Re: RARA-AVIS: Postmodernism/Woolrich

From: Richard Moore (
Date: 24 Sep 2007

--- In, William Ahearn
<williamahearn@...> wrote:
> also an epic story and everybody but the Russians
> believe that if it's going to be depressing, keep it
> short. In all honesty, I read Woolrich differently
> than I read other writers so I completely understand
> where you're coming from. Even so, I think it is one
> of his most ambitious and darkest works and can see
> why others might not think so.
> William
> Essays and Ramblings
> <>

I think you are onto something here. WALTZ INTO DARKNESS seems to have been an attempt by Woolrich to break from the mystery/crime label that attached itself to him from his years of writing for the detective pulps. It was a clear break from his earlier work, as we've discussed in both setting and length. Looking again at the Nevins' introduction to the Ballantine reprint, he says the publisher "...J. P. Lippincott Company published the book early in 1947 under Woolrich's William Irsh byline, the advertising copy ballyhooed it as his first mainstream novel..." which ignores all of his early Scott Fitzgerald novels.

Moreover, the hardcover first edition is branded with "A Story Press Book" or something similar. My copy of the hardcover is probably in the same box with Nevins' biography so I can't check the exact label. But what you said reminded me that Woolrich had placed two or three short stories in Story, a high prestige, low-pay magazine founded by Martha Foley and Whit Burnett. In the 1930s through 1940s it represented Literature with a capital "L". Foley and Burnett also founded The Story Press in 1936 but by the time of WALTZ Foley and Burnett had split and new wife Hallie Southgate Burnett shared editorial duties with Whit.

I have this vague memory of reading a memoir of one of the editors
(Foley I believe) that described a Woolrich visit to Story's offices. In any case, encouragement from The Story Press may have encouraged Woolrich to cast an eye toward the Russians.

Richard Moore

> Boardwalk for $500? In 2007? Ha! Play Monopoly Here and Now (it's
updated for today's economy) at Yahoo! Games.

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