The spark that lit the fire

(Charles) would admit that he was not a tidy man in the office and had occasional clean-ups. On one such occasion, after one paper basket was full he turned out a large typescript which he said could go as it had been refused by all the publishing houses. I said what a pity. He shrugged and said that I could do what I liked with it. So I sent it to Victor Gollancz who had recently started publishing. It was accepted and appeared with the title War in Heaven. The following is an example of his generosity. One day he called me into his office, opened a parcel, took out the first copy of War in Heaven, inscribed it "The spark that lit the fire" and handed it to me. He said then that poetry was his first love, but novels would be bread and butter.

Jo Harris
“Charles Williams as I knew Him”
(Charles Williams Society Newsletter) No 4 - Winter 1976 (excerpt)

Most interesting… so here’s the first page of the novel, published in 1930:

Chapter One (The Prelude)

The telephone bell was ringing wildly, but without result, since there was no-one in the room but the corpse.

A few moments later there was. Lionel Rackstraw, strolling back from lunch, heard in the corridor the sound of the bell in his room, and, entering at a run, took up the receiver. He remarked, as he did so, the boots and trousered legs sticking out from the large knee-hole table at which he worked, but the telephone had established the first claim on his attention.

"Yes," he said, "yes... No, not before the 17th... No, who cares what he wants?... No, who wants to know?... Oh, Mr. Persimmons. Oh, tell him the 17th... Yes... Yes, I'll send a set down."

He put the receiver down and looked back at the boots.

It occurred to him that someone was probably doing something to the telephone; people did, he knew, at various times drift in on him for such purposes. But they usually looked round or said something; and this fellow must have heard him talking. He bent down towards the boots.

"Shall you be long?" he said into the space between the legs and the central top drawer; and then, as there was no answer, he walked away, dropped hat and gloves and book on to their shelf, strolled back to his desk, picked up some papers and read them, put them back, and, peering again into the dark hole, said more impatiently, "Shall you be long?"

No voice replied; not even when, touching the extended foot with his own, he repeated the question. Rather reluctantly he went round to the other side of the table, which was still darker, and, trying to make out the head of the intruder, said almost loudly: "Hallo! hallo! What's the idea?" Then, as nothing happened, he stood up and went on to himself: "Damn it all, is he dead?" and thought at once that he might be.

Charles Williams
War In Heaven

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