Thursday, October 12, 2023

Project of a Lifetime: Centipede's Complete Cornell Woolrich Short Fiction Series (2012-?)

Centipede Press is a high end short fiction publisher who does a good bit of vintage crime fiction, including such noted authors as Jim Thompson, Fredric Brown and Cornell Woolrich.  They publish beautiful illustrated books with informative introductions in low print runs and, yes, higher prices--but if you think the initial prices are high, just wait until they go out of print!  Which they do, quickly.  I missed Stories to be Whispered, a collection of Cornell Woolrich short crime fiction. when it was issued in 2016 and never have found an affordable copy (for me) to this day.  

one of Centipede's Cornell Woolrich reprints

I am one of those people who believe that Woolrich excelled just as much, if not more, at crime fiction in its shorter forms, so last year I got in touch with Centipede, telling them about my Crimereads essay on Woolrich and explaining that I could do a good, original and updated introduction for the next volume.  Things went well and I ended up proposing further that Centipede publish a total of thirteen volumes to collect all of the Woolrich short crime fiction.  It really is past time that that be done, I felt.  So this is now the plan, I am happy to report.  I have selected the stories and titles for the future volumes.  It total 201 pieces of short crime, horror and adventure fiction, plus the autobiographical pieces from the fragmentary Blues of a Lifetime.  (If I am missing something, let me know by all means.)

There are currently four volumes in the Centipede series--Dark Melody of Madness, which is introduced by my friend Bill Pronzini, for over half a century (he started young) one of the keenest analysts of hard-boiled and noir crime fiction out there--Speak to Me of Death, which I reviewed at the blog over a decade ago, Stories to be Whispered and Walls That Hear You, which I reviewed in 2021.  The new volume that I am introducing, Silent as the Grave, should be ready for Christmas and I think it would be lovely to start a tradition of having a Cornell for Christmas!  Surely nothing says Christmas--Black Christmas--like Cornell Woolrich.  

What follows below is a list of all thirteen volumes in the series, followed by their projected contents.  The idea of doing another eight volumes of Cornell Woolrich short crime fiction is appealing, but at the rate these things go, it would take another fifteen years or so at best to get them out, so will see.  

Some might say having thirteen volumes is bad luck, but it seems appropriate for Cornell.  By the way, I have no intention of doing all the intros, because I think it is good to have some variety of perspective with these things.  I already have other people in mind.  (I do want to introduce Vol. 6, One Drop of Blood, however, because I want to make a defence there of Woolrich as a writer of detection.)  But we'll have to see what the years bring, this year has been, to be honest, a most unhappy one personally for me, with the deaths of Rupert and my father.  

Cornell would know about loss.  I think it's time we showed the man some genuine sympathy, while allowing for his flaws, rather than mock him for his weaknesses and vilify him for things he may not even have done.  Certainly some of his problems were self-made or self-exacerbated, but that does not make him any less deserving of empathy.  Some of the writing about woolrich reminds me of those old Charles Atlas ads in comic books depicting the bully kicking sand in the 98-pound weakling's face.  Give his physical and mental maladies, we should be celebrating Woolrich for all he accomplished.  

And now let's look at the "black series":

1. Dark Melody of Madness

2. Speak to Me of Death

3. Stories to Be Whispered

4. Walls That Hear You

5. Silent as the Grave

6. One Drop of Blood

7. Through a Dead Man’s Eye

8. The Light in the Window

9. Too Nice a Day to Die

10. My Lips Destroy

11. Three Kills for One

12. Right in the Middle of New York

13. Of Time and Murder


Vol. I: Dark Melody of Madness (5)

Graves for the Living 1937 DM

Jane Brown’s Body AAF 1938

Dark Melody of Madness aka Papa Benjamin DM 1935

I’m Dangerous Tonight AAF 1937

Mannequin 1966 SMM


Vol. II: Speak to Me of Death (15)

It Had to be Murder/Rear Window


Three O’Clock

The Night Reveals

Dead on Her Feet


Murder in Wax (expanded as The Black Angel)

Speak to Me of Death (expanded as Night Has a Thousand Eyes)

The Corpse and the Kid

The Living Lie Down with the Dead

I Won’t Take a Minute aka Finger of Doom

The Corpse Next Door

Wardrobe Trunk aka Dilemma of the Dead Lady

The Death of Me

Dusk to Dawn


Vol. III: Stories to be Whispered (13)

After-Dinner Story

An Apple a Day


Detective William Brown

Endicott’s Girl

The Heavy Sugar

The Case of the Killer-Diller

The Hummingbird Comes Home

All at Once, No Alice

Don’t Wait up for Me Tonight aka Goodbye, New York

Guillotine aka Men Must Die

Murder, Obliquely 1958 Violence revision of Death Escapes the Eye

Story to be Whispered


Vol. IV: Walls That Hear You (17)

