In a Lonely Place (Femmes Fatales: Women Write Pulp)

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Press: The Feminist Press at CUNY (November 1, 2003)


"Puts Chandler to shame . 
Hughes is the master we keep turning to."—Sara Paretsky, author of the V.
Warshawski novels"A superb novel by one of crime fiction's finest writers of psychological suspense.
What a pleasure it is to see this tale in print once again!"—Marcia Miller, author of the Sharon McCone novels"This lady is the queen of noir, and In a Lonely Place is her crown."—Laurie R.
King, author of the Mary Russell novelsPostwar Los Angeles is a lonely place where the American Dream is showing its seamy underside—and a stranger is preying on young women.
The suggestively names Dix Steele, a cynical vet with a chip on his shoulder about the opposite sex, is the LAPD's top suspect.
Dix knows enough to watch his step, especially since his best friend is on the force, but when he meets the luscious Laurel Gray—a femme fatale with brains—something begins to crack.
The basis for extraordinary performances by Humphrey Bogart and Gloria Grahame in the 1950 film version of the book, In a Lonely Place tightens the suspence with taut, hard-boiled prose and stunningly undoes the convential noir plot.


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Comment List (Total:16)

  •     Published in 1947, IN A LONELY PLACE is a hard-boiled noir that places the reader in the mind of WW2 veteran Dix Steele, a brilliantly realized psychopathic serial killer. The story, while slight, is more than compensated by the insighful character study and the daily details of Steele's parasitic life style in post-war Los Angeles.
  •     Much scarier than the film. Hollywood balked at the ending in the book. Scary too.
  •     Now I'm a fan of Dorothy Hughes--although I love the film made that was based on this novel, the novel tells a much more harrowing story. I do love the film though--great acting, as usual, by Bogart and Gloria Grahame.
  •     An oldie, but goodie! I had never heard of Dorothy Hughes, but now I will look for more of her books after reading this great story.
  •     The Library of America has published a two-volume set of "Women Crime Writers", which includes four novels from the 1940s and four novels from the 1950s.
  •     Very unique narration that gives you a front row seat to all the action.
  •     A classic mystery. Very pleased to find it available in hard cover.
  •     Very good dark tale. Kept me reading. Hughes was a very good noir writer.
  •     This is the first Dorothy Hughes novel I've ever read. I had no idea how prolific this woman was, nor that she was the first, not Patricia Highsmith, to write an entire book from the criminal's point of view. These novels are not easy to find. Some publisher needs to collect them all and reprint. Vintage! Are you listening? I found the novel a little slow taking off, and of course in this day of the speedy "hook" this may be too egregious an error for a lot of people, but my persistence paid off with a trip into crimes committed by a psycho pathological mind that can one moment be brilliant, the next wracked with paranoia, the next with a complete misunderstanding of reality. All in all, Hughes seems to have great insight into such a mind. I would like to read more. Hughes is the beginning of a long line of criminal POVs in the book and movie/TV world, which has become so sophisticated as to give us an anti-hero like Walter White. She deserves kudos or damnation, depending on your own point of view.
  •     I read a review of the movie as a film noir, and decided to start with the book. I am glad I did. I found it in a collection of women mystery writers of the 1940s and read Laura...
  •     Hughes's classic noir is criminally overlooked and most who have heard of this book, may recognize the title from Hollywood's 1950 adaption starring the late and great, Humphrey...
  •     Despite having seen and enjoyed the film featuring Humphrey Bogart, I got this book, knowing it deviated from the screenplay (or, rather, the screenplay had deviated from this original novel!). I was very glad to have read this. Only the setting and names are the same - otherwise, a completely different, very suspenseful and psychologically wrought piece. Highly recommend.
  •     I love re-reading books, but I doubt I'll ever give IN A LONELY PLACE a second go. Not because it's a dull story or a badly written novel, but because in a sense it's almost too effective. Author Dorothy Hughes' venture into the mind of a serial killer in post-WW2 Los Angeles is gripping noir, but also mentally and morally exhausting. I may be slightly prejudiced because I happen to live almost exactly in the neighborhood where most of this novel takes place, but regardless of the reason, the book still kinda made me want to scrub out my brain after I finished it.IN A LONELY PLACE is the story of Dickson Steele, an ex-Air Force pilot who has come to Los Angeles with many secrets, not the least of which is that his hobby is raping and murdering women. When he runs into his old war buddy Brub Nicolai, he's at once alarmed and thrilled by the discovery that Brub has become a detective in the Beverly Hills police department, and is trying to solve the very murders that he, Dix, is committing. While enjoying what he sees as a a kind of ongoing in-joke at his friend's expense, Dix soon develops an attraction to a wanna-be actress in his apartment complex named Laurel Gray, but Laurel's presence in Dickson's life throws him off his game. On the one hand, he genuinely loves the hard and sultry Laurel; on the other, he genuinely hates women - especially Brub's attractive and too-shrewd wife, Sylvia. And when Dix Steele feels stress, his only relief is indulging in his hobby.IN A LONELY PLACE is in many ways classic noir. It was written in 1947, and a sense of postwar disappointment pervades every page, along with a feeling that Dickson somehow represents the stereotype of the midcentury American male gone horribly wrong. In one sense has all the traits associated with maniless - a danger-loving loner who drinks hard, loves hard, wears the right clothes, drives the right car and plays by his own rules, he could be the archetypal hero of any hundred detective or adventure novels, except that each of these traits is as twisted as a corkscrew. His daredevilry takes the form of a sick cat-and-mouse game played for cheap thrills, his sexuality is mixed up with misogyny and sadism, and his easygoing lifestyle is predicated on theft and parasitism. As for playing by his own rules, they amount to to thinking, apropos of one of his victims, "the only exciting thing that had ever happened to her was to be raped and murdered." Being inside his mind is a grim and disheartening experience, a sort of tour-de-force of the worst aspects of human desires. In a sense he's a kind of metaphor for frustrated Hollywood types who are long on ambition but short on talent and scruples. And this is the novel's strength as well as its weakness, because Dix is such a total rotter that after a while you just want to put the book down and take a shower. And yet it's a testament to the strength of Hughes' cool, cynical, intensely personal prose that you don't put the book down. You have to keep reading, keep peeling back the layers of this rotten onion to see if there's anything at the core. Whether Hughes delivers that last explanatory kernel a matter of opinion; Dix's final utterance could be seen as an unsatisfying cop-out or a brilliant bit of existential simplicity. Who knows? Maybe I'll have to read the damned thing again after all, just to decide.
  •     Quite an understated and chilling story. I haven't read many books like this one. The main character Dix Steele is a psychopath who preys on women, his best friend and war buddy is a Detective. There is a definite feeling of noir. It's nicely atmospheric and moody.I wish there had been more written about Dix's background, he was a fascinating character. I wasn't really surprised by the last sentence I already had a sneaking suspicion as to what was to be revealed.Well developed characters and plot, you really have to read this story for yourself and meet Dix Steele.
  •     Noir fiction has secured for itself an indelible slot in literature. It's the rare author working within the rigid framework of the genre that can both adhere to the form whilst...

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