Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Hell Hath No Fury

In 1953, Fawcett Gold Medal released Charles Williams’ fourth published novel, Hell Hath No Fury. It was later reprinted several times under the alternative title of The Hot Spot, and under that name, it was adapted into a 1990 movie starring Don Johnson and directed by Dennis Hopper.

Our narrator is Harry Madox, the new-in-town, amoral car salesman who observes some odd behavior from the sexy 21 year-old girl in the dealership’s collection’s department. On the same day, he also notices an appalling lack of security at the small town’s local bank. And then there’s the matter of his boss’ voluptuous wife with her lusty eyes trained on Harry.

These three story threads (the girl, the bank, the boss’ wife) are all swirling around Harry’s head when he begins planning a bank heist. As a certified expert in crime fiction bank jobs, I give his plan, execution, and post-robbery actions a solid B+. The complications that arise thereafter are due to minor flaws in the planning amplified by drama with the two women in his life.

Williams’ writing is always top-notch and this is no exception. The prose is crisp, conversational and hardboiled. When one character tells another that he sticks out “like a cooch dancer at a funeral,” you know that you’re in literary good hands. The plot twists and turns were crafted by a master of noir who knows how to reveal great surprises along the way to the conclusion.

It’s hard to believe that Williams only authored 22 novels in his 24-year writing career before his 1975 suicide. His impact on the noir genre really can’t be minimized, and Hell Hath No Fury is a superb example of his early suspense work before he shifted gears to maritime-themed suspense books. Highly recommended.

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