“There’s death at our shoulders all the time. Every minute, every second.” Those lines encompass the hot, sweaty fear that envelops Cornell Woolrich’s The Black Path of Fear.
Bill “Scotty” Scott is an innocent guy, down on his luck. A stroke of fate puts him at the Miami doorstep of powerful, sadistic gangster Eddie Roman. Eddie offers Scotty a job as his chauffeur. But it’s love at first sight when Scotty meets Eve, Eddie’s beautiful, abused wife. The two lovers take the fast track to Havana, with a vengeful Eddie right behind them. Scotty and Eve stay on the run, constantly looking over their shoulders in fear. When Eve turns up dead, Eddie makes sure that Scotty is framed for her murder.
With Eve gone, Scotty walks the black path of fear in a paranoid haze. Every Havana cop seems to be in Eddie’s pocket. The more Scotty protests his innocence, the closer he gets to the gallows. Woolrich captures Scotty’s desperation and loneliness. We walk the dark corners of Havana with him. We experience the bustle of the bazaars, the low-rent gin joints, the smell of corruption, the opiate intrigue of the city’s Chinatown district. Scotty’s only hope is to get to Eddie before Eddie gets to him. The chase is onÉ and for Scotty, the quicksand is rising.
The Black Path of Fear inspired the exciting 1946 film, The Chase, featuring noir icons Steve Cochran and Peter Lorre. Read the book first. It’s a taut example of why Cornell Woolrich remains a master of suspense.
Cloth: $75, on sale for $40