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Publisher Description

War in heaven, written by the unjustly overlooked inkling Charles Williams (1886-1945), was published in 1930. It begins with this glorious sentence: "The telephone bell was ringing wildly, but without result, since there was no one in the room but the corpse." After this auspicious opening, the book unravels into a fantastic tale of the Holy Graal, black magic, and devil worship. The standard murder mystery beginning gives way to an almost systematic reversal of the standard procedures of that genre. In War in Heaven, Williams departs from the rules that traditionally govern the murder mystery and manipulates the genre to serve his central purpose. This purpose is quite different from the raison d'etre of the mystery story proper, and leads into a discussion of how, and to what extent, a mystery can incorporate Christian themes. An examination of this book, then, becomes an investigation of a fundamental premise about how Christians write, and read, mysteries. Ultimately, War in Heaven serves as a case study in the limitations--and possibilities--of truly Christian mysteries. Critics of War in Heaven tend to repeat the same three arguments against the success of this book. First, the opening leads the reader into generic expectations that are overturned by subsequent developments. Second, the characters are not developed as are those in standard fiction. Third, both plot and characters are subordinated to philosophical concerns. Hillary Waugh wrote that "The mystery novel does not contain the equipment to carry messages. It is too frail a box to hold the human spirit" (75). At most, he suggests, a murder mystery can make an implicit statement about maintaining order or about the value of life. Williams goes far beyond this limit.

Professional & Technical
September 22
Mythopoeic Society
The Gale Group, Inc., a Delaware corporation and an affiliate of Cengage Learning, Inc.

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