Death Sits on the Dentist’s Chair

Walls That Hear You

Kiss of the Cobra

Hot Water

Change of Murder

Johnny on the Spot

Double Feature

One and a Half Murders


Mind over Murder

The Book That Squealed aka Library Book

Meet Me by the Mannequin

The Penny-a-Worder

Murder at Mother’s Knee

The Body in Grant’s Tomb

When Love Turns aka Je t’aime

Life Is Weird Sometimes


Vol. V: Silent as the Grave (18/17)

Even God Felt the Depression BOAL

Dime a Dance aka The Dancing Detective 1938 BM

Two Fellows in a Furnished Room aka He Looked Like Murder 1941 DFW

You’ll Never See Me Again 1939 SASDS

Murder at the Automat 1937 DD

Bequest 1942 DT

Collared 1939 BM

Fountain Pen aka Dipped in Blood 1945 SASDS

IOU 1938 DoD

Silent as the Grave 1945 MBM

One Last Night 1940 SASDS

I’ll Take You Home, Kathleen 1956 Nightmare expansion of above

You Take Ballistics 1938 DoD

The Red Tide (alt. version Last Night) 1940 SASDS

If the Dead Could Talk 1943 BM

The Room with Something Wrong aka Mystery in Room 1938 DFW

Wake up with Death 1937 DFW not reprinted

Crazy House 1941 DD


Vol. VI: One Drop of Blood (20/19)

Remington Portable NC69411 BOAL

Murder Story 1937 DFW

C-Jag aka Cocaine 1940 BM

Fire Escape aka The Boy Cried Murder 1947 MBM

You Pays Your Nickel slightly rev. as The Phantom of the Subway 1936 Argosy

Death in the Air 1936 DFW

The Showboat Murders 1935 DFW

The Screaming Laugh 1938 CDM

Mamie ‘n Me 1938 AAF

Hot Towel 1938 DoD

The Case of the Maladroit Manicurist 1941 DD

Stuck aka Stuck with Murder 1937 DD

Flat Tire aka Short Order Kill 1938 DD

U, As in Murder 1941 DD

Cool, Calm and Detected 1941 BM

Dormant Account 1942 BM aka Chance

Orphan Ice 1942 DD

Leg Man 1943 DD

Fur Jacket aka What the Well Dressed Corpse Will Wear 1944 DD

One Drop of Blood 1962 EQMM


Vol. VII: Through a Dead Man’s Eye (20)

If I Die Before I Wake 1937 DFW

Through a Dead Man’s Eye 1939 BM

Eyes That Watch You aka The Case of the Talking Eyes 1939 DD

Death Escapes the Eye 1947 SMM

Bluebeard’s Seventh Wife 1936 DFW

Cinderella and the Mob 1940 Argosy

The Earring aka The Death Stone DFW 1943 DFW

The Man Upstairs 1945 MBM

The Detective’s Dilemma 1940 DFW

Blind Date with Death 1937 DD

The Riddle of the Redeemed Dips 1940 DD

The Death Diary 1943 FDF (formerly DFW)

Death in Duplicate aka The Ice Pick Murders DFW 1940

Death in Round Three 1937 PD

Murder on the Night Boat 1937 BM

Funeral aka Your Own Funeral 1937 Argosy

Silhouette 1939 DFW

Husband 1949 TBR

Last Night 1943 expansion of The Red Tide from I Wouldn’t Be in Your Shoes

Somebody on the Phone aka Deadly Night Call 1937 DFW


Vol VIII: The Light in the Window (16)

The Light in the Window 1946 MBM

Nightmare aka And So to Murder 1941 Argosy

I Wouldn’t Be in Your Shoes 1938 DFW

I’ll Never Play Detective Again 1937 BM

Murder on My Mind 1936 DFW revised as The Morning after Murder

The Counterfeit Hat aka He Talked through His Hat 1939 DFW

The Dog with the Wooden Leg SASDS 1939

Red Liberty 1935 DD

The Corpse in the Statue of Liberty revision of above from Violence 1958

The Cape Triangular 1938 DFW

Nine Lives 1936 DFW not reprinted

Mimic Murder 1937 BM

The Fingernail aka The Customer Is Always Right 1941 DT

The Lie 1937 DFW

I’m Ashamed 1965 Dark Side of Love

Intent to Kill 1967 SMM


Vol. IX: Too Nice a Day to Die (20/18)

