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In a Lonely Place

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  4,109 ratings  ·  557 reviews
Postwar Los Angeles is a lonely place where the American Dream is showing its seamy underside—and a stranger is preying on young women. The suggestively named Dix Steele, a cynical vet with a chip on his shoulder about the opposite sex, is the LAPD's top suspect. Dix knows enough to watch his step, especially since his best friend is on the force, but when he meets the lus ...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published November 1st 2003 by The Feminist Press at CUNY (first published 1947)
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Average rating 4.07  · 
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Jeffrey Keeten
“Once he’d had happiness but for so brief a time; happiness was made of quicksilver, it ran out of your hand like quicksilver. There was the heat of tears suddenly in his eyes and he shook his head angrily. He would not think about it, he would never think of that again. It was long ago in an ancient past. To hell with happiness. More important was excitement and power and the hot stir of lust. Those made you forget. They made happiness a pink marshmallow.”

 photo dorothy-b-hughes_zps69c4df97.jpg
Dorothy B. Hughes

I’d known Dix Ste
Nov 10, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you were a single gal living in post-war Los Angeles you’d probably find Dix Steele absolutely dreamy. After all, he’s a big handsome fella who dresses well and likes to dine out in swell places. He was a fighter pilot in the war, and now he’s working on writing a mystery novel so he’s certainly leading a colorful and interesting life. Just one problem. About once a month he feels a compulsion to strangle a strange woman to death.

Oh, well. Nobody’s perfect, right?

We spend the entire book in D
May 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: unjustly-obscure
Read this on the way to LA recently, because that's where the book is set. This is first-class noir. What truly sets it apart is the prose style: so elegant and sculpted. The author's first book was a book of poetry in the Yale Young Poets series, and I can say I wasn't surprised at all. I delighted in these sentences. Hughes really ought to be better known, as she more than holds her own against Chandler and Hammett.
Joe Valdez
Apr 08, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction-crime
My introduction to Dorothy B. Hughes is In a Lonely Place, her 1947 crime novel that upon its reissue in 2017 by New York Review Books Classics with an afterword by Megan Abbott, launched magnificent reappraisals by NPR, the Paris Review, Vice and others as groundbreaking noir with a feminist twist. While I believe that this novel has been picked as clean by sixty years of film and television as The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, there is fruit to pluck from this tree, with Hughes ta ...more
Mar 02, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: black-as-night
This novel from Dorothy Hughes, a portrait of a sociopath in post-WWII Los Angeles, was very loosely adapted in to the under-appreciated noir classic movie directed by Nicholas Ray and starring Humphrey Bogart and Gloria Grahame.

Notice my use of the word loosely. If you've only ever seen the movie then you only have a vague idea of what this novel is about and probably even less idea of what happens.

This is the story of Dickson Steele, heir to a fortune who was forced to work his way through Pri
Jul 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: crime-fiction
There wasn't any girl worth getting upset over. They were all alike, cheats, liars, whores. There'd only been one decent one among them and she was dead.

His name is Dix Steele. He's young and handsome, a real lady-killer, possibly in every sense of the word. He has very structured ideas about how women should behave. He's fond of women who wait alone in dark, lonely places. There's this one woman in particular who reminds him of a girl he used to know back in England...he'd definitely like to ge
Nancy Oakes
First the bottom line: I loved this novel. It reads like something from Patricia Highsmith, with its focus on exploring the mind of a sociopath, but actually predates Highsmith's first novel by three years or so.

Second, re the film: book and movie are really two very different entities, so I can understand how, if someone sees the film first and then reads the book, disappointment might set in. The same is true vice versa -- I read the novel first and expected something much different than I go
Oct 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Such a refreshing change to read a crime novel without all of the gory blood and violent details. The portrait of a serial killer is expertly crafted here and not only could you feel the tension building up, the you could almost reach out and touch the dark, foggy atmosphere. Loved it.
#indiebuddyreads rock
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 bo
Jul 06, 2013 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: power and excitement and rhythm
Recommended to Mariel by: hungry sea
He fled from the goodness of that home, and his hatred for Laurel throttled his brain. If she had come back to him, he would not be shut out, an outcast in a strange, cold world. He would have been safe in the bright warmth of her.

