Re: RARA-AVIS: I MARRIED A DEAD MAN, by Woolrich 1948

From: Rene Ribic (
Date: 10 Dec 2002

> Bill Crider wrote:
> I'm not a particular fan of Woolrich, but I thought that I
> MARRIED A DEAD MAN was the weakest of the books of his that
> I've read.
> ***********************
> As you could probably tell from what I wrote, I didn't much
> care for him either, but I've got a copy of RENDEVOUS IN
> BLACK, and I've read where somebody recommended it here on
> rara-avis, so I might give it a try some time in the future.
> miker

Woolrich was a very uneven writer, given to the kind of purple prose that most fans of hardboiled prefer to avoid (which is why we read hardboiled in the first place) and is definitely an "acquired taste", in my opinion. I suspect, miker, that some of his short stories might be a better bet to sample Woolrich's style. I haven't read DEAD MAN but in novels, the consensus seems to be his "Black" series of novels is his best (which includes RENDEZVOUS) & I personally enjoyed, from memory, PHANTOM LADY, THE BRIDE WORE BLACK & WALTZ INTO DARKNESS, although I did read them many years ago. I really liked some of his short stories, one in particular was a WWII-spy story riff on "Madame Butterfly" whose title I've forgotten but I thought it showed Woolrich at his corniest and best. Woolrich also was the author who had the most films noirs made from his books & stories, including NO MAN OF HER OWN, starring Barbara Stanwyck
& based on I MARRIED A DEAD MAN (and remade in recent years as an innocuous comedy). Whatever the book is like, the film is nice little noir, from memory. Other Woolrich adaptations: PHANTOM LADY, REAR WINDOW, THE WINDOW, THE LEOPARD MAN. Nearly 20 films were made during the noir period from his stuff. In sum, I guess Woolrich is a minority taste, these days although not during his heyday, but an enormously influential, especially in film noir, author. I think he's worth persevering with a little more, if just for the reason of his historical importance although IMO there is some stuff worth reading there just for the fun of it.


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