The Poor Girl BOAL

Preview of Death 1934 DD

Screen-Test revised version of above 1956 Nightmare

Shooting Going on 1937 BM

Picture Frame 1944 BM

Afternoon of a Phony 1936 DFW not reprinted

Flowers from the Dead 1940 DD

Face Work aka Angel Face 1937 BM

Cab, Mister? 1937 BM

The Death Rose 1943 BDS

Death Between Dances 1948 SMM

The Maid Who Played the Races BOAL

Soda Fountain Saga aka Soda Fountain 1930 Liberty rev. SSMM 1960

Somebody Else’s Life expansion of teleplay Somebody’s Clothes—Somebody’s Life 1958

The Hopeless Defense of Mrs. Dellford 1942 DD

That New York Woman 1958 Violence revision of above

The Poker Player’s Wife 1962 SMM/Dark Side of Love

The Idol with the Clay Bottom 1965 Knight/Dark Side of Love

For the Rest of Her Life 1968 EQMM

Too Nice a Day to Die 1965 Dark Side of Love


Vol. X: My Lips Destroy (17)

The Death of Me 1935 DFW

The Night I Died 1936 DFW

You Bet Your Life 1937 DFW

Borrowed Crime 1939 BM

Waltz 1935 DoD

One Night in Barcelona 1947 MBM

Crime on St. Catherine Street 1936 Argosy

Underworld Trail 1936 Argosy

Death in the Yoshiwara 1938 Argosy

Wild Bill Hiccup 1938 Argosy

Senor Flatfoot 1940 Argosy

Damn Clever, These Americans 1937 Argosy

Gun for a Gringo 1936 Argosy not reprinted

The Moon of Montezuma 1952 Fantastic

Vampire’s Honeymoon 1939 Horror Stories

My Lips Destroy 1959 Beyond the Night revision of above

Baal’s Daughter 1936 TM not reprinted


Vol. XI: Three Kills for One (18/17)

President Eisenhower’s Speech BOAL

The Blue Ribbon 1949 TBR

The Black Bargain 1956 Justice

The Number’s Up 1959

Blue is for Bravery 1937 DFW

If the Shoe Fits 1943 DD

The Body Upstairs 1935 DD

The Fatal Footlights aka Death at the Burlesque 1941 DFW

Charlie Won’t Be Home Tonight 1939 DD

Three Kills for One 1942 BM

The Clean Fight 1965 Dark Side of Love

Blonde Beauty Slain aka Newspaper Headline EQMM 1959

Murder after Death 1964 EQMM

Steps…Coming Near aka The Jazz Record 1964 EQMM

It Only Takes a Minute to Die 1966 EQMM

Divorce—New York Style 1967 EQMM

New York Blues 1970 EQMM

The Dark Oblivion 2021 EQMM


Vol. XII: Right in the Middle of New York (all previously not reprinted) (21)

Right in the Middle of New York aka Murder in the Middle of New York 1936 DFW

Round Trip to the Cemetery 1937 DFW

The Mystery of the Blue Spot 1936 DFW

Blood in Your Eye 1936 DFW

Vision of Murder 1937 DFW

The Gun but Not the Hand 1937 DFW

The Two Deaths of Barney Slabaugh 1936 DFW

Come Witness My Murder 1943 FDF (formerly DFW)

The Evil Eye 1936 AHD 

Death on Delivery 1943 DD

Taxi Dance Murder 1937 TDA

Never Kick a Dick 1938 DoD

The Woman’s Touch 1938 DoD

I Hereby Bequeath 1938 DoD

Holocaust 1936 Argosy

Black Cargo 1937 Argosy

Oft in the Silly Night 1937 Argosy not reprinted

Public Toothache Number One 1936 Argosy

Money Talks 1962 EQMM

Crime by the Forelock 1939 BM

Nelli from Zelli’s 1937 BM


Vol. XIII: Of Time and Murder (Novelettes That Became Novels) (6 or 8?)

Murder in Wax 1935 (expanded as The Black Angel)

Speak to Me of Death 1936 (expanded as Night Has a Thousand Eyes)—both included in Vol. 1, would you want to do them again here?

Those Who Kill 1939 DFW (expanded as Phantom Lady)

The Street of Jungle Death 1939 SDM (expanded as Black Alibi)

Of Time and Murder 1941 DFW (expanded as Deadline at Dawn)

Havana Night 1942 DFW (expanded as The Black Path of Fear)

Four Bars of Yankee Doodle 1945 MBM (expanded as Strangler’s Serenade)

They Call Me Patrice 1946 TW (expanded as I Married a Dead Man)

1 comment:

  1. This is so exciting!!! Of course, getting my hands on copies of them while they're still somewhat reasonable will be another matter entirely, hah... But it's still wonderful to know these are in the works! (And I agree—thirteen is quite a fitting number.)

    Good to see you're still posting, and hope you're doing okay. (Sometimes "okay" is the best we can manage when life—and death—throws us curveballs.) I've been caught up with research, but also enjoyed your last Woolrich post (thanks for letting me know about it, by the way), and intend to give a proper comment over there sometime soon.