Re: RE : RARA-AVIS: Bloch/Woolrich

From: Patrick King (
Date: 12 Feb 2008

I've just read Woolrich's FRIGHT and must say I find it one of the funniest books I've read this year. I keep seeing Preston Marshall as Fatty Arbuckle. The prat falls and double takes of his guilty conscience are a riot. I do understand why Woorich set this in 1915. Telephones were the exception, not the rule and one could still rent an apartment with cash and not have to give references. Today, Preston Marshall would be all over America's Most Wanted and even in 1925 there would have been all-points bulletins out for him in the situation he believed himself. In 1915, news was really local. I thought the character of Marjorie jumped the Shark. Her meek acceptance of every crazy idea her husband had seemed incredible to me. That his obvious paranoia never elicits any questions from her amazed me. But that a Catholic girl would meekly consent to an abortion because her husband doesn't want to be tied down was completely over the top. That wouldn't happen today never mind in 1915. And what about Marshall's family in New Hampshire? They never expect him home for Christmas? Never contact him?

The interesting part of the book is the idea of how a normal person with a weak personality deals with committing a murder by chance. His initial panic, the scene in the room with the corpse and his best man is a riot. The way it prays on his mind I found very interesting to contemplate. I wonder how getting away with murder effects a person who is not psychotic? As we see at the wedding, Marshall was a Roman Catholic. After the death of Wise, we learn, as he watches the stars, that Marshall has become an atheist.

While Woolrich's purple passages and liquid metaphors are a lot to deal with, I found the book engaging and interesting to think about. Preston Marshall is a very unattractive protagonist. He is not charming, he is not intelligent, he is a coward, and a clown. While Frank in THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE, is an unscrupulous character, he's both cunning and masculine. Marshall has not even these traits. The employer, Pond, is an interesting person because of the initial way he dealt with his own crimes, but he's underused in the book. Wise and his wife are great characters, but represent more of Marshall's fear of what they may be, then the people they actually turn out to be. I do feel sorry for Marjorie but her continued stupidity mitigates most of my good feelings. She is in every way better than her husband so why ever did she marry him in the first place?

Patrick King
--- Fabienne soldini <> wrote:

> Hello Juri
> In France, we don't know that Finnish theorie.
> I don't konw the original titles; so iItry to
> ttranslate the French title but it's not necesserary
> the same title, and it creates confusion. For Bloch
> I've read, a long time ago, Psycho and "Chicago
> Butcher" (le boucher de Chicago). I've liked the
> both.
> A Finnish autor I really love is Arto Paasilinna.
> It's very funny with a subtile philosophy of life.
> He's not exactly an author of crime stories, but he
> wrote noir novel. A very funny book which is noir,
> what is translated in French, "une douce
> empoisonneuse". Spoiler: it's about an old women who
> lives quietly in a little house in the forest. One
> day, her nephew and friends of him came to visit her
> to get money. The nephew and his friends are not
> very clever and really lazy. She became afraid and
> decided to leave her house and to go to Helsinky.
> the nephew wants to murder her to get the money,
> but she's poor. She decided to suicide herself by
> poison but with a lot of quiproquo, she doesn't die
> but murders by accident her nephew and his friends.
> it's very funny. And today I buy another book of
> Paasilinna: "hurmaava joukkoitsemurha" translated in
> French as "Little suicides with friends"
> Friendly
> Fabienne
> Juri Nummelin <> a 飲it :
> Fabienne,
> sorry, I misunderstood the title you were talking
> about. (About de Rais:
> there's a Finnish book on him and that writer
> refutes the theories of him
> being a serial killer.)
> As for Bloch, it's been years I read THE DEAD BEAT,
> but remember enjoying
> it. I just liked PSYCHO and THE SCARF better.
> Juri
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