Re: RARA-AVIS: William Irish question

Date: 11 May 2004


Re your question below:

> I've been reading the Tom Nolan biography of Ross
> Macdonald and
> ran across a reference to William Irish, who like
> RM, published
> in the early MANHUNT issues. In the archives, I see
> that
> William Irish was a Cornell Woolrich pseudonym. I
> wondered why.
> Did established crime/mystery fiction writers use
> assumed names
> to publish under in pulps, like MANHUNT?

Actually Woolrich adopted the "Irish" pseudonym for his novel PHANTOM LADY, which was written long after he'd established himself in the pulps as "Woolrich." The story is that his publisher thought that since there was already a Woolrich title, BLACK ALIBI, coming out that same year (1942), it might be better if PHANTOM LADY was released under a pen name so that he wouldn't look too prolific.

Supposedly the editor said, "You could use an ethnic name. Something French or Irish or - . . . "

Woolrich interrupted him at that moment and said,
"That's it. Make it Irish. William Irish."

How much of that story is true and how much apocryphal I have no idea.

Francis M. Nevins's mammoth biography of Woolrich, FIRST YOU DREAM THEN YOU DIE, would probably have the real skinny on why he adopted pen names for certain books and stories and not for others.

Ultimately, in his lifetime, Woolrich published nine novels and six short story collections under his own name, four novels and eleven short story collections as Irish (some of the short stories in those collections might have originally appeared as by Woolrich), and two novels as George Hopley (Woolrich's full name was "Cornell George Hopley-Woolrich").


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