Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Book: Fright, by Cornell Woolrich (1950)

I’m circling back to some Hard Case Crime titles that I missed. No matter when I read this book, I’d have to be talked off a ledge. Fright, published under Woolrich’s pen name George Hopley, is that bleak.

It’s tricky to talk about the plot. A man about to be married has a moment of weakness. That moment comes back to haunt him. Let’s put it another way. Things start out bad. Then they get worse. And when you’re convinced the situation is as grim as it can possibly be, Woolrich kicks you one last time. And knowing that the kick is coming doesn’t help you. Not at all.

The setting, soon after the turn of the last century, is integral to the story, making every twist that much more inevitable. Woolrich’s occasionally overwrought style works wonders here, limning the inner life of a man forever looking over his shoulder and seeing only himself.

Damn. I need a drink just thinking about this one again.