Re: RARA-AVIS: Get out your Woolriches!

From: Richard Moore (
Date: 01 Feb 2008

My apologies for the delay in responding as I had an unexpected trip come up and have been offline for most of the last three days.

I will list several novels and stores by Woolrich which are good examples of his work based upon my own reading and supplemented by the opinions of the leading Woolrich scholar Francis M. Nevins, Jr.

Woolrich loved variations on the "race against the clock" motiff and if he didn't invent it, he certainly was a leading practioner. It added nicely to the suspense and suited his, at times, near feverish prose style and headlong pace.

Examples of this include PHANTOM LADY (1942) where the chapter headings are "The One Hundred and Fiftieth Day Before the Execution" and progress to "The Day of the Execution" and then "The Hour of the Execution." From the moment of seeing the first chapter heading, the reader is plunged into the story. Another example is DEADLINE AT DAWN (1944)with the chapter headings a clock face showing time ticking away. Both were originally published under the William Irish name but often reprinted by Woolrich. There is a three-in-one book club edition that is very common published under the Irish name that has both these novels as well as the short story collection AFTER DINNER STORY (1944) which was my own introduction to Irish/Woolrich. One short story of note featuring this motif is "Three O'Clock" which Alfred Hitchcock adapted for a television production starring E. G. Marshall under the title "One Hour".

Under the Woolrich name, he published a series of novels with "Black" in the title. The best known is THE BRIDE WORE BLACK (1940), which Truffaut filmed in 1968. This features another favorite Woolrich theme, that of an innocent person plunged into a nightmare situation by the cruel universe. He later reworked some of the same plot elements in Bride in RENDEZVOUS IN BLACK (1948) which is my own personal favorite. All of the "Black" novels (BLACK ALIBI (1942), THE BLACK ANGEL (1943), etc. have their fans.

Other novels include I MARRIED A DEAD MAN (1948), which was filmed twice, and THE NIGHT HAS A THOUSAND EYES (1945), which was first published under the name George Hopley. I have yet to read EYES but am starting it now as my own reading assignment. Oddly, the paperback edition I have is under the Irish name. William Irish was for many years better known and regarded than Woolrich.

As you can see from the books I've listed, the decade of the 1940s was Woolrich's prime period as a novelist. His later novels I find very flawed. However, he did write some excellent short stories in the 1950s and 1960s.

Richard Moore
--- In, "Lawrence Coates" <coatesl@...> wrote:
> Could Richard Moore give a list of three to five essential
Woolriches for us neophytes?
> Having lurked here for awhile, I know this might turn into a
discussion over which three to
> five. But just a few titles, that would give me an idea of where
to start, would be great.
> Lawrence
> ---------Included Message----------
> >Date: 29-Jan-2008 16:53:25 -0500
> >From: "jacquesdebierue" <jacquesdebierue@...>
> >Reply-To: <>
> >To: <>
> >Subject: RARA-AVIS: Get out your Woolriches!
> >
> >On February 1 we start Cornell Woolrich Month, which I expect to
> >on some good commentary. Richard Moore has agreed to be master of
> >ceremonies and I will help him with that task.
> >
> >The availability of Woolriches at any given time is unpredictable,
> >a fair chunk of his stuff is available used.
> >
> >Best,
> >
> >mrt
> >
> >
> >
> ---------End of Included Message----------
> Lawrence Coates
> Associate Professor of Creative Writing
> Bowling Green State University

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 01 Feb 2008 EST