RARA-AVIS: Re: Woolrich as Short Story Writer

From: Richard Moore ( moorich@aol.com)
Date: 02 Mar 2008

--- In rara-avis-l@yahoogroups.com, JIM DOHERTY <jimdohertyjr@...> wrote:
> However, a minor correction, the First Novel Edgar
> (the only category that goes all the way back to the
> first Edgar ceremony, that's been given every single
> year since that first ceremony, and survives to this
> day pretty much unaltered), was not the only category
> for which Edgars were awarded in 1946.
> There was also an award for best screenplay, which was
> won by John Paxton for MURDER, MY SWEET (with THE
> HOUSE ON 92ND STREET as a runner-up), and one for Best
> Radio Series (IIRC, that first year it was a tie
> between ELLERY QUEEN and MR. AND MRS. NORTH, though
> SUSPENSE and, to a lesser degree, DRAGNET, would come
> to dominate this category in later years).

Thanks for the correction, Jim. I am away from home and all my references and when I checked online, the MWA has a searchable database but I didn't see how to get a comprehensive listing of Edgars by year. So I went to another website but now realize it only included the fiction categories.

> Getting back to Woolrich, the quality of his few later
> novels kind of proves my point, because during this
> period, Woolrich was still turning out first-rate
> short fiction. He'd win a cash award from EQMM for
> "One Drop of Blood," for example, a masterful inverted
> detective story.
No, I don't agree at all that this proves your point. We are talking about his lifetime career, not the relative quality of long vs. short for a given time period. I agree he wrote some excellent short stories late in his career including the one you mention as well as one I cited awhile back that was published in the year of his death in 1968.

One of the ways writing a novel is different from writing a short story is that it requires sustained concentration over much longer period of time. Given the distress of his mother's illness and then death, followed by his increasing drinking problem and deeping depression, I doubt he was capable of doing more than he did--turning out a few good short stories, dusting off some old pulp stories and selling them to editors as new novels or short stories. He did the later repeatedly as he conned his way along in his final years. But his final years cannot, I don't believe, be used as a judgement for his career anymore than I could pick out the 1940s when he had his best years as a novelist. You may be right but let's look at the whole career.

Richard Moore

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 02 Mar 2008 EST