My Book Notes: “It Had to Be Murder” aka “Rear Window” (1942) a short story by Cornell Woolrich (Revised)


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“It Had to Be Murder” was originally published in Dime Detective Magazine, February 1942. It is, perhaps, Cornell Woolrich best known short story. Its popularity came because it served as a basis to the script of Hitchcock’s 1954 masterpiece film Rear Window, starring  James Stewart and Grace Kelly. Prior to the film’s production, the story was republished twice under the title “Rear Window. There are significant differences between the film and the short tale. It can be added that, for this reason, one has to be extremely careful when buying an edition of this short story not to end up buying the film’s screenplay or some abridged edition of the original tale.

Cornell WoolrichSynopsis: Woolrich’s short story is narrated in the first person by Hal Jeffries. Jeffries finds himself bedridden or confined in a chair by his apartment window, since he has a cast on one of his legs To fight boredom, he spends most of his time watching the comings and goings of his neighbours in the rear windows of the opposite building. Until one day he starts to suspect that a murder has been committed in one of the apartments. And so begins a race against  the clock to find the evidence to prove his suspicions and incriminate the culprit, what will endanger his own life.

My Take: I won’t get into the debate of which of the two is better, the film or the short story, despite how much I enjoyed the film. But in any case I also consider that the short story is a well worth read. The short story certainly touches several of the themes for which I like Woolrich so much.

“Rear Window” can be found included in several short story collections and, in this manner, it’s been reviewed, among others by Curtis Evans at Mystery File, and Bev Hankins at My Reader’s Block.

About the Author: Cornell Woolrich is widely regarded as the twentieth century’s finest writer of pure suspense fiction. The author of numerous classic novels and short stories (many of which were turned into classic films) such as Rear Window, The Bride Wore Black, The Night Has a Thousand Eyes, Waltz Into Darkness, and I Married a Dead Man, Woolrich began his career in the 1920s writing mainstream novels that won him comparisons to F. Scott Fitzgerald. The bulk of his best-known work, however, was written in the field of crime fiction, often appearing serialized in pulp magazines or as paperback novels. Because he was prolific, he found it necessary to publish under multiple pseudonyms, including William Irish and George Hopley […] Woolrich lived a life as dark and emotionally tortured as any of his unfortunate characters and died, alone, in a seedy Manhattan hotel room following the amputation of a gangrenous leg. Upon his death, he left a bequest of close to one million dollars to Columbia University, to fund a scholarship for young writers. (Source: Hard Case Crime, via Goodreads)

”Who Was Cornell Woolrich?” by Richard Dooling

Cornell Woolrich Bibliography

“La Ventana Indiscreta” un relato breve de Cornell Woolrich

“Tenía que ser un asesinato” se publicó originalmente en Dime Detective Magazine en febrero de 1942. Es, quizás, el relato más conocido de Cornell Woolrich. Su popularidad se debe a que sirvió de base para el guión de la obra maestra de Hitchcock La ventana indiscreta de 1954, protagonizada por James Stewart y Grace Kelly. Antes de la producción de la película, la historia se volvió a publicar dos veces con el título “La ventana indiscreta”. Hay diferencias significativas entre la película y el cuento. Se puede agregar que, por esta razón, hay que tener mucho cuidado al comprar una edición de este relato para no terminar comprando el guión de la película o alguna edición abreviada del cuento original.

Sinopsis: La historia de Woolrich está narrada en primera persona por Hal Jeffries. Jeffries se encuentra postrado en cama o confinado en una silla junto a la ventana de su apartamento, ya que tiene una pierna enyesada. Para combatir el aburrimiento, pasa la mayor parte del tiempo observando las idas y venidas de sus vecinos en las ventanas traseras del edificio de enfrente. Hasta que un día empieza a sospechar que en uno de los apartamentos se ha cometido un asesinato. Y así comienza una carrera contrarreloj para encontrar las pruebas que demuestren sus sospechas e incriminen al culpable, lo que pondrá en peligro su propia vida.

Mi opinión: No entraré en el debate de cuál de los dos es mejor, la película o el relato, a pesar de lo mucho que disfruté la película. Pero en cualquier caso también considero que el relato merece la pena leerlo. El cuento ciertamente toca varios de los temas por los que me gusta tanto Woolrich.

Sobre el autor: Cornell Woolrich está generalmente considerado como el mejor escritor delsiglo XX de pura ficción de suspense. Autor de numerosas novelas clásicas y relatos (muchos de los cuales se convirtieron en películas clásicas) como La ventana indiscreta, La novia vestía de negro, La noche tiene mil ojos, La sirena del Mississippi y Mentira latente, Woolrich comenzó su carrera en la década de 1920 escribiendo novelas convencionales que le ganaron comparaciones con F. Scott Fitzgerald. Sin embargo, la mayor parte de su obra más conocida se escribió en el campo de la novela policíaca, y a menudo aparece serializada en revistas pulp o como novelas de bolsillo. Debido a que fue prolífico, consideró necesario publicar bajo múltiples seudónimos, incluidos William Irish y George Hopley […] Woolrich vivió una vida tan oscura y emocionalmente torturada como cualquiera de sus desgraciados personajes y murió, solo, en una sórdida habitación de un hotel de Manhattan después de la amputación de una pierna gangrenosa. A su muerte, dejó un legado de cerca de un millón de dólares a la Universidad de Columbia, para financiar becas para jóvenes escritores. (Fuente: Hard Case Crime, a través de Goodreads)

5 thoughts on “My Book Notes: “It Had to Be Murder” aka “Rear Window” (1942) a short story by Cornell Woolrich (Revised)”

  1. I’ve seen the film, but not read that story, I will dig it out.

    It sounds as though Cornell Woolrich’s life story is more thrilling than his writing. What a dreadful way to die.

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