In 1958, Fawcett Gold Medal released a new paperback original by noir fiction master Charles Williams called “Man on the Run.” Mysterious Press has kept the book alive - along with most of the author’s greatest hits - as an eBook for fans who don’t want a 60 year-old vintage paperback disintegrating in one’s hands.
Like a lot of books I tend to read, the novel opens with the narrator jumping off a moving train and taking refuge in a nearby cottage. Russell Foley is being relentlessly pursued by the police because they think he’s a cop killer. If you’ve never read a book before, you might be surprised to learn that Foley is, in fact, an innocent man who has been wrongfully-accused. This is one of those novels where the fugitive hero must solve the murder himself to clear his own name and hopefully resume life as a free and innocent man.
Foley is assisted in his quest for justice by the sexy female owner of the cottage after she comes home like Goldilocks to find rough-looking Foley in her place. Actually, the Meet Cute was more involved than that, but I won’t spoil it for you here. Suzy is a leggy blonde looker with an unflappable and seductive nature (of course), and she comes to accept Foley’s claim of innocence. She’s a great character and the best part of the book.
Once the relationship is formed, we have a pretty basic mystery novel here with the couple trying to solve the murder of the cop without getting Foley nabbed by the police in the process. There’s nothing wrong with any of this, but there’s nothing particularly innovative here either. It’s a serviceable novel by an author capable of much better.
It’s important to remember that Williams was among the best of his era. However, “Man on the Run” is not his best book by a long shot. If you’re looking for a quick and easy noir read, I suppose you could do a lot worse.