Notes On After-Dinner Story aka Six Times Death, 1944 (a s.s. collection) by Cornell Woolrich writing as William Irish

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After-Dinner Story (Lippincott, 1944, by William Irish) is the second of Cornell Woolrich short story collections issued during his lifetime. It contains six stories of which all but one were first published in pulp magazines under Cornell Woolrich’s name. At the time, he had released the novels Phantom Lady (Lippincott, 1942) and Deadline at Dawn (Lippincott, 1944), under the pen name of William Irish and, as Cornell Woolrich, The Bride Wore Black (Simon and Schuster, 1940), The Black Curtain (Simon and Schuster, 1941), Black Alibi (Simon and Schuster, 1942), The Black Angel (Doubleday, 1943), and The Black Path of Fear (Doubleday, 1944). In short, he was already well known. This second collection went through numerous paperback editions after the initial hardcover release, sometimes under the alternative title Six Times Death. In the UK it was published in 1947 by Hutchinson. It was included in Lippincott’s 1960 hardcover omnibus edition The Best of William Irish along with Phantom Lady and Deadline at Dawn. As far as I know, After-Dinner Story is out of print and expensive to find today, but most individual stories are easy to locate in recent anthologies except perhaps for “Murder-Story” that hasn’t appeared in any anthology except in this one. Any way, this book is in the public domain in Canada, via fadedpage.com

coverSynopsis (Source: Wikipedia and my own compilation):

“After-Dinner Story” (Black Mask, January 1938). An elevator crashed with seven people inside, including the operator. The operator died instantly, the other six survived though they got trapped for several hours. By the time they were rescued, they couldn’t explain how one of them died by a shot. His death was labelled as a suicide. A year later, the dead man’s father invites the five survivors to dinner to tell them “an after dinner story”.

“The Night Reveals” (Story Magazine, April 1936). An insurance investigator suspects his wife of being the arsonist behind a recent wave of fires. Consequently, he manages to convince her to voluntarily enter in a psychiatric centre for her evaluation. However, there is nothing to indicate that she is not a balanced and normal person. Therefore she cannot be held against her will. But he finds unbearable the idea of her being fully aware of her acts.

“An Apple a Day” is the only story in the selection not previously published in a pulp magazine. The story follows the vicissitudes of an apple that, as a result of a robbery, ends up with a precious gem hidden inside. In this way, the apple passes from hand to hand without anyone noticing what it contains. The story reflects the individual circumstances of all those who find the apple.

“Marihuana” (Detective Fiction Weekly, 3 May 1941). A man, depressed after breaking up with his wife, is pressured into trying marihuana for the first time by ones “so called” friends, with the secret intention of making fun at him. In this manner, he is driven to a secluded place where people smoke weed. The joke ends up terribly bad when, under the influence, he becomes a psychotic spree killer that breaks havoc throughout the city.

“Rear Window” aka “It Had to Be Murder” (Dime Detective, February 1942) is perhaps Cornell Woolrich’s best-known short story, since it served as the basis for the script of Hitchcock’s 1954 masterpiece, Rear Window. Hal Jeffries, bedridden and with a cast on one of his legs, spends his time watching his neighbours through their rear windows. One day he suspects something is not right in one of the apartments. Could he be witnessing the outcome of a murder?

“Murder-Story” (also known as “The Inside Story” and “The Murderer’s Story”) (Detective Fiction Weekly, September 11, 1937). A writer becomes the prime suspect in a murder case once the police discover that one of his unpublished stories recounts with all sorts of details what could have happened the night of the crime.

My Take: An interesting selection of stories by Woolrich, among which, in my view, three stand out, “After-Dinner Story”, “The Night Reveals” and “Rear Window”. The rest are significantly among his weakest production for my taste, which does not exclude that some paragraphs are a pleasant read.

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(Source: Facsimile Dust Jackets LLC. J. B. Lippincott Company, USA, 1944)

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(Source: Facsimile Duct Jackett LLC. Hutchinson UK, 1947)

