RARA-AVIS: Woolrich as Short Story Writer

From: JIM DOHERTY ( jimdohertyjr@yahoo.com)
Date: 29 Feb 2008

As it's the last day of Woolrich month, I'm wondering how many here have concluded that, as good as many of his novels are, Woolrich's real strength is in the medium of the short story.

Significantly, the only Edgar he'd ever win (in his
"William Irish" persona) was in the short story category. Even more significantly, this was not for any particular short story, but just for general continued excellence as a short story writer.

Arguably, the two best films made from his work, THE WINDOW and READ WINDOW, were both based on short stories.

Speaking for myself, very often his novels don't altogether work. The many unlikely occurences and coincidences, the linchpin of so much of Woolrich's work, become too apparent at book-length. Don't get me wrong. When he's on his game, as in THE BRIDE WORE BLACK or PHANTOM LADY, he's great.

But his short stories are more consistently good. I recommend just about any of his short story collections, but NIGHTWEBS and NIGHT & FEAR are particularly good. NIGHT & FEAR contain what I've been told was Woolrich's personal favorite of his short fiction, "Endicott's Girl." My own personal favorite, "Detective William Brown," is in the same collection.

Curious to find out how other Rare Birds feel about the novel/short story question.


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