Most people, when thinking about The Inklings, think of its more famous individuals Lewis and Tolkien. Few think of one of its more shadowed members, Charles Williams. For years, I would give glancing thought to Williams and his writings leaving most of my energies for the bounding Aslan, and Frodo’s four fingers. This left little desire to explore Williams.
But recently a friend, Luke Allsbrook, mentioned I should read some Williams, as he had many times before. But this instance I listened a little more closely and am a better man for it.
I tend to want to read an authors works in chronological order because I think it gives you a better sense of the writers growth over time…how they develop as a story teller. War in Heaven is Williams’ first novel written in 1930. His theme surrounds the mythic Holy Graal and the selfishness and selflessness it engenders. Williams opening line grabbed me:
The telephone bell was ringing wildly, but without result, since there was no-one in the room but the corpse.
One of the best opening lines of a novel I’ve read in a long time. No need to persuade me any more, I’m hooked. From the corpse the mystery deepens into what Williams’ novels came to be known as “supernatural thrillers”. Williams is spiritual even “christian” without being uncomfortable. The characters seem natural in how they think about life and the otherworldly…it’s a part of their lives as it is for everyone.
Williams writing reminded me another “Brit” who is also a favorite of mine, John Buchan, considered by some to be the father of the modern spy novel. Both carry tempos that don’t leave you down for long but keep you wanting to see what’s around the corner.
If this was his first novel I look forward to the rest.
Kirk and Sarah