August 13th – Charles Williams

“Let us have all the delights of which we are capable.” 

Charles Williams

Charles Williams was born on August 13, 1909, in San Angelo, Texas. He was an American author of hard-boiled crime fiction and is considered by some critics one of the finest suspense novelists of the 1950s and 1960s. 

After 10th grade Williams dropped out of high school and joined the US Merchant Marines, serving for ten years before quitting to marry Lasca Foster in 1939. He then worked as an electronics inspector, before he and his wife moved to San Francisco following WWII. Williams spent 20 years as a Merchant Marine and radioman to gain the experience to write his first book, Hill Girl (1951), which was published when he was 42.  Although originally rejected by publishers, it went on to sell more than a million copies.

Williams wrote twenty-two novels, from hard-boiled, small-town noir to suspense thrillers set at sea and in the Deep South, and screenplays. Sixteen of his books were published as paperback originals, and twelve were adapted for cinema or television, including The Hot Spot and Dead Calm. His novel Hell Hath No Fury (1953) was the first paperback original to merit a review from renowned critic Anthony Boucher of The New York Times.  He and his wife lived for a time in France where his novels were the most popular.

He is also said to be one of the few noir writing to create complex and engaging female characters, often making them more intelligent and self-aware than the men of his novels. Although his writing is acclaimed, the style he was publishing did not have a large audience in the US, and it dwindled more because he did not write any series with recurring characters, a popular style at the time.

After his wife’s death in 1972, Williams bought property on the California-Oregon border where he lived alone in a trailer. After a short time he relocating to an apartment in Los Angeles. Depressed after the death of his wife and his declining book sales in the 1970s, he committed suicide on April 5, 1975, at the age of 65. 

Lesson from Williams:

Charles Williams’ works may have not been appreciated as much as they should have been during his lifetime, but he still had a successful career and seemingly made a good living as an author for twenty-five years. His works are still recognized today as stand out examples of great writing and story telling. It’s important to talk about depression, and ask for help if you’re struggling. There’s always something to live for, even if its only characters to share hope with the rest of the struggling world.

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