by Charles Williams
“He has come,” the Greek said, “for the same reason that we are here – because in the whole world of Being everything makes haste to its doom.”
A contemporary of C.S. Lewis, a devout Christian and a very smart man, Charles Williams has two novels appearing in Dennis Wheatley’s Library of the Occult: War in Heaven and The Greater Trumps.
War in Heaven begins with an archdeacon at a publishing house stumbling across a surprise proof whose last paragraph seems to assert the Holy Grail has been successfully traced to a chalice within his own church. The paragraph is to be stricken from publication, but the damage has been done as the archdeacon returns to his parish to examine the cup only to have it robbed from his possession shortly thereafter. The bulk of the book consists of the chasing down of the chalice, attempts to use the Grail for occult purposes possibly involving Satan himself, the interactions between high society cult members, police investigators, and a mysterious ‘keeper’ of the Grail, all as an obscure murder investigation progresses.
Unfortunately there’s something missing from this book that other novels labeled as ‘classic occult’ possess. One is a driving-forward type of momentum you can find in books like Wheatley’s own The Devil Rides Out (3+ stars) and Rohmer’s Brood of the Witch Queen (5 stars). War in Heaven takes significantly longer to finish than most novels simply because it’s not very compelling to return to after having been away. Another is just a lack of highlights in general. There were a few amazing moments in the work, especially during one ritual in particular towards the end, but there’s not enough here to maintain a high level of interest throughout and the presentation seems a bit dry.
While looking forward to the other Williams book from Wheatley’s library, this one doesn’t have what many will be looking for.