Cornell Woolrich

Cornell Woolrich (1903-1968)

Cornell Woolrich was born in 1903. He began writing fiction at Columbia University in the late 1920's. His early works are not yet noir (the genre had not yet really emerged) but rather were in the F. Scott Fitzgerald / Romantic Egoist tradition. When the Depression caused him to lose his markets, he turned to the pulp magazines to survive, changing his style to one of dark, brooding suspense. During the 1930's and 40's Woolrich was, along with Raymond Chandler, James M. Cain and Dashiell Hammett, one of the creators of the roman noir genre. Sadly, Woolrich died an alcoholic recluse in 1969.

Woolrich's work was adapted into numerous motion pictures, the best being Robert Siodmak's Phantom Lady (1944) and Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window (1954).

Woolrich's writing is wonderfully descriptive. His stories are suspenseful and surprising. I Married a Dead Man (written under the name "William Irish" and recently re-released as part of Penguin's Crime Fiction series) is a great place to start reading Woolrich. Here's an excerpt from the beginning:

Michael Grost, on his Mystery and Detection Home Page recommends Francis M. Nevins' First You Dream, Then You Die as "an enormous, in depth biography and critical study on Woolrich and his work. It is a very detailed look at Woolrich's world." Grost also notes that Nevins edited the best of all Woolrich collections, Nightwebs, which contains important essays and bibliographies, as well as Woolrich's autobiographical story, The Penny-a-Worder (1958), which is a gentle self portrait of a pulp writer.

Cornell Woolrich's Early period
The Black series of novels.
Writing as "William Irish"
Writing as "George Hopley"
See also the Woolrich page at Cornell Woolrich, Father of Noir Fiction.

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