cover image Night and Fear: A Centenary Collection of Stories

Night and Fear: A Centenary Collection of Stories

Cornell Woolrich. Carroll & Graf Publishers, $26 (394pp) ISBN 978-0-7867-1291-5

Cornell Woolrich's considerable skill as a noir writer isn't displayed to best advantage in Night and Fear, a collection of 14 previously uncollected short stories, edited and with an introduction by Francis M. Nevins. There are intriguing premises-an off-duty detective attends a matinee with his girlfriend only to realize that the man who has sat down next to her is a wanted killer (""Double Feature""); a man in a diner notices another's curious furtive examination of sugar bowls (""The Heavy Sugar"")-but too often these tales rely on coincidental gimmicks such as just-in-time rescues by a father or boyfriend in place of Woolrich's usual potent mix of suspense, hints of the supernatural and a pervasive atmosphere of despair. This is a book for completists, not newcomers.