Friday, June 01, 2007

Scarlet Goddess -- Ennis Willie

I believe SCARLET GODDESS is the novel that introduced Ennis Willie’s iconic hardboiled character Sand, a former top man in the Syndicate who leaves organized crime despite the fact that doing so means there will always be a price on his head. That’s already happened when this book opens, so it’s not really an “origin story”, so to speak. Sand agrees to deliver a mysterious package for a friend and former Syndicate associate of his, and that proves to be a mistake. Before he can get the package to its destination, it’s stolen from him and he finds himself in a violent mess involving a serial rapist/killer known as the Sasquatch, a cult of Satan-worshippers, and a gigantic fire-opal called the Devil Stone that carries a deadly curse with it. The story rockets along at a fast pace to a fiery, apocalyptic climax.

It’s easy to see that Ennis Willie’s work was a big influence on James Dockery, the author of those early novels in the Butcher series. Their styles are very similar. Willie’s prose is considerably smoother and more polished, and despite the bizarre subject matter is more grounded in reality than Dockery’s. SCARLET GODDESS is sexy, violent, and a real pleasure to read. Ennis Willie’s work deserves to be back in print, and I’m glad that efforts to insure that are underway.


Juri said...

When was this originally published, and by whom?

James Reasoner said...

Merit Books (which was an imprint of Camerarts Publishing Inc.) in 1963. It hasn't been reprinted. As far as I know, none of Ennis Willie's novels have been reprinted yet, but some people behind the scenes are trying to change that.