Thursday, November 03, 2005

Book Number 41

In A Lonely Place

In a Lonely Place (1947) by Dorothy B. Hughes

This is a reprint of a classic pulp crime novel from the postwar American noir canon. It was made into a great 1950s Nicolas Ray movie starring Humphrey Bogart. The story is told from the twisted perspective of Dixon Steele, a itinerant war veteran who has landed in LA. He has a huge class inferiority complex and has placed himself in the life of a rich old Princeton chum. You might be thinking of Patricia Highsmith's Ripley (1955-) books and this story has many parallels.

Not only does Dix hate the rich but he turns out to be a complete misogynist, rapist and murderer. The detective leading the investigation into the random, senseless murders of young women is Det. Sgt. Brub Nicolai, an old war buddy of Steele. They play a cat-and-mouse game throughout the book.

This is a fairly standard pulp noir story. Strangely, I kept thinking over many of the scenes in the book long after I had finished reading it. The reprint is published under a series called Femmes Fatales: Women Write Pulp and there is an interesting afterword that basically posits that this book is a feminist critique. They suggest that Dorothy B. Hughes, a female writer in a male dominated genre, portrays this serial rapist and murderer with such inadequacies that she is actually mocking his misogynist views. I'm not entirely sure how much I buy that she had such an agenda but having this interesting and well developed afterword added an path of thought to the book that I might never have wandered down.

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