Welcome to A Shadow in the Dark, a project dedicated to the life and work of hardboiled author Cornell Woolrich, produced as part of the Mystery Fiction class at the University of California at Berkeley. Their website contains a plethora of reviews, projects, and resources.
Most people are familiar with Woolrich’s work, even if they have never read a single page of his prose. They know Hitchcock’s Rear Window or remember the steamy Original Sin starring Angelina Jolie and Antonio Banderas. They remember the film noir classics that his work inspired, or were fans of the various anthology series that showcased Woolrich’s work, including Suspense, The Boris Karloff Mystery Playhouse, or Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Woolrich’s dark imagination continued to influence Hollywood decades after his death.
His writing, however, can be harder to find. Most of his work has gone out-of-print. While his peers such as Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, and James M. Cain went on to become household names, Woolrich, arguably the darkest of them all, stayed in the shadows. Those shadows continue to darken with every passing year, as out-of-print editions of his work become scarce.
In my early studies of Victorian Gothic literature, one of my professors mentioned that literally hundreds of Gothic texts from that era were endangered. The paper they were printed on was deteriorating. Many were never reprinted. As time passed, the opportunity to study these forgotten writers literally crumbled in forgotten corners of libraries.
That legacy can only be saved by interest. Interest can only be driven by research. One of our duties as literary scholars is to preserve the literary legacy of great artists of the past. One of our responsibilities as writers is to promote the work of those who came before us. Here, I hope to do both.
Fortunately, there is still a chance for Woolrich. Pulp fans have grown-up and have joined academia. Their interest has allowed for the production of biographies, collections, and criticism related to pulp fiction, even a couple about Woolrich. A few are listed in the bibliography section of this site.
Please, read the books and watch the films. Appreciate the work of a man who helped define noir for decades. Shine some light upon Woolrich, a forgotten author in one of the darkest genres, a true shadow in the dark.