23 February 2008

My favorite Cornell Woolrich stories

After I revised my file that lists all the Cornell Woolrich stories that I have in my collection, I picked out my favorites in no particular order. I’ve used each story’s most popular title if it has appeared under more than one, listing the original title in parentheses. (For consistency, in my files I alphabetize each story by its original publication title, even if the reprint is far more famous. So “Rear Window” is “It Had to Be Murder.” This is confusing for everyday readers, but this file is for personal purposes.)

1. Three O’Clock
2. Momentum (Murder Always Gathers Momentum)
3. Wardrobe Trunk (The Dilemma of the Dead Lady)
4. Somebody on the Phone
5. The Night Reveals
6. Endicott’s Girl
7. New York Blues
8. For the Rest of Her Life
9. After-Dinner Story
10. Death Escapes the Eye
11. Goodbye, New York
12. The Light in the Window
13. Men Must Die (Guillotine)
14. Mind over Murder
15. Dead on Her Feet

I read “Wardrode Trunk”/“The Dilemma of the Dead Lady” last night for the first time, and it automatically shot into my favorites. This is one of Woolrich’s classics where he forces us to watch a criminal desperately try to avoid capture, turning the screws tighter and tighter. In this case, a con-man/crook accidentally murders his mark when she confronts him about his stealing. He then has to get out of the country (France) with her body packed in his wardrobe trunk. As usual with Woolrich, he had hold of me from the beginning until the bitter and ironic finale. You can find the story in the enormous anthology of pulp detective classics, The Black Lizard Big Book of Pulps edited by Otto Penzler. (The whole book is loaded with great noir stories from the classic era, and at a thousand pages and a few months of good reading, it’s a steal at $25.)