About the Author: Cornell Woolrich was born Cornell George Hopley-Woolrich on December 4, 1903 in New York City, and during his adolescence he lived with his grandfather and aunt and mother. In 1921 he enrolled in Columbia College and in his junior year began the first draft of a novel. When it sold a few months later, he quit Columbia to pursue the dream of bright lights. During his early career he published six novels. His second, Children of the Ritz (1927), won first prize of $10,000 in a contest cosponsored by College Humor magazine, which serialized it, and First National Pictures, which filmed the story in 1929. Woolrich was invited to Hollywood to help with the adaptation and stayed on as a staff writer. After his sixth novel, Manhattan Love Song (1932), Woolrich sold next to nothing. But at that moment he was on the brink of a new life as a writer, one so different from his earlier literary career that decades later he said it would have been better if all his pre-suspense fiction “had been written in invisible ink and the reagent had been thrown away.” He was about to become the Poe of the twentieth century and the poet of its shadows. Between 1934 and 1939 Woolrich sold at leas 105 stories as well as two book-length magazine serials, and by the end of the decade he had become a fixture in mystery pulps of all levels. In these tales Woolrich created, almost from scratch, the building-blocks of the literature we have come to call noir. In 1940 he joined the migration of pulp detective writers from lurid-covered magazines to hardcover books with his so-called Black Series: The Bride Wore Black (1940), The Black Curtain (1941), Black Alibi (1942), Black Angel (1943), Black Path of Fear (1944), and Rendezvous in Black (1948). In the early forties the entrepreneurs of dramatic radio and films discovered that countless Woolrich stories were naturals for adaptation and began buying from him the rights to stories like It Had To Be Murder” (1942) which became the basis for the Hitchcock film Rear Window (1954). In fact, Woolrich continued to write more novels than could be published under a single byline and came up with the pseudonym William Irish. The novels published under the Irish byline were Phantom Lady (1942), Deadline at Dawn (1944), Night has a Thousand Eyes (1945), Waltz into Darkness (1947), and I Married a Dead Man (1948). The success of his novels led to publication of several collections of his shorter work in hardcover and paperback volumes. In addition, fifteen movies were made from Woolrich material between 1942 and 1950 alone and his influence pervaded the culture of the forties so extensively that many film noir classics of that period give the sense of having been adapted from his work even though he had nothing to do with them. Woolrich published little new after 1948, apparently because his long absent father’s death and his mother’s prolonged illnesses paralyzed his ability to write. Woolrich’s personal situation remained wretched, and more than once he sank to passing off slightly updated old stories as new work, fooling book and magazine publishers as well as readers. Diabetic, alcoholic, wracked by self-contempt, and alone after his mother’s death in 1957, Woolrich dragged out his life. In the late sixties Woolrich had plenty of money and his critical reputation was secure not only in America but in Europe, but his physical and emotional condition remained hopeless. He died of a stroke on September 25, 1968. (Source: Francis M. Nevins, ed. from Night & Fear: A Centenary Collection of Stories by Cornell Woolrich)

Bibliography: Cornell Woolrich’s novels written between 1940 to 1948 are considered his principal legacy. During this time, he definitively became an author of novel-length crime fiction which stand apart from his first six works, written under the influence of F. Scott Fitzgerald. Woolrich’s best known novels are: The Bride Wore Black as William Irish (Simon and Schuster, 1940) aka Beware the Lady, Phantom Lady as William Irish (Lippincott, 1942), Black Alibi (Simon and Schuster, 1942), The Black Angel (Doubleday, 1943), Deadline at Dawn as William Irish (Lippincott, 1944), Night Has a Thousand Eyes (as George Hopley) (Farrar & Rinehart, 1945), Rendezvous in Black (Rinehart, 1948) and I Married a Dead Man (as William Irish) (Lippincott, 1948).

Short story collections: Nightwebs (1971), Darkness at Dawn (1988)

Individual stories/novellas: Murder at the Automat” (1937), “Angel Face” aka “Face Work” (1937), “Mystery in Room 913” aka “The Room with Something Wrong” (1938), “All at Once, No Alice” (1940), “It Had to Be Murder” aka “Rear Window” (1942) and “The Penny-a-Worder” (1958).

A Cornell Woolrich bibliography can be found here.

Recommended Reading: Francis M. Nevins’ Cornell Woolrich: First You Dream, Then You Die is an enormous, in depth biography and critical study on Woolrich and his work. It is a very detailed look at Woolrich’s world. Nevins also edited the best of all Woolrich collections, Nightwebs, which contains important essays and bibliographies as well. It also contains Woolrich’s autobiographical story, “The Penny-a-Worder” (1958), which is a gentle self portrait of a pulp writer. (Source: Mike Grost at A Guide to Classic Mystery and Detection)

Suspense — “After-Dinner Story” by Cornell Woolrich

“Who Was Cornell Woolrich?” by Richard Dooling

“Do People Really Know What They Think They Know About Woolridge?” by Curtis Evans

