Ostara Publishing Colourfon

Ostara Publishing

21 Dec 2009
Books: Snake Water

Shots Magazine Review

Alan Williams

Top Notch Thrillers Ostara Publishing £10.99 pbk

Released: Nov 2009

Reviewer: Barry Forshaw


It's a common lament that crime and thriller writing has lost some of the lustre that it possessed in the past. But is this actually true, or are memory and time lending enchantment? If you require an incontrovertible answer to this question, all you have to do is pick up any of the new issues in the very welcome Top Notch Thrillers imprint, masterminded by crime critic (and ace practitioner of the comic crime novel), Mike Ripley. This is an expertly curated collection of some of the most intriguing and inventive crime and thriller writing from past decades, such as Philip Purser's Night of Glass, Geoffrey Rose’s A Clear Road to Archangel and George Sims’s strikingly unusual The Terrible Door. And are these treasures from the past better written and/or more imaginative than most current fare? 

Actually, yes -- all of the books that Ripley and his colleagues have chosen for the first batch are streets ahead of most current entries in the genre in terms of their clever reinvention of familiar tropes – not to mention the elegance of the prose. But for this writer, it is the reissue of Snake Water (by the much-underrated Alan Williams) that sets the seal on this first batch of titles.  

Alan Williams produced a remarkable series of novels in what might loosely be called the crime/thriller field in the 1960s and 1970s, and their neglect today is utterly puzzling given the sheer range and ambition of Williams’s achievement. Snake Water functions on a variety of levels; as a colourful and violent adventure (with four ill-assorted protagonists chasing a fortune in diamonds in the inferno of a South American jungle), but in its delicious excess (with carnivorous crabs, volcanoes and murderous human nemeses) it almost comes across as a canny parody of the genre -- without ever failing to work on the primary level of delivering an intelligent and authoritative piece of entertainment.


It's to be wished that Alan Williams will now enjoy the kind of enthusiastic renaissance which is his due -- and one can only hope that the Top Notch Thrillers imprint (under the stewardship of Mr Ripley) will be rushing all of Alan Williams thrillers back into print. When’s the next one?

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