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Cornell Woolrich published his first novel in 1926 and for four decades his fiction riveted the reading public with mystery suspense and horror America's most popular pulps Dime Detective Black Mask and Detective Fiction Weekly published hundreds of his stories Classic films like Hitchcock's Rear Window Truffaut's The Bride Wore Black and Mississippi Mermaid Tournier's Black Alibi and Siodmak's Phantom Lady as well as dozens of other movies were based on his work Novels like Deadline at Dawn Rendezvous in Black and Night Has a Thousand Eyes have won him the epithet father of noir Every one of the countless many who have read and loved the work of Cornell Woolrich will welcome and applaud this publication of a new collection of tales the first in nearly two decades by the greatest writer of suspense fiction in the twentieth century Woolrich lived a life of such deep despair and utter terror that he could do little except put those fears onto the printed page In the masterfully wrought suspense of this volume's twenty stories readers can enjoy works written at the height of Woolrich's powers as well as many never before published in book form before now


10 thoughts on “Night and Fear A Centenary Collection of Stories by Cornell Woolrich Otto Penzler Book

  1. says:

    Phenomenal To me I shouldn't have read it as fast as I did Woolrich is best in his pulp stories; his novels can be uneven


  2. says:

    I read three stories in this Woolrich collection so my rating only holds in relation to those threeTwo of the three stories I read here can be seen as interesting flips sides of the same coin Woolrich's specific statements on the police and the concept of justiceFirst up is the excellent Detective William Brown an extended character study of two childhood friends who become policemen The shorthand would be Goofus and Gallant Become Cops but Gallant average Joe Greely ends up the plodding by the book type of officer who does the job right and so never advances while Goofus the titular character who passed all his classes by cheating on tests and plagiarized his graduation speech ends up the popular media friendly police officer advanced up to Detective when he seems capable of solving any case even if he has to frame an innocent man and shoot him while the mark is trying to escape Brown is a driven manipulative sharpie who knows how to game the system but he also holds his own form of courage interestingly even though he has no compunction of rolling over anyone who gets in his way or finds out about his indiscretions even an old friend What's notable about this story aside from its reinforcement of the central cynical Woolrich view of a system in which cheater's prosper and policemen who treat their job as a racket make advancement is that Woolrich's cops are not cardboard cartoons existing to make his point but are a full range of human beings with all their flaws and beliefs A totally ruthless but honest portrayal of police corruption at the time and the problems inherent in a system where flawed humans are given greater power over their euals Great stuff even if the ending is a mite bit trite there's a funny historical detail in this and a number of other Woolrich's stories the need to note that an elevator is automatic and unmanned marking that transition point between elevator operators and their phasing outOn the flip side this coin is Three Kills For One in which an innocent man is mistakenly put to death for the murder of police officer only for the truth to the emerge at which point the police make a politically expedient decision to let the real killer go to avoid a scandal a decision that one detective finds unpalatable So he resigns from the force and dedicates years of his life to hounding the killer stalking him and appearing everywhere he does even following him as he flees cross country The story moves out of the sphere of commitment to abstract ideals and into a much uneasy realm as the tale progresses as the detective even stops the killer from committing suicide Nevins likes it a bit than I do I can see the appeal and its well done but it also feels kind of like on of those stories that Woolrich wrote and discovered the correct telling was hampered by the short story length but unlike Speak To Me Of Death's transformation into Night Has a Thousand Eyes or Street Of Jungle Death's transformation into Black Alibi this story would not have made a very satisfying novel what with its nearly mundane if completely appropriate climax You can see where the story needs to gloss over the important passage of time that reconfigures the relationship between the two men into something almost like friendship but this still feels like a gloss telling us and not showing us the gradual change And yet if it had spent the time and shown it to us the ending as given even with it's interesting reveal of the real focus of the detective's zeal for justice and how simple people slip through the cracks in a world based on broad ideals would probably not have felt worth the length of the trip Should have been a novella or a novel version would have had to introduce another character to the dynamic but still a good readAnd finally there is New York Blues which Nevins considers the best of late period Woolrich and I'd have to agree it's compelling it condenses a number of Woolrich themes into a simple but heartfelt tale and its got an ending as dark and bleak as For The Rest Of Her Life It's a slow motion gut punch of a tale as a nameless man waits in a hotel room knowing he has done something terrible which he can't remember exactly and knowing that punishment will be enacted can only be enacted It's a both an exemplary example of and yet also a strange inversion of Woolrich's ticking clock scenarios our main character considers his situation hopeless and so he slowly divests himself of memories and money and friends even as the expected visitors arrive and attempt to affect entrance even as a desperate escape is tried and fails even as time begins to dilate down and down stretching out and out until the awful inevitable climax and the killer last line that sums it all up and makes you uestion what you've been reading from the start events or memories of events? It's just an incredible story


