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Charles Williams
Pan and other UK Paperback Editions

Click here to go directly to FIRES OF YOUTH by “Charles Williams” (James Lincoln Collier).

This gets kind of confusing so you might want to sit down. It makes sense that Charles Williams must be a fairly common name, so it should come as no surprise that there are several different writers named Charles Williams. One of them is British, he wrote supernatural stuff. Another Charles Williams is an American crime paperback writer. A third Charles Williams wrote a paperback called FIRES OF YOUTH. We used to think that book might have been written by the American crime writer Charles Williams, but then a sharp researcher and crime fiction expert named George Tuttle discovered that the book had actually been written by a different man whose real name was James Lincoln Collier. (That story is told below.) Now the American Charles Williams was extremely popular with British readers, and from 1956 on, almost all of his American paperback originals appeared in the UK in hardcovers from Cassell and then in Pan paperbacks. Here (this is where I warned you it could get confusing) is a checklist of the British paperbacks of the American Charles Williams. I was going to add a checklist of the American paperbacks of the British Charles Williams but I changed my mind. So, from here on, when I talk about Charles Williams, I mean this guy, the American crime writer:

Charles Williams was born in Texas in 1909. He wrote suspenseful crime stories and novels of the sea like nobody else. His books transport me, carry me away somewhere else. I can’t wait to get back to them if I have to put them down. Although he wrote many different stories, a lot of his books are hung on this same framework: a nominally average-type guy is going along when he realizes that if he is just a bit larcenous he could come into a very large sum of money, often accompanied by a beautiful woman who comes tied into all that money somehow. Just as it seems like it really might work, things start going to hell. By then you are hooked, you’re along for the ride, so hold on.

Charles Williams wrote 22 novels, bursting out of the gate with a brace of paperback originals for Gold Medal and Dell, then some hardcover thrillers. He slowed down in the last decade of his life, just four books from 1963 to 1973. He started as a paperback writer, and each of his hardcover successes appeared in paperback too until his last book, MAN ON A LEASH. There was no American or British paperback edition then, and as of this writing 35 years later there never has been. Charles Williams committed suicide in 1975.

These are the 22 books, with the original American edition listed first for reference. Six of his first seven Gold Medals were reprinted in the 1950s by Red Seal and Gold Medal in the UK with the same covers. Now impossible to find, those books are listed, but not shown, here.

1951

<HILL GIRL – Gold Medal 141, PBO. (Million seller, many reprints).

UK edition: Red Seal 97, 1958


Australian digest: Star 255. Cover art redraws the American original

BIG CITY GIRL – Gold Medal 163, PBO. not shown

UK edition: Gold Medal 14, 1953

Reprint: Gold Medal 221


RIVER GIRL – Gold Medal G207, PBO

As THE CATFISH TANGLE,

Cassell hardcover, 1963

Pan X372, 1965


1953

HELL HATH NO FURY – Gold Medal 286, PBO.

UK edition: Red Seal 96, 1958

As THE HOT SPOT, Cassell 1965

<Pan 330-02347-0, 1969


<Penguin 0-14-014400-5, 1991. MTI.

NOTHING IN HER WAY – Gold Medal 340, PBO not shown

UK edition: Gold Medal 54, 1954

(no British hardcover or later paperback edition found.)


1954

GO HOME, STRANGER – Gold Medal 371, PBO

UK edition: Red Seal 77, 1957

(again, to show how the Australian digest cover artist used the original cover art, here is look first at the American original.)


Australian digest: Phantom 631, 1955

 


German paperback of GO HOME, STRANGER, Heyne 1473, SEIN GROSSER BLUFF, re-uses Robert McGinnis cover art from American Gold Medal THE BIG BOUNCE by Elmore Leonard.

A TOUCH OF DEATH - Gold Medal 434, PBO

UK edition: Gold Medal 79, 1955

As MIX YOURSELF A REDHEAD – Cassell, 1965.

<Pan X685, 1967.


1955

SCORPION REEF – Macmillan hardcover
(US PB: as GULF COAST GIRL, Dell 898)

UK edition: Cassell, 1956

Pan G169, 1958.

reprinted by Blue Murder/Xanadu in 1991. not shown.


1956

THE BIG BITE – Dell A114, PBO

UK edition: Cassell, 1957

Pan G342, 1960.


THE DIAMOND BIKINI – Gold Medal s607, PBO

Consul 1156, World Distributors LTD 1962

UK edition: Cassell, 1968

Panther 586-03284-3, 1970. All things considered, this should have been a memorable cover, and it isn’t.

reprinted by Blue Murder/Simon & Schuster in 1987. not shown.


1958

GIRL OUT BACK – Dell B114, PBO

UK edition: as OPERATOR, Cassell 1958

Pan G419, 1960.


TALK OF THE TOWN – Dell A164, PBO

UK edition: as STAIN OF SUSPICION, Cassell 1959

Pan G478, 1961.


