Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Concrete Flamingo, a.k.a. All the Way, by Charles Williams

Nothing in Her Way remains the best of the five Charles Williams novels I've read in recent weeks, but each of the other four has impressed me. A Touch of Death, especially, is almost as good as Nothing ... . The Diamond Bikini wins points because it's not just a comedy, but one that manages not to condescend to its rural setting.

The Concrete Flamingo (1958), also published as All the Way, is not rural, and it's no comedy. But, like The Diamond Bikini, it demonstrates the author's versatility and sheer professionalism.

In bare outline, The Concrete Flamingo sounds like many mid-century paperback original novels: Down-on-his-luck but handsome man falls for woman who involves him in a plan to kill, steal, or both, and violent or tragic complications ensue.

The intricate plot works itself out nicely and with high suspense. No surprise there; Williams has to have been one of the better plotters who has ever written crime fiction. What impressed me most, though, was the plot's unexpected resolution. To avoid spoilers, I'll say no more. But I admire Williams for taking the chance that he did.
The Concrete Flamingo does, indeed, include a concrete flamingo, but All the Way is a more suitable title. I don't know why or when the title was changed, but it's hard not to suspect the publisher of trying to capitalize on Ross Macdonald's popularity. The Concrete Flamingo sounds as if it should be a Macdonald title. (The cover of the edition included here is unusually faithful to the novel's plot, though I don't recall that any of the book's cars were green. )

© Peter Rozovsky 2015

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Blogger seana graham said...

I've known Williams' name for years, but mainly because he has the same name as the British novelist Charles Williams, who wrote a very different sort of book.

I'm sure All the Way is more apt, but I will say that Concrete Flamingo is more memorable.

March 20, 2015  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana: You could be right All the Way might have got lost in a welter of salacious titles. It's more apt, though not for reason you might think. Concrete Falmingo, on the other hand, refers directly to the story, but to just one incident.

I learned about the British Charles Williams when doing searches for this one.Several times searches would yield descriptions of books by "Charles Williams," and would think, "Hmm, this does not sound like something Gold Medal would have published."

March 20, 2015  
Blogger seana graham said...

No, he was a Christian writer, but not in any kind of simplistic way. He was a member of the Inklings, so knew Tolkien, C.S. Lewis and a bunch of those guys. I liked him a lot, more than Lewis, when I read him in my college days.

March 20, 2015  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Yes, I saw some of those names. I knew that the crime-writing Charles Williams had been a versatile, but I didn't think he was that versatile. I was right.

March 20, 2015  

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