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Cornell Woolrich was a haunted man who lived a life of reclusive misery but he was also a uniuely gifted writer who explored the classic noir themes of loneliness despair and futility His stories are masterpieces of psychological suspense and mystery and they have inspired classic movies like Hitchcock's Rear Window and Truffaut's The Bride wore Black This collection brings together twelve of his finest most powerful and disturbing talesContains the stories Graves for the Living The Red Tide The Corpse Next Door You'll Never See Me Again Dusk to Dawn Murder at the Automat Death in the Air Mamie 'n' Me The Screaming Laugh One and a Half Murders Dead on Her Feet One Night in Barcelona The Penny a Worder The Number's Up Too Nice a Day to Die Life is Weird SometimesNB The last four stories are not included in the Crime Masterworks edition

10 thoughts on “Nightwebs

  1. says:

    So I read a few selections from this collection of Woolrich's short fiction sampling from throughout his career starting in the pulps and right up to his later life work for two reasons 1 I was doing some research for a suitable story for an intended Pseudopod episode about Noir Horror hybrids assuming rights can be gained and 2 I also reached Woolrich on my random short stories list that I'm trying to power my way through So I didn't read everything here I would have liked to but the book is 700 odd pages and I have a lot of reading on my plate at the moment but I did read some stories from my list and a few that sounded exceptionally good from the introduction And then back to Inter Library Loan it goesOf what I readGraves For The Living a full bore pulp horror crime story in which a man with a morbid obsession with premature burial how Poe runs afoul of the Friends Of Death a secret society that offers members eternal life or at least resurrection from natural death in return for loyalty and financial remuneration but if you break the rules you get buried alive just his luck This has a great dramatic cut to the chase opening even if it then necessitates a rather unlikely extended flashback given the dire circumstances written in a suspenseful pulpy style that just clips along what could be pulp than a secret society that's infiltrated the nation and meets in a seemingly abandoned country mansion where they maintain their own private graveyard and perform initiation rituals in black robes and skull masks?? They're practically begging to have The Spider burst through the doors and gun them down while cackling insanely As usual with a secret society story paranoia is all embracing they're everywhere and know everything which gives us a superb moment mid story involving a crowded train station and a telephone booth and presaging later Woolrich there's a hideous moment of implied police torture of an informer purely to save someone's life you understand The story rattles along with such punchy writing that you can kind of forgive the formulaic ending it's a truism that vast conspiracies are easier to dispose of convincingly in novels rather than short stories where the uick dismantling draws the reader's attention to the literary sleight of hand the author pulled in the first place A fun readThe Corpse Next Door the first of two standard Woolrich models here the man who impulsively commits murder and then tries and fails to cover it up while guilt eats away at him In this instance a late night fight over a stolen bottle of milk is the instigating moment that leads to an angry man's breakdown and eventually another killing Nice sketch of rising paranoia and guilt along with Depression era housing situations coming soon to a economically car crashed post W country near youDusk To Dawn Basic Woolrich plot #2 An innocent man is suspected of a murder he didn't commit and the chase escalates matters horribly Here a poverty stricken young man as might be expected The Great Depression and poverty figure large in Woolrich's fiction makes the desperate decision to pick a man's pocket in a movie theater only to find his mark is dead Nobody does spiral into nightmare scenarios as good as Woolrich and here things take an unexpected and morally ambivalent turn as acts of crime and violence keep escalating exponentially until a surprisingly uiet finale that deflates the bubble of aggression with a pinprick of knowledge Well done this features a great rooftop fight scene btwThe Penny A Worder is a non crime story in an O Henry mode including an ironic surprise ending a structure Woolrich uses here to sketch his personal knowledge of the realities of writing fiction for pulp magazines under strict deadlines as an up and coming wordsmith must craft a story overnight tailored to fit a lurid cover painting There's some very well observed details here on the mechanics of writing and the flow of imaginationThe Number's Up is an excellent story and my favorite of what I read a brutal tale of Mob violence directed at a young couple it has a particularly cold and cynical view of the world as events keep progressing beyond the point where hope dies And then a little fillip at the end to drive home the point of a cold random universe Great stuffLife Is Weird Sometimes is actually the opening chapter of Woolrich's unpublished later novel THE LOSER but stands alone as an interesting character study of a man who opens the tale having just committed murder and then follows him to his eventual night in jail on completely different charges Very engagingCornell Woolrich is another author model I wish modern fiction writers would rediscover especially those who profess a disdain for the literary approach and knowingly plant their flag on pulp turf he might help such amateurs realize that pulp is not an excuse for sloppiness in fact just the opposite and noir is not about regurgitating hackneyed phrases and nostalgic settings and half baked cynical worldviews so much as it's about generating a palpable sense of a world in which morality has been upended and all the lies stripped off the pasteboard faiths and promises sold to us by the morally bankrupt preceding generations hold on tight it's coming round the bend again leaving us with what? Ahh there's the uestion And in the midst of telling stories in this world the competent writer should also make time for a poetic if barbed turn of phrase or psychological character sketch assuming he's really got the chops to walk it like he talks itExcellent stuff and I still have some Woolrich to hunt down in other anthologies