  3. says:

    I have been rationing myself to one story a day and on some days I have managed to limit myself to half a story Can't read any faster because I have not much Cornell Woolrich left to read He is mostly out of print This is a collection of short stories just in case you don't know There are fourteen of them all clever in some way or another My favourites are You bet your life two men bet that there is a murderer in all of us The case of the killer diller murder hinges on Ravel's Bolero and Through a dead man's eye a boy wants to solve a murder to ensure dad's promotion but I liked them all I think that Cornell Woolrich must have been a brilliant man and I just love his flights of fancy the way he tells his stories Just consider that he may make a story centre on a broken button on a man's cuff a thread that snags on it and this triggers the following events Just brilliantI only wish that Cornell Woolrich's name were better known If I have a complaint it is about the size and shape of the book It is awkward to hold And I like holding books


  4. says:

    At least half of these 14 stories are very good and 4 are fine Overall this collection is well worth a read if you like pulpy noir short stories these are among some of the best I've read The final story New York Blues is my favourite about a man who locks himself away in a hotel room and awaits the arrival of the police Woolrich's plots can be bizarre but the bucket loads of atmosphere and often oddball cast as well as the pace of the stories pull you along Cigarette a nobody wants to befriend a gangster and is entrusted with murder The Heavy Sugar why is a man playing with the sugar bowls in a café? You Bet Your Life a man makes a bet that he can get a random person off the street to commit a murder Through A Dead Man's Eye a young boy is disappointed at his cop father's demotion and decides to help Double Feature an off duty cop sees a 'Most Wanted' sitting in the cinema and Death In The Yoshiwara a man is murdered in a Tokyo house of pleasure are my other favourites hereCan't get enough of this writer He was certainly a one of a kindThe fine intro and afterword after each story by Francis MNevins also add to this recommendation


  5. says:

    Cornell Woolrich writes better novels than short stories Even “Rear Window” needed Hitchcock’s touch to make it come alive The stories in this comp aren’t particularly terrible they just didn’t make a big impression on me In fact I just finished the book and can’t remember a single story in it It seems like Woolrich kept his A list material for his novels


  6. says:

    Some of the best short pulp noire fiction I have ever read Cornell Woolrich plays with your emotions like a well tuned instrument I feel like being tortured on the rack would be less tense than some of his stories I highly recommend this book


  7. says:

    Ever since I read his novel I Married a Dead Man in the Library of America collection Crime Novels American Noir of the 1930s and 40s I’ve been in love with Cornell Woolrich Often called the “father of noir” which is a bit strange as he didn’t originate the genre Woolrich was uite possibly its best little known any writer of atmospherics His plots aren’t always 100% credible though this is a feature of noir and not a bug Even Chandler once remarked he wasn’t sure who killed a character in his first novel The Big SleepAnyway what atmospherics Woolrich has an undeniable gift for the race against the clock mechanisms and some of his strongest writings are stories that focus on just this aspect of the plot “Three O’Clock” from another collection may be just about the most suspenseful story written It should rank up there among the best short stories His most famous story “Rear Window” the basis for the Hitchcock film is partly that kind of story We get the set up and the patient stalking of the murderer but the narrative really kicks into high gear once the killer is on to our hero’s detective workThe collection under consideration doesn’t contain any familiar Woolrich stories the book made up of previously uncollected work drawn from the author’s long association with the pulps Rather remarkably we end with “New York Blues” uite possibly the last story ever finished by Woolrich previously published in Ellery ueen’s Mystery Magazine in 1970 It’s classic Woolrich A taut thriller about a man holed up in a hotel room waiting for someone to come and get him for a murder We don’t realize until uite late in the story that it’s the police so palpable and threatening are these pursuers made out to be One suspects a mob hit only to be thrown by the later developments and the twist near the endAh the twist While some authors overuse such a device see O Henry for the embodiment of this trait Woolrich sometimes delivers on this and sometimes doesn’t His irregular track record here keeps us on our toes Then when he does deliver the twist it’s hard to predict what it’ll be or how it will shake things out The final twist in “New York Blues” is so unreal that I almost suspected it was a hallucinationBecause so many of these stories do delve into a panicky fear induced almost visionary uality Characters read bad news on plate glass window fronts and in whistles out in the street Eyes are everywhere watching them ears pressed to cheap hotel walls The paranoiac style is dialed up to eleven but the truism “just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you” is never true than in a Woolrich specialA few of the stories are ambitious clunkers I actually balked on recommending the book to a friend after about four or five stories in due to these Let me formally revoke the dis recommnendation While the opening story “Cigarette” is a breathless race against time to track down a poisoned smoke and its follow up “Double Feature” wrings the tension out of a cold blooded killer sitting next to a detective’s girlfriend at the theater the book moves on to “Blue is for Bravery” and “Death in the Yoshiwara”These two disappointing numbers star upstanding heroes and suffer for it It was on the weakness of these two stories specifically that made me worry for my reputation after I’d recommended the collection Not just weak stories the plots are ridiculous confections of sock o action antics driven by superhuman protagonists who ultimately save the day and get the girl It’s all so rote and commonplace that I worried for the rest of the collection More clunkers like this and I’d start to wonder if my Woolrich love was misplacedRedemption came in a nasty little piece called “You Bet Your Life” A compulsive gambler named Fredericks taunts the narrator’s friend Trainor into taking an odd bet The gambler insists that any man can be goaded into murder given the right opportunity He and Trainor then lay out a thousand bucks a piece on this philosophical speculation Taking another thousand dollar bill Fredericks cuts it in half slips one half to one man chosen by Trainor from among a crowd and one half to another A letter is then sent to each man telling him where he can get the other half of his bill It’s a neat trick and one week is given to see it to its fruition Showcasing both Woolrich’s bleak side one suspects he would have sided with Fredericks in this bet and his flair for the countdown tale “You Bet Your Life” is a life saver for the collectionA couple less than perfect stories mixed in with some real humdingers like “Through the Eye of a Dead Man” with its child narrator round out the collection By the book’s end I was won over completely though I fervently pray that someday someone will put together a real collection of greatest hits Woolrich was immensely prolific as most good pulp authors were though his name recognition is slight outside of noir aficionados His contributions to the field of suspense and crime writing were immense even if they weren’t distilled down into a handy single character a la Sherlock Holmes or Miss Marple A thick volume showcasing his short story prowess with an accompanying collection of his novels most are fairly short affairs much in the way Library of America did for Hammett and Chandler would go a long way to putting this situation to rightsRecognized in his lifetime in ways that he wouldn’t be in death and oddly enough vice versa Cornell Woolrich is an under appreciated genius of shadows and pulse uickeners Night Fear may not be the ideal collection but it is a decent start for anyone looking for satisfying thrilling reads


  8. says:

    Excellent compilation and one of the better anthologies of Woolrich's work as it shows his work at both its pulpiest Double Feature Death in the Yoshiwara etc and his mostly finely crafted stories New York Blues Three Kills for One etc All of these stories originally appeared in pulp magazines which of course doesn't mean that de facto they are garbage An anthology of the finest pulp writing from Woolrich's era would stand up favorably with the finest work done in any era including today Francis M Nevins provides an introduction and a critical afterword for each story Nevins is the ultimate Woolrich fan and at times he is too gushing for my taste but generally his comments collectively provide a useful critical analysis of this fine writer's work


  9. says:

    Reading this collection brings you back to the days when women were dames wives sweethearts or trouble; and Miranda was a singer with fruit salad on her head This is not a book for the woke or those who are offended by police brutality or ethnic stereotypesBut if you know who Alan Ladd is and can uote large sections of THE MALTESE FALCON then you will be at home in this collection Reading it and you want to have a scotch on the rocks a cigarette in your hand and a snub nose38 in your shoulder holster


  10. says:

    He's been called the Edgar Allan Poe of the 20th century the father of noir fiction the Hitchcock of the written word and our poet of the shadows It's uite possible film noir screenplays were adapted from his works than any other crime novelist including films by Hitchcock Truffaut and Fassbinder with many stories also adapted during the 1940s for radioYet when the centennial of his birth rolled around in 2003 few of his works were available in stores in or print and the date passed with mostly a collective yawnCornell George Hopley Woolrich who also wrote under the pseudonyms William Irish and George Hopley was an eccentric alcoholic and a diabetic who had a leg amputated due to an infection from a too tight shoe He was both shy and arrogant but primarily a loner who was said to have so few friends he rarely put dedications on his novels and when he did they were to things like his Remington Portable typewriter and a hotel room he hated He was a conflicted homosexual who married briefly as a joke and ended up living with his mother in a rat infested Harlem tenement with pimps prostitutes and criminals even though they could have afforded better upon his death he left a beuest of one million dollars to Columbia University to fund a scholarship for young writersHe started out writing romantic fiction imitating F Scott Fitzgerald but turned to pulp fiction in 1934 and wrote for magazines like Black Mask Detective Fiction Weekly and Dime Detective His golden period came between the years of 1934 to 1948 although he continued to write off and on until his death in 1968 Both his earlier and many of his later works weren't on the same level as the middle output although he wrote several good later stories for EMM Even Francis M Nevins Woolrich's literary executor who wrote a critical biography and edited three of the Woolrich short story collections admitted that purely on its merits as prose it's dreadfulYet those middle works included tales like the story Rear Window which later became a famous Alfred Hitchcock movie In the introduction to the Woolrich story collection Night and Fear Nevins talks about Woolrich's first crime story Death Sits in the Dentist's Chair which paints a vivid picture of New York City during the Depression a bizarre murder method cynanide in a temporary filing and a race against the clock to save the poisoned protagonist elements that would become Woolrich hallmarks Nevins writes in his tales of 1934 39 Woolrich created almost from scratch the builidng blocks of the literature we have come to call noirThe 14 stories in Night and Fear published by Otto Penzler in 2004 contain all the elements that came to be associated with Woolrich including the intense feverish irrational nature of his world and plots often filled with outlandish contrivances and coincidences But Nevins concludes that in his most powerful work these are not gaffes but functional elements and that Woolrich believed an incomprehensible universe is best reflected in an incomprehensible story Thus Woolrich's oft uoted aphorism First you dream then you dieIn Night and Fear you'll find stories like Endicott's Girl which Woolrich once listed as his personal favorite about a cop who begins to suspect his beloved teenage daughter is a murderer and covers up the evidence; Cigarette where a poison cigarette is passed from person to person; and New York Blues which is probably Woolrich's final story involving the claustrophobic imaginings of a lonely man as he waits for the police in his secluded hotel room for a crime he's not sure he even committedIt's a woman's scarf; that much I know about it And that's about all But whose? Hers? And how did I come by it? How did it get into the side pocket of my jacket dangling on the outside when I came in here early Wednesday morning in some sort of traumatic daze looking for room walls to hide inside of as if they were a folding screenIt's flimsy stuff but it has a great tensile strength when pulled against its grain The strength of the garrote It's tinted in pastel colors that blend graduate into one another all except one it goes from a flamingo pink to a peach tone and then to a still paler flesh tint—and then suddenly an angry jagged splash of blood colors comes in not even like the otherThe blood isn't red any It's rusty brown now But it's still blood all the same Ten years from now twenty it'll still be blood; faded out vanished the pollen of the dust of blood What was one once warm and moving And made blushes and rushed with anger and paled with fear Like that night—Fortunately you can find Woolrich works available these days including re releases of some of his novels and short stories by Hard Case Crime Pegasus Books Random House and others Almost any one of his stories would make for fine Halloween fare as you find yourself sucked down into the nihilistic noir world that Woolrich created