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The Black Curtain

3.86  ·  Rating Details ·  260 Ratings  ·  21 Reviews
After a slight accident on a tawdry street, Frank Townsend goes home - only to discover he hasn't been there in years. Suffering from amnesia, accused of murder, and the object of a deadly pursuit, he must overcome the crime that time has thrust upon him...
Mass Market Paperback, 148 pages
Published July 12th 1982 by Ballantine Books (first published 1941)
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(showing 1-29 of 588)
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Dan Schwent
Frank Townsend is knocked unconscious by a falling piece of plaster. When he comes to, he wanders home to find his apartment empty and his wife gone. He tracks his wife down to find that three years are missing from his memories and that he ran out on her sometime after the last day he can remember. Frank tries to rebuild his fragmented life until a man from the missing three years shows up looking for Frank. Will Frank pierce The Black Curtain and put the missing piece of his life in place?

Originally "The Black Curtain" by Cornell Woolrich was published in 1941. The times were different than today. All the men wore hats and suits and most everyone smoked. In 1945, a poll asked Americans, "Do you know what television is?" Most didn't. There certainly were no credit cards, so pennies mattered. The book should not be judged by today's standards much less by today's world.

Although the story that Woolrich tells here is highly improbable, the paranoia that he is able to build and mainta
Cornell Woolrich enttäuscht mich auch mit diesem seiner Bücher nicht. Von der ersten Seite an zieht die Handlung einen in den Strudel von Gegenwart und Vergangenheit des Frank Townsend, der sich in einem schier unlösbaren Dilemma befindet. Durch einen Schlag auf dem Kopf scheint sein Leben nicht mehr das, was es einst war. Seine Adresse, die er am Morgen auf dem Weg zur Arbeit verließ, stimmt nicht mehr. Seine Ehefrau, von der er sich noch verabschiedet hatte, ist umgezogen und behauptet, dass s ...more
Feb 01, 2014 Bruce rated it liked it
In the world of The Black Curtain paranoia runs rampant. The protagonist is besieged by he knows not what, and Woolrich's rich command of metaphor effectively insinuates an insidious malevolence into the reader's sensibility. Here's a small sample:
The things of the night began to slink into view. Blue shadows, like tentatively clutching fingers, began a slow creep toward Townsend out from under the trees. Deepening, advancing only furtively when they weren't watched closely, pretending to be arr
Rebecca McNutt
Jan 23, 2016 Rebecca McNutt rated it it was amazing
Presenting a horrific yet plausible scenario of repression and crime, The Black Curtain has faded into the vast amount of other crime novels in the world but definitely deserves to be read more often.
Mark Bacon
Aug 14, 2014 Mark Bacon rated it it was amazing
I recommend the 1941 novel, The Black Curtain, as an introduction to Woolrich. In it, Frank Townsend gets a bump on the head and suddenly three years of his life disappears–or reappears. He searches for his home and discovers his apartment is vacant and that his wife has moved out. He finally finds her and she tells him she hasn’t seen him for three years.