  2. says:

    NYCs elevated trains in the '30s cheap bars honky tonkclubs furnished rooms the flash of neon signs and aromaof cigarette smoke w crummy booze Woolrich Maybe saltsprays in Atlantic City or looming suburban shadows Woolrich a writer of sadism paranoia He grips evenw implausiblity; he chokes you with suspenseWoolrich deletes the always boring to me detectiveHis peops are lonelies the devastated on their ownSome are killers No one usually has any money butgood or bad they're coping with neuroses and the painof living Woolrich himself having sold storiesand novels to the movies than anyone endured extrememental pain and alcoholism Time critic Richard Corlisscalls him the godfather of film noirHis brief marriage was a sham and shamed he moved backin with Mum; they lived on and on in NYC hotels She hadno idea what he was up to when he wasn't at his typewriterHis works have been adapted x Hitchcock Truffaut FassbinderPlus B dirs you never heard of Woolrich was a man trappedand this ghastliness of the unspoken is what he capturesHe can leave you paralyzed in a nightmare that becomesthe American Scream

  3. says:

    In his lengthy introduction Woolrich's biographer Francis Nevins uses about the writer's work the term Functional Illogic This is cool but I'm still puzzling it out I myself call it Dreamlike logic Is this what he means?This book is a collection of long stories such as Graves for the Living in which the cult Friends of Death mills about in evening clothes and 3D skull masks and Dusk to Dawn not the only story where the mere assumption of guilt leads the hero on a kill crazy rampage You'll Never See Me Again is gripping

  4. says:

    Woolrich was insanely prolific especially for such a supposedly fragile alcoholic By the time I found this book in my store I thought I'd read most of his short stories but almost all of these were new to me and great late night fun Like Highsmith he's not the tightest plot spinner but the psychologicalemotional pull of his writing is brutally good At the end of this is a little hidden gem a chapter from the final novel he was working on The Loner Definitely seemed like strong work plowing new fields too bad he couldn't have hung on longer with gasping liver and wall rattling nightmares

  5. says:

    I could not put this book down his stories varied from amusing twists to truly horrifying visions of criminal minds A shame he isn't read widely these days

  6. says:

    I love Woolrich's seedy array of loners and oddball characters He's almost always interesting I say 'almost always' as some stories can seem a bit unfocussed and for me fail to grab the attention eg Mamie 'n' Me and One And A Half Murders I would recommend another collection to first timers Night And Fear in which the hit rate is higher than this collection Still probably half of these are pretty good Graves For The Living The Corpse Next Door You'll Never See Me Again The Screaming Laugh and the carefully constructed and atmospheric One Night In Barcelona I also liked much of Dusk To Dawn particularly the typically bizarre Woolrich scenario of a pickpocket in a dark cinema getting his sleeve caught in the jacket of the man he's trying to rob it's just a pity that the story then goes on to suffer from one of Woolrich's shortcomings which I can usually accept namely a lack of logicbelievability as this minor criminal all of a sudden enters a different bloodthirsty leagueWorth a read but I'd go for the commonly available Night And Fear collection first

  7. says:

    Cornell Woolrich was the poet laureate of noir His career as a pulp writer spanned the ‘30s and ‘40s His output was large and distinguished by many successful screen adaptations Yet Woolrich is little known outside of crime novel aficionados Perhaps it is because of the intense darkness he found beneath the sunlit worldhttpfireandswordblogspotcom2007

  8. says:

    Read so farGraves for the living The red tide The corpse next door You'll never see me again Dusk to dawn Murder at the automat 2Death in the air 2Mamie 'n' me The screaming laugh One and a half murders Dead on her feet One night in Barcelona The penny a worder 2The number's up Too nice a day to die Life is weird sometimes

  9. says:

    We read 'Graves for the Living' for last month's book club It was the creepiest thing I've ever read At around 50 pages the is the perfect read aloud for Halloween night This story is said to be the second scariest ghost storybut I think it's better that number one 'The Monkey's Paw'

  10. says:

    Excelent collection of crime and suspense stories