MAN ON THE RUN – Gold Medal 822, PBO

UK edition: as MAN IN MOTION, Cassell hc, 1959

Pan G541, 1962.


ALL THE WAY – Dell A165, PBO

UK edition: as THE CONCRETE FLAMINGO, Cassell hc, 1960

Pan G638, 1963.


1959

UNCLE SAGAMORE AND HIS GIRLS – Gold Medal s908, PBO

No UK edition found. UNCLE SAGAMORE, which was never reprinted in the US, has become a collector’s item. Naturally, Charles Williams was not just big in the US and the UK. He has long been especially revered in France, where UNCLE SAGAMORE is a multi-reprinted bestseller called AUX URNES, LES PLOUCS! (rough translation: TO THE BALLOT BOXES, SQUARES!) It is the sequel to THE DIAMOND BIKINI, which is called FANTASIA CHEZ LES PLOUCS in France.

 


1960

THE SAILCLOTH SHROUD – Viking hardcover
(US PB: Dell D410)

UK edition: Cassell hc, 1960.

Pan G679, 1964.

 


AGROUND – Viking hardcover
(US PB: Crest S471)

UK edition: Cassell hc, 1961

Pan 330-02216-4, 1969.


1962

THE LONG SATURDAY NIGHT – Gold Medal s1200, PBO

UK edition: Cassell hc, 1964

Pan G713, 1966.

 


As CONFIDENTIALLY YOURS - Penguin 0 14 00.6961 5, 1983. MTI.

Francois Truffaut was a fan of American crime fiction and made movies based on books by Cornell Woolrich/William Irish, David Goodis, and this one from THE LONG SATURDAY NIGHT by Charles Williams.


1963

DEAD CALM – Viking hardcover (US PB: Avon G1255)

UK edition: Cassell hc, 1964

Pan X578, 1966.

(Although the events in DEAD CALM occur after the end of Williams’ earlier novel AGROUND, the Pan PB edition of DEAD CALM was published 3 years before their edition of AGROUND.)


1966

THE WRONG VENUS – New American Library hardcover
(US PB: Signet T4158)

UK edition: as DON’T JUST STAND THERE, Cassell hc, 1967

Panther 586 02848 X, 1969.

Hilarious. Williams could write funny (there’s a lot of humor in the two Uncle Sagamore books) and he could also be deadly serious, and sometimes he successfully mixed the two.


1971

AND THE DEEP BLUE SEA – Signet Q4515, PBO

UK edition: Cassell hc, 1972

Mayflower 583 12218 3, 1973.

The American paperback original (not shown) is a muddy, uninteresting mess. I prefer the cover art of the British Mayflower, which vividly recreates a memorable moment from the book.


1973

MAN ON A LEASH – Putnam hardcover (no US PB)

UK edition: Cassell, 1974 (no UK PB)

The German-language paperback Heyne 1642, DER MANN AN DER LEINE, is the only paperbound edition of MAN ON A LEASH I have to show here, although there is a French PB.


FIRES OF YOUTH by “Charles Williams” (James Lincoln Collier)

The fascinating history of this unusual book was unknown to vintage paperback dealers in the US, who decided, somewhat arbitrarily, that this must be the same Charles Williams writing the Gold Medals. My friend George Tuttle told me that this Charles Williams was really James Lincoln Collier. In the preface to the 1968 Penguin paperback edition of FIRES OF YOUTH, “A Curious Case of Plagiarism”, the British publisher Sir Robert Lusty tells the real story.

     

In 1962, the Hungarian-born, naturalized-British author Arthur Koestler announced the Koestler Prize, “to alleviate the desolation of culture” for inmates of Her Majesty’s prisons. Prizes of 400 pounds were to be awarded for art, music and literature. The British government endorsed the plan, and the panel for the literature prize included well-regarded British authors Henry Green, J.B. Priestley, V.S. Pritchett and Philip Toynbee. A manuscript called YOUNG AND SENSITIVE by a Dartmoor inmate named Don Robson was awarded the first prize. As Koestler’s publisher at Hutchinson & Co., Sir Robert Lusty was “glad to have the first opportunity of considering Mr. Robson’s prize-winning script. As soon as it arrived I read it personally and at once shared the enthusiasm expressed by the panel of judges. At this time I also met with Mr. Robson (who had completed his sentence) and was much impressed that a not altogether articulate young man should have been able to write so sincere and moving a story.”

Hutchinson arranged to publish YOUNG AND SENSITIVE in 1964, with a big publicity campaign for the Koestler Award. The book received great critical acclaim. The Sunday Telegraph wrote “The judges remark that it is a work of outstanding merit irrespective of the special circumstances in which it was written. They are right.” The Observer reviewer called it “the best account of an adolescent affair I have ever read.” Vogue described it as “one of the best, most poignantly written novels for years.” The Sunday Times called it “intense and absorbing”. And Mordecai Richler, in his review for The Spectator, said “He has written a work of outstanding merit…the bleak story of a boy’s first flirtation…is strongly reminiscent of the best of Sherwood Anderson.”
Don Robson got a job, got married, and appeared on television interviews about the book. Penguin acquired the rights to do the paperback edition. Robson announced he was at work on his second novel.

