Noir Father

Every night he walked along the river, going home. Every night, about one. You do that when you’re young; walk along beside the river, looking at the water, looking at the stars. Sometimes you do that even when you’re a detective, and strictly speaking, have nothing to do with stars.
–the opening of The Night Has a Thousand Eyes by the noir crime writer Cornell Woolrich, born on this day in 1903

Over his three-decade career, Woolrich wrote two dozen novels and over 200 stories, many of them recently back in print. Most of them are so dark that he has been called “the Poe of the twentieth century,” and many of the movies made from his work — perhaps best known are Hitchcock’s Rear Window and Truffaut’s The Bride Wore Black — have earned him fame as the “Father of Film Noir.” To evoke the appropriate pulp-noir tone, Francis Nevins, Jr. titles his recent biography of Woolrich First You Dream, Then You Die — a story title that Woolrich once proposed to himself but never used, and that all too accurately captures the downward spiral of his odd, ill-fated life. The same tone is set early in Woolrich’s autobiography, Blues of a Lifetime: “I had that trapped feeling, like some sort of a poor insect that you’ve put inside a downturned glass, and it tries to climb up the sides, and it can’t, and it can’t, and it can’t.”