williams and the closest I've come to his work is seeing the 1989 film Dead Calm and The Hot Spot from 1990.

Frank Loose said...

I wrote a comment earlier but it didn't show up on the post so I guess i did something wrong, so here goes again. Nice to see you writing about Charles Williams again. The Long Saturday Night is a good read. The French loved it enough that Truffaut made it into a movie. The book was also released under that title: Confidentially Yours, and that is the copy i have. The cover you posted is much nicer. Someone looking for great crime stories can't do better than any Charles Williams book. Some of his other less famous titles worth checking out: No Way Out (female con artist and triple crosses), Talk of the Town (stranger in town helps woman with lots of trouble), The Concrete Flamingo (tale of impersonation and murder), Operator (counterfeit money and greed), and River Girl (Williams' third book and my favorite, a tale of love, lust, the law and bad decisions). It would be great to see all the CW titles back in print, but until/if that happens, used copies of all his stuff are worth tracking down. No one does it better! --- Frank

August West said...

Frank: Agree with you on "River Girl", it's one of my favorites. Also was one of Gold Medals longer books (approx. 250 pgs) I also thought "Go Home Stranger" was one of his best. I have a copy of "Girl Out Back" (The Operator) and I read it so long ago, I vaguely remember it. I'll dig it out.

David: "The Hot Spot" which was a very good movie, is from the novel "Hell Hath No Fury" I'm sure you will enjoy this read. Some claim it's Charles Williams' best work and I will not argue with that.

Frank Loose said...

August ... Go Home Stranger is a terrific read. I loved the story line, and all the swamp atmosphere was great. It also has a nemesis worthy of one that JD MacDonald would have created to go up against McGee. Man On The Run is another of Williams' lesser-known books, but worth tracking down. As the title suggests, there is a relentless pace to it, and it is short, so it comes at you like a freight train. Let's face it, CW was one of the best!
--- Frank

Scott D. Parker said...

As with most things, I'm only familiar with Williams because of Hard Case Crime. I have not read "A Touch of Death" yet but, as soon as I do, I think I'll be looking for more Williams books based on this review. Thanks.

Juri said...

Surely The Long Saturday Night is the best known Williams title because of Truffaut's film. But, well, maybe not many can say it's from a novel in the first place.

Hell Hath No Fury was published as a paperback when Hopper's film came out.

Agree with Frank on Talk of the Town.

Winnie Reeve said...

Lovely bloog you have