Monday, February 22, 2021

I Wake Up Screaming by Steve Fisher

For some reason, author Steve Fisher rewrote his 1941 novel, I Wake Up Screaming, and republished it in 1960.

Sources on-line say he wanted to update the book from the early 1940s to the late 1950s.

This is the beginning of the 1941version:

It was a hot Saturday night and I wore white flannels and one of those blue sport shirts and sat in the Roosevelt Hotel’s Cine-Grill drinking Bacardis. The bar stools were white leather, and the wall decoration was a maze of old film cuts blown up – Charlie Chaplin, Jackie Coogan, Milton Sills, Harold Lloyd, Wallace Beery and like that. Across the street at The Chinese they were having a minor premiere of the newest Dr. Kildare picture. Arc lights were swinging back and forth, limousines arriving, and cops holding off the crowd.

And this is the update:

It was a hot Saturday night and I had on a Sy Devore suit and a hand-knit tie and sat at the bar in Mike Romanoff’s drinking Canadian Club old fashioneds. The bar stools were leather and the wall decorations had that ultra look and Zsa Zsa Gabor was at a closeby table, her head thrown back in laughter, and Gary Cooper and Bing Crosby and Bill Holden were at other tables and a couple of blocks away, on the corner of Wilshire and Beverly Drive, they were having a premiere for the latest Jerry Wald epic: arc lights swinging back and forth, limousines arriving, and cops holding off the crowd.

A lot of pop references are different in the later work, but the story is essentially the same.  

I Wake Up Screaming is about a young writer working at one of the big studios who meets Vicky, a beautiful young woman who also works there. They start going out together, but Vicky is murdered and the police jump to the conclusion that the writer did it.

One detective, Ed Cornell, has it in for the writer and makes no secret that he wants to put him in the electric chair. Cornell is a ghostly presence, he looks like death, skeletal, pale and sickly. The man is dying and knows this is his last case and promises to live to see it through. Cornell shadows the writer and appears out of nowhere in unexpected places to haunt the writer.

Fisher does an expert job of plunging the reader into the dark, murky, nightmarish world in which the writer finds himself.


  1. Curious one Elgin. I'm guessing you haven't found a 1980 update? I've heard of this author before - in passing, but that's as much as I know.

  2. How bizarre, it is a little like copying your own homework...