So starts this different version of an amnesia story. After he’s been back with his wife a short time, Townsend discovers someone is following
Jan 31, 2015 Sarah rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 03, 2014 TrumanCoyote rated it really liked it
Unless I missed the point somewhere along the way, all the threads weren't tied up at the end (ie, we still don't really know why Frank became Dan in the first place). And as always with Woolrich, there are a lot of lines that I wish he had excised. Some of them work, but for the most part they just come across as rather hammy and belaboring the obvious.
Aug 04, 2016 William rated it it was ok
An interesting premise with the amnesia awaking and the totally forgotten murder possibility perpetrated by the main character. The first 2/3 of the book build up in classic pulp fiction style and are well done. The concluding sections are disjointed and very disappointing. Lots of unresolved holes in the story.
Oct 10, 2015 David rated it liked it
I've had Woolrich on my shelf for almost 20 years after I bought it in Webster, Texas. Xavier, an old friend of mine, reminded me of this writer of whom I had occasionally read favorable reviews. Well, The Black Curtain was pretty good for this genre. Woolrich probably got better as he wrote more. A couple of times his physical detail was a little hard to smoothly follow. I could imagine him doing repairs at home and bumping his head on a shelf he had just put there an hour ago. The tone was goo ...more
Aug 31, 2008 Karen rated it really liked it
Vintage 1941 pulp fiction -- really fun. Like reading a noir movie. Some of the phraseology set me back a bit. On page 73, "His face was an unbaked cruller of rage." First of all, crullers are fried, not baked. Second of all, what the? But I could overlook that in the midst of such an intriguing, fast-moving plot. Then on page 178, "The ticket seller had hard crullers of stubborness around his eyes." Seriously, take a break, Woolrich, treat yourself to a doughnut and a cup of coffee and get past ...more
Jim Thomas
Oct 16, 2015 Jim Thomas rated it liked it
Dark and atmospheric yet somewhat dated. Woolrich is a sadly forgotten writer considering his tremendous turnout of short stories and novels. One of his books was one of the 5 chosen by The American Library in their collection called American Noir of the 30s & 40s. That book is the strange I Married a Dead Man, a hard one to put down. Another one of his creations was the basis for one of Alfred Hitchcock's most famous movies, Rear Window. The Black Curtain was worth the time since it was les ...more
Tim Schneider
Nov 30, 2010 Tim Schneider rated it liked it
It was a little bit of a struggle to get through this one and I can now see why it is regarded as one of Woolrich's weaker novels. Part of the problem may be retrospective. Was amnesia the horrendous cliche in 1942 that it is today? I'm not sure, but the plot was certainly cliche on this end. It is vintage Woolrich, in that it has incredibly improbable plot turns. However, it is inexplicable in having a rather upbeat (for Woolrich) ending. It's not without all redeeming value, but it is weak eno ...more
Nov 14, 2010 Giangian rated it it was amazing
Ormai è assodato: Cornell Woolrich è una delle migliori scoperte che ho fatto quest'anno grazie ad Anobii.
Dopo "La donna fantasma" ecco un altro noir a 4 (ma anche a 5 se potessi) stelle, incentrato sulla disperata ricerca della verità (e della propria identità) di un uomo che non ricorda assolutamente nulla degli ultimi suoi tre anni di vita. Una scrittura che rende palpabile la tensione, la disperazione di non riuscire a ricordare e la rende con un'atmosfera nebbiosa, che non permette di vede
Antonella Sacco
un uomo perde la memoria e vive un'altra vita per quasi tre anni.
alla fine un mistero è risolto, ma non sappiamo nulla del perché 3 anni prima avesse cambiato vita...

mi ha lasciata con un sacco di domande senza risposta.

(forse non ho capito nulla?)
James Hoff
Sep 11, 2011 James Hoff rated it liked it
Shelves: pulp
I really really really wanted to like Cornell Woolrich and his work, but it's just not to be. This is the fourth or fifth book of his I have read in the last month and while it's got some good classic elements (essentially a man awakes with no memory and works to find out why he was set up for murder [while the murders set out to kill him]), Woolrich's style and the plot are just a little too stiff for me. Good fun but not really a good book.
The Black Curtain is the story of an amnesiac trying to discover his past. This is my favorite Woolrich, though perhaps not his best. The ending is atrocious--as Woolrich's endings can sometimes be--but the rest of the book is so great that I almost don't care.
Dec 27, 2011 Kimberly rated it it was ok
Shelves: book-group
January 2012 B&N
This book was okay. It was a short read which was good (about 150 pages) because I don't know if I would have enjoyed a longer book. Writing was okay but I couldn't picture the place for the book, although I could picture the time period.
Aug 05, 2009 Seth rated it really liked it
Nobody writes quite like this cat. When all the odds are stacked against our hero he somehow just gets lucky enough to move on!
Dec 31, 2011 Kona rated it it was ok
Not a very exciting read and extremely predictable.
Feb 19, 2015 Raymond rated it liked it
Shelves: mystery, read-2015
2.5 stars, really
Lori Zeller
Lori Zeller marked it as to-read
Sep 24, 2016
S. Meadows
S. Meadows rated it it was amazing
Sep 23, 2016
Michael Seidman
Michael Seidman rated it it was amazing
Sep 22, 2016
Surya Kalyan
Surya Kalyan marked it as to-read
Sep 20, 2016
Jilles marked it as to-read
Sep 10, 2016
Johanna Miller
Johanna Miller marked it as to-read
Sep 09, 2016
Sarah rated it it was ok
Sep 08, 2016
Allen Pasternak
Allen Pasternak rated it liked it
Sep 03, 2016
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Cornell Woolrich is widely regarded as the twentieth century’s finest writer of pure suspense fiction. The author of numerous classic novels and short stories (many of which were turned into classic films) such as Rear Window, The Bride Wore Black, The Night Has a Thousand Eyes, Waltz Into Darkness, and I Married a Dead Man, Woolrich began his career in the 1920s writing mainstream novels that won ...more
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