Cornell Woolrich is also covered by Martin Edwards in his book The Life of Crime (Chapter 30 Waking Nightmares Noir Fiction)

Lo que la noche revela, de Cornell Woolrich como William Irish

Lo que la noche revela, su título en inglés es After-Dinner Story (Lippincott, 1944, de William Irish) es la segunda de las colecciones de relatos de Cornell Woolrich publicadas durante su vida. Contiene seis historias de las cuales todas menos una se publicaron por primera vez en revistas pulp con el nombre de Cornell Woolrich. En ese momento, había publicado las novelas Phantom Lady (Lippincott, 1942) y Deadline at Dawn (Lippincott, 1944), bajo el seudónimo de William Irish y, como Cornell Woolrich, The Bride Wore Black (Simon and Schuster, 1940), The Black Curtain (Simon and Schuster, 1941), Black Alibi (Simon and Schuster, 1942), The Black Angel (Doubleday, 1943) y The Black Path of Fear (Doubleday, 1944). En resumen, ya era muy conocido. Esta segunda colección pasó por numerosas ediciones de bolsillo después del lanzamiento inicial en tapa dura, a veces bajo el título alternativo Six Times Death. En el Reino Unido fue publicada en 1947 por Hutchinson. Se incluyó en la antología de tapa dura de Lippincott de 1960, The Best of William Irish, junto con Phantom Lady y Deadline at Dawn. Hasta donde yo sé, After-Dinner Story está agotada y es cara de encontrar hoy en día, pero la mayoría de las historias individuales son fáciles de localizar en antologías recientes, excepto quizás “Murder-Story”, que no ha aparecido en ninguna antología excepto en esta. De todos modos, este libro es de dominio público en Canadá, a través de fadedpage.com

OIPSinopsis (Fuente: Wikipedia y elaboración propia):

“Cuento de sobremesa” título original: “After-Dinner Story” (Black Mask, enero de 1938). Un ascensor se estrelló con siete personas dentro, incluido el operador. El operador murió instantáneamente, los otros seis sobrevivieron aunque quedaron atrapados durante varias horas. Para cuando fueron rescatados, no pudieron explicar cómo uno de ellos murió por un disparo. Su muerte fue catalogada como un suicidio. Un año después, el padre del muerto invita a cenar a los cinco sobrevivientes para contarles “una historia de sobremesa”.

“Lo que la noche revela” titulo original: “The Night Reveals” (Story Magazine, abril de 1936). Un investigador de seguros sospecha que su esposa es la pirómana detrás de una reciente ola de incendios. En consecuencia, logra convencerla de ingresar voluntariamente en un centro psiquiátrico para su evaluación. Sin embargo, no hay nada que indique que ella no es una persona equilibrada y normal. Por lo tanto, no puede ser retenida contra su voluntad. Pero encuentra insoportable la idea de que ella sea plenamente consciente de sus actos.

“Aventuras de una manzana” título original: “An Apple a Day” es la única historia de la selección no publicada previamente en una revista pulp. La historia sigue las peripecias de una manzana que, a raíz de un robo, acaba con una gema preciosa escondida en su interior. De esta forma , la manzana pasa de mano en mano sin que nadie se dé cuenta de lo que contiene. La historia refleja las circunstancias individuales de todos aquellos que encuentran la manzana.

“Marihuana” título original: “Marihuana” (Detective Fiction Weekly, 3 de mayo de 1941). Un hombre, deprimido tras romper con su mujer, es presionado para probar marihuana por primera vez por unos “supuestos” amigos, con la secreta intención de burlarse de él. De esta manera, es conducido a un lugar apartado donde la gente fuma hierba. La broma termina terriblemente mal cuando, bajo la influencia, se convierte en un asesino psicótico que causa estragos por toda la ciudad.

“Ventana trasera” Título origianal: “Rear Window” también conocida como “It Had to Be Murder” (Dime Detective, febrero de 1942) es quizás el cuento más conocido de Cornell Woolrich, ya que sirvió de base para el guión de la obra maestra de Hitchcock de 1954, Rear Window. Hal Jeffries, postrado en cama y con una pierna enyesada, se pasa el tiempo mirando a sus vecinos a través de sus ventanas traseras. Un día sospecha que algo no anda bien en uno de los apartamentos. ¿Podría estar presenciando el resultado de un asesinato?

