A small town is doomed by jealousy, greed, and a shared love of hunting
In the backwoods town of Carthage, there isn’t much for the leading citizens to do but drink, sleep, and shoot. John Warren is preparing for an early morning duck hunt when he hears two shotgun blasts— only later does he learn they were the sound of Dan Roberts’s death. Although it appears the handsome young man killed himself, Warren and the police are smart enough to realize that suicide victims seldom shoot twice. That night, a drunk woman calls Warren’s house, offering a motive for the crime he didn’t commit. Roberts was sleeping with Warren’s wife—and he wasn’t her only lover. Warren didn’t kill Roberts, but as the rumors begin to swirl, he may wish that he had. In a town where every man is a crack shot, shooting a rival isn’t murder. It’s target practice.
“[Williams] is just about as good as they come.” —The New York Times “Relying on wit, humor and ingenious plotting, Williams’s characters constantly attempt to outwit the system.” —Woody Haut, author of Pulp Culture “One of the neglected hardboiled geniuses . . . his novels were perfect little gems.” —Joe R. Lansdale, author of Savage Season
Charles Williams (1909–1975) was one of the preeminent authors of American crime fiction. Born in Texas, he dropped out of high school to enlist in the US Merchant Marine, serving for ten years before leaving to work in the electronics industry. At the end of World War II, Williams began writing fiction while living in San Francisco. The success of his backwoods noir Hill Girl (1951) allowed him to quit his job and write fulltime. Williams’s clean and somewhat casual narrative style distinguishes his novels—which range from hard-boiled, small-town noir to suspense thrillers set at sea and in the Deep South. Although originally published by pulp fiction houses, his work won great critical acclaim, with Hell Hath No Fury (1953) becoming the first paperback original to be reviewed by legendary New York Times critic Anthony Boucher. Many of his novels were adapted for the screen, such as Dead Calm (published in 1963) and Don’t Just Stand There! (published in 1966), for which Williams wrote the screenplay. Williams died in California in 1975.