Cornell Woolrich (1903-1968) knew his way around two things: rock-hard prose and stone-cold corpses.
He was a wizardly writer of mysteries, a man who could ratchet up the menace and dread by steady, excruciating degrees. His sentences were of the muscular, hard-boiled variety also associated with Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. Woolrich, though, was more prolific than they were, and his works were more diverse.
Now it turns out that this master of mysteries had one more trick up his sleeve.
In this month's Strand magazine, the legendary British journal that fell on hard times and ceased publication in 1950, yet was revived by a mystery-loving Midwesterner in 1998, a never-before-published short story by Woolrich makes its debut.
"Never Kick a Dick," an entertaining tale of double-crossing con men and lively low-life characters set in Miami, is vintage Woolrich. It features tough guys with names such as Tricks Bernstein, a guy with "a glower that would have made cheese out of milk."
And the action? Here's a sample – hide your eyes if you're squeamish, little sister:
"There was a hole in his forehead, sluggishly beginning to bleed. He was plainly dead – the glassy still-open eyes told that."
Woolrich led a strange, reclusive life, but produced some of the greatest mystery and suspense novels of the 20th century; some of which were published under pseudonyms. His titles alone are memorable: "The Bride World Black" (1940); "Night Has a Thousand Eyes" (1945); "Waltz Into Darkness" (1947); "I Married a Dead Man" (1948); and "Death Is My Dancing Partner" (1959). The Alfred Hitchcock film "Rear Window" was based on a Woolrich short story.
As snappy as the newly discovered Woolrich story is, finding it is just another day in the office for Andrew Gulli, managing editor of the Strand, based in Birmingham, Mich. He's also found and published previously unknown works by Graham Green and Agatha Christie.
A one-year subscription to the Strand is $19.95, available at strandmag.com; by calling 800-300-6652; or by writing to Strand magazine, P.O. Box 1418, Birmingham, MI, 48012-1418.Copyright © 2015, CT Now