Black Alibi

Black Alibi

by Cornell Woolrich

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Overview

Black Alibi is classic Woolrich, a creepy tale of suspense. The story revolves around Kiki Walker, a second-rate American singer who becomes a sensation in South America known for her beauty and wildly red hair. Her press agent arranges for her to parade up and down the streets with a "tamed" black jaguar to boost her popularity even further.

However, Kiki doesn't show the same assuredness about this animal as does Manning when he shows up with the cat, it's "black, spade-shaped, ears wickedly flat, muzzle to carpet, coming in fast with an impression of zigzag undulation." It actually frightens her but he convinces her she'll be a sensation. It all goes well until a quick stop for a photo op where the flash bulbs cause the animal to go wild, attacking the singer before disappearing into an alley.

Kiki isn't hurt badly but four young women are mauled and slashed to death in what the authorities believe to be attacks by the wild animal. Manning, feeling responsible, joins the investigation, but believes that someone is using the city's fear of the jaguar to cover a murderous blood-lust.

Woolrich continues his successful "Black Series" with this third installment, following The Bride Wore Black (1940) and The Black Curtain(1941). This suspense novel delivers all the fear one would expect when venturing out alone into dangerous streets.

Cornell Woolrich, one of the most prolific suspense writers of the twentieth century, once suggested the title "First You Dream, Then you Die" for an unwritten short story. The title is emblematic of Woolrich's tortured life, which evinced itself with mesmerizing clarity in his spellbinding works. Often referred to as the twentieth century's Edgar Allan Poe, Woolrich wrote more than 250 mystery titles—both novels and short stories—all of which exhibit an unparalleled capacity for sustained suspense.

The Bride Wore Black, first published in 1940, was Woolrich's first full-length foray into crime fiction. The novel's effects were far-reaching, as it established the French schools of roman and film noir. Its bleak, darkened setting reflects the author's blackened view of life seen through a glass darkly. Woolrich's nightmare world is one of human anguish—of lives torn apart by destructive forces that are incomprehensible. A relentless tale of vengeance and thwarted love, the novel established Woolrich's Black series, which also included The Black Curtain, Black Alibi, The Black Angel, and Rendezvous in Black, and a voluminous output of unforgettable "tales of love and despair."

Thwarted love often stands central in the thematic development of Woolrich's suspense novels. The Bride Wore Black is a classic representative of this theme, as the protagonist, Julie, loses her new husband moments after their marriage. Determined to avenge his death, she transforms her capacity for love into a harpy-like resolve for systematically eliminating his murderers. (The incomparable French film director François Truffaut captured the atmospheric quality of The Bride Wore Black on the screen, with Jeanne Moreau as Julie.) What emerges in this careful plot of contorted emotion and murder is Woolrich's unique ability to evoke sympathy for all characters, the essential element to the haunting quality of his enduring works.

Woolrich empathized with all of his characters; this sense of identification becomes most evident when they are hit by the revelation that they are driven by forces beyond their comprehension. This strong sense of sentiment sprang partly from the author's admiration for F. Scott Fitzgerald, another writer who often appeared thinly disguised as the various characters in his novels. Woolrich's first novel, Cover Charge, was a Jazz-Age tribute to Fitzgerald, a tale of youthful but desperate gaiety. Woolrich's capacity for compassion also stemmed, however, from a tortured life of loneliness and frustration.

Product Details

BN ID: 2940161338933
Publisher: Renaissance Literary & Talent
Publication date: 01/08/2019
Series: The Black Series
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Sales rank: 663,517
File size: 450 KB

About the Author

Cornell George Hopley-Woolrich was born in New York City in 1903, but spent his childhood years in Latin America. As a small boy he lived in Mexico during the revolution of the early twentieth century. His predilection for the macabre came early; the young Woolrich passed the time collecting the used rifle cartridge shells strewn on the streets below his window. He later recalled, "I wouldn't have cared if the revolution had never ended." Eventually, he was whisked off to New York to live with his socialite mother—their love/hate relationship was nothing less than suffocating throughout Woolrich's confused personal life. A diabetic and an alcoholic, he flirted briefly with marriage while working on a film script in Hollywood. His new bride left him after only a few weeks.

Woolrich once described his work as "a form of subconscious self-expression." The degree of sadness in his personal life expressed itself at an average of one book a year throughout most of his life. Still, the driving force in Woolrich's incredible output is suspense. As the New York Times commented, he can "ricochet suspense to an almost unbearable pitch." In 1948, he won the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award for his contribution to the mystery short story. Woolrich accomplished his unusual brand of terror with a calculated sense of the movement of time, leading the reader—à la Poe—closer and closer to a feeling of horror. "His writing goes right through you like a shriek in the night," observed Dorothy Salisbury Davis. "Sometimes you even wish you could forget it, but you can't."

"Nothing beats a tale of fatalistic dread by the supreme master of suspense, Cornell Woolrich. His novels and hundreds of short stories define the essence of noir nihilism."-Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times Book Review

“Critical sobriety is out of the question so long as this master of terror-in-the-commonplace exerts his spell.” - Anthony Boucher, The New York Times Book Review

"Revered by mystery fans, students of film noir, and lovers of hardboiled crime fiction and detective novels, Cornell Woolrich remains almost unknown to the general reading public. His obscurity persists even though his Hollywood pedigree rivals or exceeds that of Cain, Chandler, and Hammett. What Woolrich lacked in literary prestige he made up for in suspense. Nobody was better at it." - Richard Dooling

“Along with Raymond Chandler, Cornell Woolrich practically invented the genre of noir.” —Newsday

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