Friday, September 2, 2022

In a Lonely Place by Dorothy B. Hughes

In a Lonely Place by Dorothy B. Hughes

In a Lonely Place (1947) by Dorothy B. Hughes is crime novel set in Los Angeles following World War II. The story centers on a serial rapist and murderer named Dix Steele. Dix was a fighter pilot in the war, and after his wartime successes, he finds his return to his regular life lacking. He lives in a friend’s apartment and depends on checks sent to him by his rich uncle. He has no interest in finding work. Dix spends his days sleeping and his nights riding buses with routes along isolated, foggy beaches looking for women to prey on and ideal places to get away with his crimes.

One night, Dix contacts his old Air Force friend Brub Nicolai, and he visits him and his wife Sylvia. Dix is stunned to learn that Brub is now working as a cop and trying to catch the strangler that’s been raping and murdering woman around the city. Brub tells Dix about the crimes, which have been occurring roughly once a month. At first, Dix is nervous that Brub and Sylvia will be suspicious of him, but then he grows audacious. Dix is convinced that he can outsmart Brub and the other cops by getting inside information from his old friend.

Here's an example of Dix's boldness in a conversation with Brub:

Conversation between Dix and Brub from In a Lonely Place by Dorothy B. Hughes

Dix is an evil and twisted individual, a man who feels overly confident and entitled. He’s a misogynist who believes women have wronged him and that they deserve to be punished and humiliated. At the same time, he craves the company of a woman and begins dating Laurel Grey. She’s a complex woman, and Dix is convinced that they’re alike and meant to be together.

The reader sees the characters through Dix’s eyes, colored by his paranoia and rage as "the red knots tightened in his brain." Will those around Dix catch on that he’s the killer, or will he continue to get away with his crimes? In a Lonely Place is a fascinating and disturbing look into the mind of a murderer. It's noir at its finest.

Related Reviews:
The Scarlet Imperial by Dorothy B. Hughes

External Link:
I loved this wonderful essay on In a Lonely Place called "The Gimlet Eye of Dorothy B. Hughes" by Megan Abbott at Women Crime Writers of the 1940s and 50s. Abbott also wrote an outstanding afterword to the novel for the NYRB Classics reprinting of the book.

Purchase and read books by Dorothy B. Hughes:

In a Lonely Place by Dorothy B. Hughes The Expendable Man by Dorothy B. Hughes


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