Hell Hath No Fury by Charles Williams
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I’d forgotten just how subversive this 1953 Williams noir was. Unlike some of his other blackmail driven plots - The Big Bite and A Touch of Death, for example - which both feature an everyman protagonist narrator driven to crime by hard luck and the lure of a sexy woman, Harry Madox is a criminal from the get go. In this novel Charles Williams and Jim Thompson are simpatico. The other writer I kept thinking about when casting for comparisons, however, is Cornell Woolrich, because for much of the novel we have unrelenting fear, dread, paranoia, and a mind threatening to unhinge with the ticking clock. Plenty of reviews describe the plot, so I will just give you the ingredients: a smooth-talking amoral drifter; a reckless femme-fatale; a nice girl hiding nasty secrets; a scummy blackmailer; a crafty Sheriff; a sultry small town in Texas; and a bank begging to be robbed. There's a 1990 movie version titled The Hot Spot. Directed by Dennis Hopper and starring Don Johnson, Virginia Madsen and Jennifer Connelly. The movie is pretty darn faithful to the novel, which is not so surprising as the screenplay was originally written by Charles Williams (with Nona Tyson) in 1962. The scenes are all there. The only thing the movie really couldn’t duplicate from the novel is the narrative interiority, and not having that to amp up the in-between scene tension made the movie a bit flatter than the novel. What the faithful scene rendering of the movie does is reflect back how many great scenes the novel has. An awesome noir not to be missed.
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