The world of Cornell Woolrich is dark. No, darker than that. The kind of dark that sinks into your guts and creeps up to your brain, filling you with an awful, smothering dread.
The fifteen stories collected here describe paranoia and madness, doomed criminals and ordinary men caught in desperate situations, usually of their own making. They are page-turners of the best kind, so loaded with white-knuckle suspense and yawning despair that I frequently caught myself pausing mid-scene, muttering “no no no, don’t do THAT!,” almost afraid to move on to the next paragraph, yet utterly compelled to do so.
These are not realistic stories. They hinge on coincidence and irrationality, or 90-degree turns from normalcy. They tell of a capricious world ruled by a cruel, taunting fate. You may be an ordinary, law-abiding citizen today, Woolrich warns, but you could be a dangerous, deranged killer by morning.
Not all of the stories are brilliant, but the many gems far outweigh the two or three middling ones. A few of them became more famous in later versions: “Speak to Me of Death” was expanded into the novel Night Has a Thousand Eyes and “It Had to Be Murder” is the source of the Hitchcock masterpiece “Rear Window.” The Centipede Press paperback edition is beautifully designed and subtly sequenced, with a creepy cover, high-quality paper, and a durable, sewn binding. It’s a terrific collection inside and out.
Dead on Her Feet
Dusk to Dawn
Rear Window (a.k.a. “It Had to be Murder”)
Murder in Wax
Post-Mortem (a.k.a. “Death Wins the Sweepstakes”)
Speak to Me of Death (basis of “Night Has a Thousand Eyes”)
The Corpse and the Kid
The Death of Me
The Living Lie Down with the Dead
The Night Reveals
Wardrobe Trunk (a.k.a “Dilemma of the Dead Lady”)
Finger of Doom (a.k.a. “I Won’t Take a Minute”/”I’ll Just Be a Minute”)
The Corpse Next Door