Jessica's Reviews > In A Lonely Place

In A Lonely Place by Dorothy B. Hughes
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's review
Jul 20, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: bad-guys, california-über-alles, crime-and-punishment, dicklits, favorites
Read from August 12 to 14, 2015

It is absolutely criminal that this amazing book has ever gone out of print.

National treasure Hughes's The Expendable Man might have maintained its social relevance better, but this is the finer book. Fans of Chandler and other vintage crime will slurp this down, and it's worth reading for its description of forties Los Angeles alone, even without all the rest.

But the rest...! Dix Steele makes all other characters from that era's so-called hardboiled fiction look like pantywaist pussies. This book is disturbing, and still has the power to chill and shock even this jaded reader almost seventy years down the line.

I've always been repulsed by our culture's popular fascination with serial killers. The main thing that bothers me about it is a widespread lack of recognition that serial killers are nearly always committing what are essentially hate crimes against women, and that both the murders and our obsession with their lurid details reflect and amplify our society's wider and arguably more subtle misogyny. This is a point Dorothy Hughes must have been acutely aware of, and her interest in the dynamics of gender and class seems ahead of its time and is sure to delight today's students of Women and Gender Studies, which is no doubt why CUNY's Feminist Press did the good work of reprinting it.

Undergraduate English class essay fodder aside, this book was a blast! While Dix is never exactly a sympathetic character, he is certainly an empathetic one, and this novel from the perspective of an evil villain totally works. The end portion I thought was a bit less tight than the rest and felt somehow both bloated and rushed, like maybe Hughes was on a deadline and in a hurry to get done; it wasn't bad, just slightly less awesome than what I'd expected... Aw, but it was still plenty awesome, though.

If you like this sort of thing -- postwar urban anomie, claustrophobic narration that makes you wake up in the middle of the night with a sour sense of dread that the world is a horrid fucked up scary place -- you had really better check this one out.
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Reading Progress

08/12/2015 marked as: currently-reading
08/14/2015 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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message 1: by David (new)

David I have this. Have you seen the movie? It's great.

Jessica No! I must see the movie.

message 3: by J. (last edited Aug 22, 2016 05:23PM) (new)

J. Boo "a widespread lack of recognition that serial killers are nearly always committing what are essentially hate crimes against women"
This seemed not right -per memories of when I was going through a criminological phase - so I checked. Looking at the "List of United States Serial Killers" on Wikipedia and using the As and Bs as a presumably representative sample, I count

12 men (50%) who targeted women, most of whom did so for sexual purposes, but at least one (who specialized in old women) seems to have simply chosen his victims as easier targets.
5 men (21%) who killed men and women equally
3 women (13%) who mainly killed men
4 men (16%) who killed men mostly for sexual purposes.

Wiki has more on the psychology of serial killers, if you are interested in the subject. (The short version is they're really evil, and dredging through the A-B summaries was enough to meet my quota of horror for the day.)

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