And then, about a year after publication, a man checked out a copy of YOUNG AND SENSITIVE at a public library in Swindon. Unlike the judges and the publisher and the reviewers, this man realized that he had read it before. He had purchased an obscure American paperback at a local book shop, FIRES OF YOUTH by Charles Williams, from a very obscure publisher called Magnet Books of New York. It was, with very minor changes, the same book. He wrote a letter to the publisher, who asked to borrow the paperback. Lusty describes reading it thus: “an examination proved at once disconcerting in the extreme.” The Home Secretary was about to exhibit the entries for the next Koestler Award. Penguin had to be notified to pull the planned paperback. Attempts to locate Magnet Books or Charles Williams proved futile. Accused of plagiarism, Robson “never sought to evade the consequences”. He returned the prize money. His story was that he had really wanted to enter the contest but couldn’t come up with anything, so he bought the manuscript, handwritten by another inmate who “fancied himself as a writer”, for fifteen ounces of tobacco.

Late in 1965, Sir Robert issued a press release explaining the deception and announcing that the book would be pulled from circulation. Robson was never prosecuted, probably because everyone involved was embarrassed that they had hailed a sleazy paperback original as the next great novel. (This story by the way is great vindication for me as a bookseller. I’m always claiming that some of these vintage sleaze paperbacks would be praised as great art if released under different circumstances. Then the person I’m making this claim to will inevitably answer “but …but Lynn you buffoon, this book is called THE LUSTFUL ONES” -or FIRES OF YOUTH or any one of a number of other titles- “this is obviously a piece of trash, just look at it.” Well, for once my theory got tested, and the trashy paperback won the grand prize.)

The New York Times picked up the story of the search for the missing Charles Williams, and a young New York writer named James Lincoln Collier first learned about it there. He contacted Hutchinson & Co. and let them know that he had written the novel. Collier takes over the story here: “It was said that the book Mr. Robson copied was a potboiler, dashed off by a hack for a fly-by-night American paperback publisher.” But if that was true, what about all that praise from the distinguished judges and critics?

“In 1958 I became a full-time free-lance writer.” Collier continues, “I have since written a number of books for some no doubt respectable organizations, but at that time I was selling, among other places, to a publisher who can with charity best be called peripheral. He wanted novels and in the fall of 1959 I sold him (one) for a modest sum. He supplied both the title and the pseudonym Charles Williams. ” (Almost nothing is known about Magnet. They published 20 books in 1959 and 1960 and then disappeared.)

Robson could hardly have chosen a more totally unknown book. Collier writes, “I was quite literally the only person in the world who could have identified the real author. …The story, seen through the eyes of a young, uneducated country boy, contained no complexities of thought nor sophisticated vocabulary which might have seemed out of place against Mr. Robson’s own background. Some commentators suggested the book was essentially autobiographical, and I flatter myself that this misconception suggests that the book succeeds in creating a creditable portrait of the adolescent mind. In any case, whatever the merits of the book, it was…a seriously intended work.”

In 1968, four years after signing the contract with the wrong author, Penguin brought out the first British paperback edition of FIRES OF YOUTH. It was the third time the book was published, but the first to have the actual author’s name on the cover. The Penguin edition includes the citation awarded by the judges. James Lincoln Collier has gone on to write over 20 more books. One of them, MY BROTHER SAM IS DEAD, a book for children co-written with his brother Christopher Collier, won the Newbery Honor and was nominated for the National Book Award in 1975.

MAGNET BOOKS
(since the price guides list less than half of these,
here for those who are interested is a Magnet checklist)

1959
MB301 FORBIDDEN MAGIC – Dorene Clark
MB302 LOVE-STARVED HELLCAT – Martin Ryan
MB303 THE EXOTIC AFFAIR – Dorene Clark
MB304 SHAMELESS LOVE – Ross Sloan
MB305 WILD FRENCH NURSE – Florence Stonebraker
MB306 DANGEROUS DESIRES – Louis Lester
MB307 NAKED PASSIONS – Richard Challon
MB308 MAN-HUNGRY – Martin Ryan

1960
MB309 FIRES OF YOUTH – Charles Williams
MB310 VIOLENT DESIRES – Fred Martin
MB311 THE GOLDEN STRIP – Peter Andrews
MB312 BACKWOODS SHACK – Paul Daniels
MB313 THE COUNTRY TRAMP – Sherman Conway
MB314 THE HOT BEAT – Stan Vincent
MB315 WILD CARGO – Ken Barton
MB316 THE NAKED STREETS – Paul Daniels
MB317 TIDE OF PASSION – Cliff Andrews
MB318 WOMAN’S DOCTOR – Lauris Haney
MB319 PRIZE OF FLESH – F.W. Paul
MB320 DARK YEARNING – John Everett



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