Cornell Woolrich

Criminal masterminds. Demented killers. Vengeful brides. The fiction of Cornell Woolrich is rife with the kind of psychological tension audiences have always craved. He has been called the foremost suspense writer of the 20th century and the Edgar Allan Poe of his era. Francis Nevins Jr., author of the biography Cornell Woolrich: First You Dream, Then You Die (1988) rated Woolrich the fourth best crime writer of his day, behind Dashiell Hammett, Erle Stanley Gardner and Raymond Chandler.

Woolrich was a prolific writer, publishing more than two dozen novels and 200 short stories and novellas, in addition to others that remained unpublished at the time of his death in 1968. Woolrich might be most well known for his wildly successful Black Series of suspense thrillers published in the 1940s, including The Bride Wore Black. “It Had to be Murder,” arguably his best short story, was adapted to become the classic Alfred Hitchcock film Rear Window in 1954. Famous French film director François Truffaut directed the French new-wave film La Mariee Etait en Noir based on The Bride Wore Black, which premiered in 1968, the year Woolrich died.

With so many works published by different publishing entities over the decades, rights to his stories were granted left and right and transferred many times over, even after his death, creating a complicated web of rights issues that has taken his estate’s representatives years to clear up. The team at Renaissance Literary & Talent, Alan Nevins, Jacklyn Saferstein-Hansen and Lauren Boone, who represent the various parties that control the Woolrich library, have tracked down and retrieved rights to stories and collections that have been out of print for decades. They have made a major push to reintroduce Woolrich to new audiences with fresh collections that consist of his most well-known as well as his most obscure works of short fiction.

Having published two collections of Woolrich’s short stories and novellas, Literary Noir: A Series of Suspense (2020) and An Obsession with Death and Dying (2018), Renaissance Literary & Talent has announced a three-part collection to be called Women in Noir, though no date information was released with the announcement. “Woolrich produced a surprising number of stories with interesting, strong, competent female leads,” the anthology’s publisher wrote, “some even written from a woman’s first-person point of view. These 22 short stories present some of the most unique and dynamic female characters in the crime and suspense genres.”

We will await further news of the collection just as Woolrich would have liked: in great suspense. ◊

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