CELEBRATING THE MASTER OF NIGHT: A REVIEW OF BLACK IS THE NIGHT EDITED BY MAXIM JAKUBOWSKI
Cornell Woolrich is one of the more underrated writers of the twentieth century. His moody tales of desperate characters contributed many elements to the idea of noir and modern suspense. Film
makers from Hitchcock to Truffaut adapted his work, creating movie classics like Phantom Lady and Rear Window. Editor Maxim Jakubowski gathered over thirty writers to contribute to Black Is The Night, an anthology that serves as tribute to the man.
After an insightful introduction by Neil Gaiman and charcoal black poem by Joel Lane, master storyteller Joe Lansdale kicks off the fiction with "Missing Sister". This tight piece gets in the head his protagonist in the aftermath of a crime. In his own voice, Joe creates a link from Woolrich to Edgar Allan Poe.
James Sallis uses one of Woolrich's go-to settings, the rundown residential hotel in "Parkview". He conjures a claustrophobic world populated by those on life's edge. In taking on Woolrich, Sallis shows another side of his work and proves there's little he can't write.
KIm Newman, mainly known for horror, gives us "Black Window." He builds on Rear Window with a different take and a questionable witness hero. The sense of dread in this one builds and builds.
Max Decharne's "The Woman At The Late Show" proves a standout story. It centers on a movie theater manager stuck running all night screening of Deadline At Dawn, a Woolrich story adapted into film by screenwriter Clifford Odet, and a woman in danger. Decarne puts a Edward Hopper painting in your head with its portrait of two lonely people existing in the city's twilight.
William Boyle is the perfect choice for the capper story. The author shares Woolrich's depiction of working class New York in decay. His Brooklyn bar in "New York Blues Redux" serves up a microcosm of the neighborhood. Even in a short short story he moves between the saint and sinner in his characters.
Other great writers appear in the book. Donna Moore utilizes a failing arcade in a seaside Scottish town for a Woolrich like setting. Samantha lee finds a dark satiric streak in his work she puts on display in "Trophy Wife". Barry Malzberg gives an doomed writer, much like Woolrich, in "The Phantom Gentleman." Other include Bill Pronzini, James Grady, and Charles Ardia. Even the editor contributes with two different people awaiting their fate in "What Happens After The End."
Not only did these stories make me want to revisit Cornell Woolrich, but they made me think of him in a different way. I understood better how he created his celebrated dark style and tone through character. He captured people who lived in a world of little sunlight. The stories in Black Is The Night, as well as those the author they honor, are rich in barflies, failures, work-a-day cops more interested in the end of their shift than justice, cabbies, working girls tired on their feet, and other assorted working class Joes and Janes, all thrown into a nightmare they have little chance of waking up from. Then it gets worse.That's Woolrich and that's Black Is The Night..