BiographySan Angelo, Texas, USA
Charles Williams was born in San Angelo, Texas, and grew up there and in New Mexico. He attended Brownsville High School in Texas through the tenth grade. In the United States Merchant Marine, from 1929 to 1939, he served as a radio operator. Williams joined the U.S. Navy during World War II, and between 1939 and 1950 worked as an electronics inspector, a wireless operator, a radar technician, and a radio service engineer. In the course of these careers he lived in Peru, Arizona, Florida, and Switzerland. Williams married Lasca Foster in 1939; they had one daughter, Alison. Read more... Girl, was rejected by several publishers before the Fawcett publishing company picked it up in 1950 for their line of Gold Medal paperback originals. Williams had beginner's luck; it sold, according to one source, 1,226,890 copies. He went on to publish 21 more novels, gaining enough attention as a member of the "Gold Medal" writers that he was hired to script a few films, including his own The Wrong Venus, filmed as Don't Just Stand There (1968), and Hell Hath No Fury, filmed as _Hot Spot, The (1990/I)_. Williams seems to have been familiar with the saying, "God made the country, man made the city, and the Devil made the small town." His hard-boiled thrillers are often set in the hot, humid, mosquito- and snake-infested hamlets of the Gulf Coast and South Florida in the 1950s and 1960s. His more famous later novels take place on boats or ships on the open sea. He also wrote some very funny comedies, including The Diamond Bikini (1956) and Uncle Sagamore and His Girls (1959), in which a boy chronicles the shenanigans of his scheming uncle. However, Williams's thrillers more usually featured guys who think they can get rich quick when they are seduced by the deceitful promises of beautiful and dangerous dames, or honest, likable types who find themselves in deadly circumstances but are determined to see justice done at last. Although fourteen of his novels were optioned or adapted for film -- the most successful being Dead Calm (1989) -- he received little critical attention in the U.S. However, his books were enormously popular in France, where nearly all were either translated or filmed. His wife Lasca died in the early 1970s of cancer, and Charles went to live alone in a trailer on the border between California and Oregon. The weather there depressed him; he was too in love with sun and sea. His personal finances declined as the popularity of hard-boiled thrillers began to wane. In 1975, he committed suicide. Williams's reputation lives on, stronger than ever, among aficionados of the hard-boiled crime novel, and even his battered paperbacks can sell for $100 or more.