NIGHTWEBS by Cornell Woolrich


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Francis M. Nevins, Jr. has collected just short of twenty stories by the late Cornell Woolrich/William Irish (the Woolrich stories run long so that the volume is close to 500 pages), provided annotations, a full bibliography -- the work of 25 years of assiduous admiration -- and a dull but sound introduction. Younger readers will probably remember only The Bride Wore Black from the film; older ones will never forget Phantom Lady, for example, or the particular qualities of his work: the headlong urgency with its obverse -- slipshod craftsmanship; the death-directed obsession (editor Nevins calls it malignancy -- powers that destroy beyond retribution) which shows off to such good advantage; or the familiar Woolrich nightworld of prowl cars and squad rooms, automats and dance halls, rooming houses and terminals, and pearls and orchids. You'll find Woolrich at his best in ""You'll Never See Me Again"" which reflected his own shortlived marriage (he really devoted his life to his mother; left a million dollar endowment to Columbia in her name after his alcoholically racked last years) -- or at his most unusual in a special kind of horror story ""The Screaming Laugh."" Woolrich once said ""I was only trying to cheat death. To stay in the light, to be with the living a little while past my time."" His stories prove that he has, since they read as well as they did during his prodigiously productive and best years in the '30's and '40's.

Pub Date: July 14th, 1971
Publisher: Harper & Row