Of the Fawcett Gold Medal writers of the 1950's glory years, there was no one more consistent than Charles Williams. And that includes John D. MacDonald. Decades later, when asked who he thought was the most overlooked writer from that period, MacDonald said Charles Williams.
The Amazon blurb says that River Girl is similar to James Cain's The Postman Always Rings Twice, and there are similarities, though the plot and characters are quite different. To go into detail would mean revealing plot elements. Suffice it to say, both deal with a man and a woman coming together and realizing that nothing can keep them apart.
River Girl is the story of Jack Marshall, a small town deputy, who is growing disatisfied with his life. He is the bag man for the sheriff, and is not thrilled doing it. He gets along with his wife, but there is no real love between them. His life has become one of going through the motions. Then Jack meets Doris and everything changes. He falls hard for her, but she belongs to another man, a convict on the run hiding out deep in the woods on an isolated lake. But, Jack has a plan, a way for them to be together forever. As these stories often do, the outcome hangs on one crucial decision.
Williams writing is tight, with strong characterization and convincing dialogue. He ratchets up the tension in a deliberate and methodical manner. Consider this passage which takes place shortly after Jack and Doris meet:
"Don't come back," she said, staring.
"You don't want me to?"
"Are you sure?" I asked.
"Are you enjoying this?" she asked. Her face was white and she had forgotten to smoke the cigarette. It burned slowlly up toward her fingers, the long gray ash precariously clinging.
I wanted to reach out and put my hands on her arms, to take hold of her, but her eyes held me away. I could see the battle going on behind them.
"You came down here to tell me to stay away, didn't you?
"But I hadn't said anything then. Before you came tonight."
"Do you think I'm blind!" she said harshly. "Don't you think I could see, there at the house?"
I leaned forward and took her wrist in my hand and lifted the cigarette from her fingers. "You're going to burn yourself," I said, and threw it in the fire. She pulled back on the arm and I could feel my fingers shaking as they tightened. She hit me with the other hand, across the mouth, and stood up with her face held together only by an effort of will, and I could hear the dry sound of the crying in her throat. "Listen," I said. "Doris ---" She jerked away from me and ran through the darkness toward the edge of the lake. Before I could get there I heard the splash as she went in, and when I got down to the edge of the water she was gone. I could her her swimming away in the darkness.
BlackMask.com Publishing has re-released several of Williams' books and all are excellent stories, though beware, the proofreading is nonexistent, so errors are present. Also, Hard Case Crime re-released A Touch of Death, which I think is one of the top three Hard Case releases to date. Check them all out. You won't be dissapointed.
River Girl Paperback – 1 March 2005
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- Paperback : 152 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1596541709
- Product Dimensions : 15.24 x 0.89 x 22.86 cm
- ISBN-13 : 978-1596541702
- Language: : English
- Customer Reviews:
3.9 out of 5
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Compelling noir readReviewed in the United States on 15 June 2007
20 people found this helpful
Good story, bad printingReviewed in the United States on 15 February 2013
The plot is nice and the vintage flavor adds to its charm (you have to consider how law enforcement was in the 60's...). However the re-printing is below average with a LOT of typos, I believe they scanned the original text and used an automatic text recognition to re-write it... and the awkward format doesn't help to make the reading as enjoyable as it should be...
One person found this helpful