Cornell Woolrich

Franklin Library Cornell Woolrich books

The Bride Wore Black - Library of Mystery Masterpieces - 1989


Author Cornell Woolrich

Cornell George Hopley-Woolrich, known by his pen name Cornell Woolrich, was born on December 4, 1903, in New York City. He would become one of the most influential figures in the realm of crime fiction, leaving an indelible mark on the genre with his gripping tales of suspense, desperation, and paranoia. Woolrich's childhood was marked by tragedy and upheaval, as his parents' troubled marriage ended in divorce when he was just eight years old. Raised by his mother, Woolrich developed a keen sensitivity to the darker aspects of human nature, a theme that would permeate his later work. After attending Columbia University for a brief period, Woolrich embarked on a career as a writer, initially finding success with mainstream fiction and pulp stories. However, it was his foray into crime fiction, particularly the genre of noir, that would define his literary legacy. Woolrich's writing is characterized by its atmospheric settings, intricate plots, and psychologically complex characters. His stories often center on ordinary individuals thrust into extraordinary circumstances, grappling with fear, guilt, and the consequences of their actions. His works are known for their relentless tension and bleak, noirish worldview, capturing the essence of urban anxiety and existential dread.

Among Woolrich's most acclaimed works are novels such as The Bride Wore Black (1940), Phantom Lady (1942), and Nightmare Alley (1946), as well as short stories like It Had to Be Murder, which served as the basis for Alfred Hitchcock's classic film Rear Window (1954).

Despite his literary success, Woolrich led a reclusive and troubled life, plagued by alcoholism, depression, and a profound sense of alienation. He remained fiercely private, rarely giving interviews or engaging with the public. In his later years, Woolrich's health deteriorated, and he struggled to maintain his prolific output. He passed away on September 25, 1968, at the age of 64, leaving behind a formidable body of work that continues to captivate readers and inspire generations of writers. Cornell Woolrich's contributions to crime fiction and the genre of noir are celebrated for their atmospheric intensity, narrative inventiveness, and psychological depth. His legacy as a master storyteller of suspense ensures that his work will endure as a cornerstone of American literature, forever entwined with the dark alleys and shadowy corners of the human psyche. 

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