Day: March 21, 2020

Dorothy B. Hughes (1904 — 1993)

thDorothy B. Hughes (August 10, 1904—May 6, 1993) was an American mystery writer, who also had a career as a critic. Hughes wrote fourteen crime and mystery novels. Hughes was born Dorothy Belle Flanagan in Kansas City, Missouri and attended university in Missouri, New Mexico and New York. She married Levi Allan Hughes in 1932.

In 1940, she published her first mystery novel, The So Blue Marble. She published eight more mystery novels in the 1940s. She also wrote a history of the University of New Mexico and a critical study of writer Erle Stanley Gardner. In 1951 she received an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America in the category of Outstanding Mystery Criticism, and in 1978 she was given the MWA’s Grand Master award.

Hughes acknowledged the influence of such writers as Eric Ambler, Graham Greene, and William Faulkner. Her writing style and suspenseful plots exemplified the hardboiled genre of crime and detective novels, and her literary career associates her with other female crime writers of the 1940s and 1950s, such as Margaret Millar, Vera Caspary, Elisabeth Sanxay Holding, and Olive Higgins Prouty.

Hughes was a successful writer and popular during her day. Three of her novels were made into feature films: The Fallen Sparrow (1943), starring John Garfield; In a Lonely Place (1950), directed by Nicholas Ray and starring Humphrey Bogart; and Ride the Pink Horse (1947), directed by and starring Robert Montgomery, which was remade for television in 1964 as The Hanged Man. Hughes made her home in Santa Fe, New Mexico, which she used as the setting of several novels.

At the peak of her career Hughes stopped writing novels, explaining that her domestic responsibilities made writing difficult: her mother was ill, she was taking care of her grandchildren, and she simply hadn’t the tranquillity required to write. From 1940 to 1979 she reviewed mysteries for the Albuquerque Tribune, Los Angeles Times, New York Herald-Tribune and other newspapers. In 1978 Hughes was named a Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America. She won her second Edgar Allan Poe award for her critical biography, Erle Stanley Gardner: The Case of the Real Perry Mason. Hughes died on May 6, 1993 in Ashland, Oregon, from complications following a stroke. (Several sources: Wikipedia, Gadetection)

Bibliography: The So Blue Marble (1940); The Cross-Eyed Bear (1940); The Bamboo Blonde (1941); The Fallen Sparrow (1942); The Blackbirder (1943); The Delicate Ape (1944); Johnnie (1944); Dread Journey (1945); Ride the Pink Horse (1946); The Scarlet Imperial aka Kiss For A Killer (1946); In A Lonely Place (1947); The Candy Kid (1950); The Davidian Report (1952) aka The Body on the Bench; and The Expendable Man (1963).

The Origins of American Noir by Megan Abbott

Mike Grost on Dorothy B Hughes 

Forgotten Book – In a Lonely Place by Martin Edwards

And Curtis Evans wrote around her figure:

“American Women Mystery Writers” (2004)–Breen challenges the view–taken as Gospel in much feminist mystery criticism–that earlier American women mystery writers “have been ignored or marginalized by mostly masculine historians and scholars.”  Counters Breen: “Time and forgetfulness are equal-opportunity erasers.”  As someone who has written about “erased” male detective novelists, I would tend to agree with Breen.  I also agree with him that there are many “unjustly neglected” writers of both sexes deserving reprinting.
Incidentally, Breen has a good discussion here of Dorothy B. Hughes, about whom, he asserts, there is a modern-day misconception in academia: that she is a pulp writer.
Academics make the mistake of assuming “pulp” is “a synonym for mass-market paperback,” notes Breen.  But “pulp writer simply will not do as a description of Dorothy B. Hughes,” he insists:
Her first book was a volume of poetry from Yale University Press, her novels were written for the hardcover book market from the beginning, she was inspired to fiction-writing by the very un-pulpish Eric Ambler, and she received respectful reviews from distinguished publications throughout her career.

1815

(Facsimile Dust Jacket, Duell, Sloan & Pearce, Inc. (USA), 1947)

A classic California noir with a feminist twist, this prescient 1947 novel exposed misogyny in post-World War II American society, making it far ahead of its time.
Los Angeles in the late 1940s is a city of promise and prosperity, but not for former fighter pilot Dix Steele.  To his mind nothing has come close to matching “that feeling of power and exhilaration and freedom that came with loneness in the sky.” He prowls the foggy city night—­bus stops and stretches of darkened beaches and movie houses just emptying out—seeking solitary young women. His funds are running out and his frustrations are growing. Where is the good life he was promised? Why does he always get a raw deal? Then he hooks up with his old Air Corps buddy Brub, now working for the LAPD, who just happens to be on the trail of the strangler who’s been terrorizing the women of the city for months…
Written with controlled elegance, Dorothy B. Hughes’s tense novel is at once an early indictment of a truly toxic masculinity and a twisty page-turner with a surprisingly feminist resolution. A classic of golden age noir, In a Lonely Place also inspired Nicholas Ray’s 1950 film of the same name, starring Humphrey Bogart. (Source: Amazon)