Cornell Woolrich’s Black Alibi is a memorable trip into the heart of darkness. Woolrich transports us to Ciudad Real, a dimly-lit South American town terrorized by a string of grisly murders. Police and townsfolk believe the culprit is an escaped jaguar. But is the killer animal or human? Is it really a big cat? Might it be Kiki Walker, a slinky nightclub chanteuse? Could it be Kiki’s ambitious press agent Jerry Manning, anxious to boost his own notoriety in any way he can? Or is it Clo-Clo, the town’s sexy, gold-digging trollop? Woolrich keeps us guessing.
We’re literally kept in the dark about the murderer, the next victim, and when each act of debauchery will occur. Woolrich takes us on a journey fraught with fear, rich in atmosphere, laden with agonizing suspense. Those pitch-black streets of Cuidad conceal a terrifying secret.
Black Alibi may be crime fiction’s first slasher story’the forerunner of countless films, novels, and short stories. Woolrich plays on our fears of the dark, the unseen, and the ever-present dangers that lurk in the shadows of night. He brings us uncomfortably close to each murder; we see the horror through the eyes of each victim.
Woolrich’s blend of noir and nightmare was superbly adapted by legendary producer Val Lewton in 1943’s The Leopard Man, directed by genre master Jacques Tourneur. Black Alibi’s puzzling mystery is rivaled only by its feverish tension. Woolrich’s warning is clear: don’t look behind you.
Cloth: $75, on sale for $60