Phantom lady, I was with you for six hours last night, but I can't remember what you look like, or what you wore -- except for that large orange hat. We sat shoulder to shoulder at a little bar in the east Fifties. We ate dinner together, saw a Broadway show together, shared a cab together. The bartender, the waiter, the usher, the cab driver -- none of them remembers you. The police say I was home strangling my wife at the moment I met you. You are the only one who can prove my story -- but I don't know your name, or where you live. And I can't search for you from a jail cell....
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Penzler Pick, January 2000: It all started with Cornell Woolrich, whether using his own name or the pseudonym William Irish, if you're talking about creating suspense.
Take Phantom Lady, the first book under that pseudonym. Now, the idea is commonplace. You've read a dozen books and seen a hundred movies with the same plot idea, but this is where it began.
A condemned man, due to be executed for a crime he didn't commit, watches and feels the weeks and days and hours slip away as the moment of his execution approaches.
In case anyone reading the book doesn't quite get it, doesn't quite understand what it means to be able to count the hours before certain death, Irish begins each chapter with a time check. The first chapter is headed: "The Hundred and Fiftieth Day Before the Execution." Chapters 16, 17, and 18 state "The Eighth Day Before the Execution," "The Seventh," and "The Sixth." There are no other words in those chapters because nothing happens. But Scott Henderson is in jail and, so help me, the reader by now feels nearly the same tension that the poor guy must have been feeling. He didn't kill his wife, and he knows he didn't, and we know he didn't, but no one else knows. Oh, yes, one other person knows. The killer knows.
If you can't stand the suspense, don't read this book. If not knowing what is going to happen next, or in the end, makes you too tense, don't read this book. You won't be able to stand it. --Otto PenzlerAbout the Author:
Barry N. Malzberg: Barry Malzberg is a well-respected writer and critic of science fiction.
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Book Description Ballantine Books, 1982. Mass Market Paperback. Book Condition: New. Never used!. Bookseller Inventory # P11034530652X
Book Description Ballantine Books. MASS MARKET PAPERBACK. Book Condition: New. 034530652X New Condition. Bookseller Inventory # NEW7.1813883