Bestselling Danish Language Fiction in 2020
The Scarred Woman (A Department Q Novel)
Shortcut to Danish: Beginner’s Guide to Quickly Learning the Basics of the Danish Language
- Penguin Books
Danish: An Essential Grammar (Routledge Essential Grammars)
The Keeper of Lost Causes: The First Department Q Novel (A Department Q Novel)
- Plume Books
The Languages of Scandinavia: Seven Sisters of the North
The Lake (A Konrad Simonsen Thriller)
Either/Or: A Fragment of Life (Penguin Classics)
- Penguin Classics
The Alphabet House: A Novel
- E P Dutton
The Purity of Vengeance: A Department Q Novel (Department Q Series Book 4)
The Absent One: A Department Q Novel
Danish Phrasebook: The Ultimate Danish Phrasebook for Travelers and Beginners (Audio Included)
Cornell Woolrich: The Inventor of Noir Fiction
Cornell Woolrich was a contemporary of Dashiell Hammett and James M. Cain. That he isn't as well known despite being more influential is par for the course in the history of American literature.
You will not find a Sam Spade in a Woolrich novel; he studiously avoids the easy facilitation of a streetwise PI to solve the crimes that populate his world. There are policemen and other law enforcement officers, of course, but they merely do their best and, as in real life, that best all often falls short. Very often, in fact, the forces of authority are part and parcel of the abstraction of evil against which his heroes must battle. As a result, as in his masterpiece The Phantom Lady, it is often up to a non-professional associate to do the work that the authorities either will not or do not care to do. Because it is not professionals in charge of clearing the names of those falsely accused, or proving themselves innocent of the false charges brought against them, the overriding sense that drives a Woolrich novel is one of apprehensive anxiety. When there is an emotional drive to solve a crime rather merely a job appointment, every thought and action is imbued with meaning and import. Reading a Woolrich novel is kind of like watching an episode of Twin Peaks, where every single line may or may not have a meaning that will only be revealed later in the narrative.
The Phantom Lady was turned into what is in my opinion the greatest film noir of all time, featuring what should have been a superstar-making performance by Ella Raines. The novel and film both benefit tremendously from the fact that if the female character (not the titular character by the way) doesn't solve the mystery of who really committed the murder for which her boss/crush object has been convicted in time, he will be executed. The title of the novel's opening chapter immediately sets the stage for the heart-pounding suspense that makes The Phantom Lady the kind of novel usually finished within 24 hours of picking it up: "The Hundred and Fiftieth Day Before the Execution." The intensity level of this novel never lets up and even though Carol (better known in the movie as Kansas), the plucky girl who does what the police will not, is clearly a character to be admired, in order to gain the information she must have even she must engage in some ambiguous activities that draw her into the noir muck that Woolrich's characters must all inhabit. The Phantom Lady is also a terrifically apt overview of Cornell Woolrich's overriding theme. Scott Henderson, the unfortunate victim of being falsely imprisoned, is a victim of circumstances rather a victim of a concerted conspiracy. The evil that Woolrich writes about is the worst kind because it is mundane and entirely out of our control. That Carol must go to such unpleasant lengths (incredibly recreated in the movie version in a scene that could only have gotten past the censors because they had their minds on some scene in a much bigger-budgeted movie; the drumming scene in The Phantom Lady has to be seen to be appreciated as perhaps the most erotically charged sequence in any made between the adoption and the death of the Hays Code), is all you need to ever read to understand that Cornell Woolrich had precious little faith in the legal system. According to Woolrich's novels in order to gain justice you had to resort to underhanded means yourself. The Phantom Lady is actually one of the lighter books in Woolrich's canon. It's wrongly convicted character is essentially a good guy; the protagonist for which you are supposed to root in many other Woolrich novels are far more ambiguous. As I stated earlier, there are no Sam Spades in Woolrich's books. The good guys often must use questionable tactics and very few ever come out of a Cornell Woolrich novel smelling completely of roses.
Woolrich's novels have almost been universally been translated to the screen with great success. Anybody who has read my articles on the movies of Val Lewton know what a huge fan I am of his and Cornell Woolrich's novel Black Alibi was the source material for Lewton's intriguing The Leopard Man. His short story It Had to be Murder was the basis for one of Alfred Hitchcock's most beloved films, Rear Window. Even French director Francois Truffaut benefited from the talent of Cornell Woolrich, making one of his greatest films, The Bride Wore Black, based on the novel of the same name. And then there is The Whistler series which has been recently airing on Turner Classic Movies. Woolrich was involved in one or another with most of these movies and his stamp of creativity is all over them.