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The Black Path of Fear (1944)

de Cornell Woolrich

Outros autores: Veja a seção outros autores.

Séries: Black Series (5)

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The Black Path of Fear (1944) tells of a man who runs away to Havana with an American gangster's wife, followed by the vengeful husband, who kills the woman and frames her lover, leaving him a stranger in a strange land, menaced on all sides and fighting for his life.
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Bill Scott is honest, though obviously not the brightest guy in the world. But he can’t help himself. He’s in love. Unfortunately Eve Roman, his new love, is married to a Miami mob boss. But she loves Scott, too, so they runaway together—to Havana.

In the first few pages of Cornell Woolrich’s The Black Path of Fear, Eve is stabbed to death in a Cuban nightclub and the police blame Scott. We get the backstory of how Scott and Mrs. Roman got together in a long flashback, but the majority of the book—which hour-by-hour covers no more than a day and a half—describes Scott’s desperate attempts to find the murderer and clear himself. His chances look dim. He doesn’t speak Spanish, the police are combing the city for him, he knows no one in Havana and when it comes down to it, a big part of him doesn’t really care. Eve is dead.

I’m working my way through Woolrich novels and short stories. It’s a rewarding journey although Black Path is not his best. My 1982 printing of the book (it was first published in 1944) reads almost as if it lacks a final edit. The dialog occasionally sounds a bit off, Scott’s hat mysteriously appears in one scene—after he’d dropped it somewhere else—and he doesn’t use his love for the dead woman as an argument for his innocence.

That’s the bad news. The good news is Woolrich takes a certainly unoriginal plot (though undoubtedly copied many times since) and builds it into a succession of nail-biting scenes in some of the most Black Path of Fearmemorably ugly, foreboding settings you can imagine. In one scene Scott is escorted by police down a suffocatingly narrow alley—too small to accommodate a car—in a run-down portion of Havana’s Chinatown. The alley smelled “like asafetida and somebody burning feathers, and the lee side of a sewer.” It was also dim.

It wasn’t of an even darkness; it was mottled darkness. Every few yards or so an oil lamp or kerosene torch or a Chinese paper lantern, back within some doorway or some stall opening, would squirt out a puddle of light to relieve the gloom. They were different colors, these smears, depending on the reflector they filtered through: orange and sulphur-green, and once even a sort of purple-red, were spewed around on the dirty walls like grape juice.

In another scene Scott is feeling his way in pitch darkness across a silent and seemingly empty skid-row office when something pricks his ear. It’s a clever, suspenseful set-up that leads to a creative result.

Scott is similar to many Woolrich protagonists, an ordinary guy dumped into extraordinary circumstances and challenged to save someone else, himself, his sanity, or all three. Emotions, not only of fear, but loneliness, disgust and hopelessness often drive his plots.

She had the look on her face of someone who has just been granted a quick glimpse down into the bottommost depths of hell from the top of the stairs. And didn’t turn away quickly enough.

Woolrich was a noir master. Although he’s not as well known as Raymond Chandler or Dashiell Hammett, according to his biographer Woolrich influenced not only the French Roman noir novels but the bleak Hollywood crime dramas, film noir.

To me, noir represents not only a grim, dark setting or plot, but a style of writing. And Woolrich’s style is unmistakable: “Silence fell, and we kicked it around between us for a while.”

Like the majority of Woolrich’s novels and short stories, Black Path was dramatized, in this case, many times: One of several radio versions starred Cary Grant (1946), the movie version (1946) starred Robert Cummings and Peter Lorre and a TV drama (1954) had James Arness as Scott.

Black Path was one of Woolrich’s “black” series in the 1940s, when the author was in his prime, cranking out so many thrilling novels that he released some under two pen names, William Irish and George Hopley. Biographer Francis Nevins, Jr. called Woolrich the Poe of the Twentieth Century. Black Path is an entertaining, compelling read, but stick with Woolrich titles for the whole dark ride through the 1940s. ( )
  Mark_Bacon | Jul 24, 2017 |
Based on his original short story "Havana Night" (Flynn's Detective Magazine, December 1942), The Black Path of Fear is the fifth novel in Cornell Woolrich's Black Series. Like much of Woolrich's work, Black Path of Fear deals with the destruction of love, the individual versus the system, and - of course - revenge. In this case, Bill Scott finds himself on the run from police and trying to prove his innocence after being framed for the murder of the woman he loved, the kept woman of a crime boss he worked for and stole her from.

What sounds like a convoluted plot comes across straightforward, as do many of our hero's escapades, as he winds his way through the labyrinthine streets and underworld - from dark, narrow alleys to decrepit opium dens - of Havana. There aren't many twists or surprises in Black Path of Fear, but that's not why one reads Woolrich; the focus of the story is on the main character's despair and loneliness, and how redemption, vengeance, or the occasional ally, do little to console those who have lost love.

The Black Path of Fear is my favorite title in the Black Series, for while likely intended to describe a lone man's flight from injustice or pursuit of justice, it can also stand as a description of life itself, and how all people are loners struggling to hang on to that brief glimmer of light that the rest of the world seems determined to extinguish at any given chance. ( )
  smichaelwilson | Jan 19, 2017 |
Bill Scott decide huir a Cuba con Eve, la mujer de Eddie Roman, dueño de in nigt club. La mujer es asesinada y Scott acusado del crimen. Empiza así su odisea, que poco a poco se va transformando en pesadilla ante la implacable persecución de que es objeto. El deseo de venganza de Eddie Roman no conoce límites y las pruebas a que se ve sometido Scott crean un diabólico clima de suspenso, que ha de mantener al lector preso del desarrollo de la acción hasta la última página. "Diez puntos", según la Saturday Review
  kika66 | Dec 26, 2010 |
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Cornell Woolrichautor principaltodas as ediçõescalculado
Berni, OlivieroTradutorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
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The Black Path of Fear (1944) tells of a man who runs away to Havana with an American gangster's wife, followed by the vengeful husband, who kills the woman and frames her lover, leaving him a stranger in a strange land, menaced on all sides and fighting for his life.

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