It turns out that it's almost exactly 13 years since I first read 'In A Lonely Place', it's stayed with me ever since, and after this summer's reprint, I've been recommending it to anyone who stands still long enough at work. Kate's reprint of the year awards has been the perfect excuse to revisit.
Dorothy B. Hughes is a fabulous writer of Noir who deserves the same kind of recognition as Raymond Chandler, but hasn't yet got it. Her books are available, but not in a collectible smart set, or even reliably in paperback. As 'In A Lonely Place' is easily available right now, and also quite short it's a very good place to start though.
It’s not without faults; the end is sort of rushed and not entirely convincing but basically it’s a thrilling, chilling, very hard-boiled, and nicely twisting story. It opens in the middle of a sea fog with a man watching a woman thinking about how he might approach her, how she wouldn’t be scared – at first. This is Los Angeles in 1947 and a serial killer is on the loose, every month a girl is raped, strangled, and dumped and he’s clever enough to leave no traces. This is the situation when two old war comrades meet, Dix Steele and Brub Nikolais. They flew together in the air corps – for one man the war was the high point of his life and he’s come out without a job or purpose. The other has put it behind him, is married, and an up-and-coming detective. I can’t say anything else without giving far too much away and hope I haven’t done so already.