“Cuento policial” Título original: “Murder Story” (también conocida como “The Inside Story” y “The Murderer’s Story”) (Detective Fiction Weekly, 11 de septiembre de 1937). Un escritor se convierte en el principal sospechoso de un caso de asesinato cuando la policía descubre que uno de sus relatos inéditos relata con todo lujo de detalles lo que pudo haber ocurrido la noche del crimen.

Mi opinión: Una interesante selección de relatos de Woolrich, entre los que, a mi juicio, destacan tres, “After-Dinner Story”, “The Night Reveals” y “Rear Window”. El resto está significativamente entre su producción más floja para mi gusto, lo que no excluye que algunos párrafos sean de agradable lectura.

Sobre el autor: Cornell Woolrich cuyo nombre completo era Cornell George Hopley-Woolrich nació el 4 de diciembre de 1903 en la ciudad de Nueva York, y durante su adolescencia vivió con su abuelo, su tía y su madre. En 1921 se matriculó en el Columbia College y en su tercer año comenzó el primer borrador de una novela. Cuando se vendió unos meses después, dejó Columbia para perseguir el sueño del cine. Durante su carrera inicial publicó seis novelas. La segunda, Children of the Ritz (1927), ganó el primer premio de 10.000 dólares en un concurso copatrocinado por la revista College Humor, que la publicó por entregas, y First National Pictures, que rodó la historia en 1929. Woolrich fue invitado a Hollywood para ayudar con la adaptación y permaneció como escritor contratado. Después de su sexta novela, Manhattan Love Song (1932), Woolrich no vendió casi nada. Pero en ese momento estaba al borde de una nueva vida como escritor, una tan diferente de su carrera literaria anterior que décadas más tarde dijo que hubiera sido mejor si toda su ficción anterior al suspense “hubiera sido escrita con tinta invisible y el reactivo habiera sido desechado”. Estuvo a punto de convertirse en el Poe del siglo XX y el poeta de sus sombras. Entre 1934 y 1939, Woolrich vendió al menos 105 historias, así como dos series largas por entregas en revistas , y al final de la década se había convertido en un cláscico en la revistas pulp de misterio de todos los niveles. En estos cuentos, Woolrich creó, casi desde cero, los fundamentos básicos de la literatura que hemos dado en llamar noir. En 1940 se unió a la migración de escritores de detectives pulp de revistas de tapas chillonas a libros de tapa dura con su llamada serie “Black”: The Bride Wore Black (1940), The Black Curtain (1941), Black Alibi (1942), Black Angel ( 1943), Black Path of Fear (1944) y Rendezvous in Black (1948). A principios de los años cuarenta, los empresarios de radio y cine descubrieron que innumerables historias de Woolrich eran innatas para la adaptación y comenzaron a comprarle los derechos de historias como “It Had to be Murder” (1942), que se convirtió en la base de la película de Hitchcock La ventana indiscreta. (1954). De hecho, Woolrich siguió escribiendo más novelas de las que podían publicarse con un solo nombre y se le ocurrió el seudónimo de William Irish. Las novelas publicadas bajo el nombre de Irish fueron Phantom Lady (1942), Deadline at Dawn (1944), Night Has a Thousand Eyes (1945), Waltz into Darkness (1947) y I Married a Dead Man (1948). El éxito de sus novelas llevó a la publicación de varias colecciones de sus relatos en volúmenes de tapa dura y en rústica. Además, se hicieron quince películas con material de Woolrich solo entre 1942 y 1950 y su influencia impregnó la cultura de los años cuarenta de tal manera que muchos clásicos del cine negro de ese período dan la sensación de haber sido adaptados de su obra a pesar de que no tenían nada que ver con ella. Woolrich publicó poco después de 1948, aparentemente porque la muerte de su padre, ausente durante mucho tiempo, y las prolongadas enfermedades de su madre paralizaron su capacidad para escribir. La situación personal de Woolrich siguió siendo deplorable, y más de una vez cayó en la tentación de hacer pasar historias viejas ligeramente actualizadas como nuevos trabajos, engañando a los editores de libros y revistas, así como a los lectores. Diabético, alcohólico, atormentado por un cierto desprecio por sí mismo y solo, tras la muerte de su madre en 1957, Woolrich arrastraba su existencia. A fines de los años sesenta, Woolrich tenía mucho dinero y su reputación estaba asegurada no solo en los Estados Unidos sino también en Europa, pero su condición física y emocional seguía siendo desesperada. Murió de un derrame cerebral el 25 de septiembre de 1968. (Fuente: Francis M. Nevins, ed. de Night & Fear: A Centenary Collection of Stories de Cornell Woolrich)

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