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May 07 , 2010

Guns, Gentlemen


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

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“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


"No one has ever surpassed Cornell Woolrich for shear suspense, or equalled him for exciting entertainment." - Robert Bloch


"Woolrich can distill more terror, more excitement, more downright nail-biting suspense out of even the most commonplace happenings than nearly all his competitors." - Ellery Queen


"An opus out of the ordinary, highly emotional and suspenseful, with a surprise finish that turns somersaults." - The Saturday Review of Literature on "The Bride Wore Black".


"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, from his Introduction to the print edition.


“He was the greatest writer of suspense fiction that ever lived.” — Francis M. Nevins, Cornell Woolrich Biographer

"Guns, Gentlemen" was first published in Argosy in the December 18 issue of 1937.  According to Francis Nevins it was the last story that Woolrich published that year with Argosy.    It was submitted by Woolrich to the magazine under the title "Twice-Trod Path" and was later published again in a collection of stories under a third title,"The Lamp of Memory."

The story centers around Stephen Botiller, the son of a wealthy family with a historic and heroic past.  Stephen is obsessed by a portrait in his home of his great-grand uncle, who caries the same name as Stephen and died abroad under strange and mysterious circumstances at the age of twenty-five.   
Now twenty-five himself and a college graduate, the current day Stephen finds himself traveling overseas and, in a strangely familiar surrounding, fighting a duel with a local nobleman over the affections of a beautiful woman.

It's a rare story where Woolrich deals with the subject of death in such a gentle, romantic manner.

Cornell George Hopley-Woolrich (4 December 1903 – 25 September 1968) is one of America's best crime and noir writers who sometimes wrote under the pseudonyms William Irish and George Hopley. He's often compared to other celebrated crime writers of his day, Dashiell Hammett, Erle Stanley Gardner and Raymond Chandler. 

Woolrich is considered the godfather of film noir and is often referred to as the Edgar Allen Poe of the 20th century, writing well over 250 works including novels, novelettes, novellas and short stories.

He attended New York's Columbia University but left school in 1926 without graduating when his first novel,"Cover Charge", was published."Cover Charge" was one of six of his novels that he credits as inspired by the work of F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Woolrich soon turned to pulp and detective fiction, often published under his pseudonyms. His best known story today is his 1942 "It Had to Be Murder"for the simple reason that it was adapted into the 1954 Alfred Hitchcock movie "Rear Window"starring James Stewart and Grace Kelly. It was remade as a television film by Christopher Reeve in 1998.

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