As crime fiction collections go, few will better the latest twofer from Stark House Press – The Sailcloth Shroud and All The Way by Charles Williams. These reprints from the late 1950s, released this past month, are a couple of taut, tough, cleverly crafted stories that firmly hold the reader’s attention all the way to the journey’s end.
The second story, All the Way (sometimes known as The Concrete Flamingo), is a gripping noir that tugs at your heartstrings. Whatever your views regarding the intense ending, few can fault the masterful quality of the writing or the intriguing plot. It’s a noir that deserves to be remembered.
But for me, the opener, The Sailcloth Shroud (1959), is the one that got me shaken and stirred and eager to seek out more of Williams’ seafaring adventures. Although it follows a more familiar structure, there is nothing formulaic about the noble sailor Stuart Rogers’ dangerous search for the truth, culminating in a thrilling, highly satisfying denouement. I rate this one about the best of all the novels I’ve read over the past year. As such, I’m delighted to have introduced these tales and shared my opinions of Charles Williams’ writing.
Happily, this volume set sail with high praise from the likes of Booklist and Bookgasm. “Williams’ devotees find themselves hoping that this will be the [reprint] to ignite a genuine revival,” writes Bill Ott. “Both are jewels in their own way, but The Sailcloth Shroud (1959) shines a bit brighter. All the Way (1958), the second novel in this fine twofer, is equally well constructed.”
It’s an opinion echoed by Alan Cranis of Bookgasm. “While several of his works were adapted into movies, Williams remains, as Litchfield notes, one of the best-kept secrets in noir crime fiction. All the more reason why all crime fiction fans should take note of these two reprints. With luck we will see more of Williams’s work back in print again.”
You can read the complete Booklist review here and the Bookgasm review at this web address. Better yet, get a copy of the book at Amazon (here) or directly from the publisher (here) and see what you make of these forgotten masterpieces.