“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 Waltz Into Darkness.
Fatal attractions have been a mainstay in popular culture, but noirmeister Cornell Woolrich truly laid claim to the demented side of sexual obsession with Waltz into Darkness.
This disturbing — nearly depraved — lesson in obsessive love tracks the hapless Louis Durand, a 19th-century New Orleans coffee merchant who is literally torn asunder by his passion for predatory femme fatale Julia Russell.
Determined to conquer both Durand and the sexism that plagued the late 1800s, Julia is not who she seems, cloaking a hidden agenda beneath a beautiful face, a winsome smile, and an irresistible charm of manner. We’re reminded of Georges De La Fouchardire’s classic novel La Chienne and its memorable cinematic adaptations by directors Jean Renoir in 1931 and Fritz Lang in 1945’s Scarlet Street.
But Woolrich puts his own inimitable stamp on the story, garnishing it with the breathless twists and sweaty anxiety that became his stock-in-trade. With Waltz into Darkness, Woolrich takes the opportunity to develop fully formed characters who lead us by the hand down a treacherous path that ends with a jaw-dropping jolt.
Francis M. Nevins’ fact-packed introduction puts the novel into its proper perspective, preparing readers for the dark journey to come. Woolrich aficionados and collectors of fine books will savor this sumptuously designed homage to one of his most compelling and alluring tales.
“A waltz for life,” Durand’s paramour tells him on their wedding night. “A waltz with wings. A waltz never ending.” You won’t want the waltz to end, either. Accept Cornell Woolrich as your dance partner and waltz into this unforgettable story of fever and fixation.