Dix Steele would cast himself in the starring role. It is a movie, a tale of heroes. It is a world gone wrong and on his masculine shoulders to right everything in place. Chalk outline of an angry little boy throwing a tantrum on the ground. Real blood and smoke dreams
RJ from the LBC
May 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Deliciously dark prose, taut dialogue, sex, murder; this female-authored noir has it all in spades, set in post-WWII Los Angeles, awash in emasculated paranoia of the returned soldier. Aftershocks of this book can be felt in the writings of Jim Thompson and the serial killer novels of Thomas Harris. Don't miss the brilliantly insightful Afterword by Megan Abbott in the NYRB edition. ...more
This is not a whodunit. We know rather quickly who is strangling women in Post-WWII Los Angeles. And we get the why of it soon, too. What intrigues, instead, is how the crimes will be solved, and who will do the solving.

The events are revealed through the third-person eyes of the killer. But I didn't find him very interesting, his psychopathology too obvious. Instead, I liked the subtle ways four other characters are defined, and how little bits of dialogue may or may not indicate that they are
Jayaprakash Satyamurthy
Mar 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mystery, noir
In an introduction to a collection of his mystery stories,Isaac Asimov dismisses the sort of mystery novel in which we know who the killer is all along as a sort of wallowing in pathological psychology. He himself wrote mysteries in what he, somewhat self-servingly, called the traditional mode - puzzle stories that were far removed from the actual scene of any crime and had various conundrums presented and solved during the course of polite dinner-table chat.

The implication was that a novel lik
Algernon (Darth Anyan)
Mar 06, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2013
For a change, instead of following a hard boiled private eye along the mean streets of the big city, we get inside the head of the criminal and follow his twisted rationale , his torturous train of thought that leads to a series of murders of innocent women in Los Angeles, close after the end of WW II.

With the identity of the culprit more or less revealed in the opening chapter, there was a certain lack of tension and a predictability that limited my involvement in what is definitely a wel
Oct 14, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was a little surprised by how much I enjoyed this claustrophobic masterpiece of LA noir.

Sometimes I find these 40s era style of mysteries overly melodramatic and well, hammy ? Certainly, there are moments in The Lonely Place where I was mentally writing a score consisting of gradually building violin music while scenes like this played out :

“Laurel” he said, and she came to him the way he had known from the beginning it must be.
“Laurel” he cried, as if the word were the act. And there becam
Oct 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
4.5, rounded up.

Since half a dozen of my GR friends have all read this recently and most have ALSO given it 5 stars, I had to see what all the fuss was about - never having seen the more famous 1950 film 'based' on it. And it IS a terrifically exciting, unusual and evocative read, but there were a few instances in which the hard-boiled prose gets a bit over-the-top, and one has to chuckle. Apparently Hughes' editor made her delete 25,000 words and it is STILL a mite overwritten, and could have u
classic reverie
I decided on reading Dorothy B. Hughes's In a Lonely Place, this year after hearing from Cassio, a Goodreads friend, recommending it and thinking it was something I would enjoy. He was right! 😊 I enjoyed this 1947 noir book.

It took me longer then I expected to read this shorter novel because when I read it, I wanted to be in a total wake state and not miss anything. There are stories that one needs not their whole facilities but for me this was not such a novel. It is told by Dickson (Dix) Steel
Feb 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
Fear wasn't a jagged split of light cleaving you; fear wasn't a cold fist in your entrails; fear wasn't something you could face and demolish with your arrogance. Fear was the fog, creeping about you, winding its tendrils about you, seeping into your pores and flesh and bone. Fear was a girl whispering a word over and again, a small word you refused to hear although the whisper was a scream in your ears, a dreadful scream you could never forget.

Dorothy Hughes has done something quite spectacular
Oct 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Dorothy B. Hughes’ In a Lonely Place was first published in 1947. It’s an exciting pleasure to read, with four especially notable features.

First, In a Lonely Place provides a vivid picture of middle class, white America immediately after World War Two. Hughes’ picture includes California drive-ins and drive-throughs, diners, and supper clubs, and the beginnings of the Los Angeles car culture.

Second, although Hughes narrates In a Lonely Place in the third person, it’s from the point of view of a
Cassio Queiros
May 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
"One of the best portraits of a psychopathic killer in American crime fiction" (Marcia Muller)
The crime writer Marcia Muller, wife of Bill Pronzini, is absolutely right.
This is a classic noir book, a disturbing and gripping novel, told entirely from the killer's viewpoint.
Aug 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When rating Dorothy Hughes’ In a Lonely Place I found I needed to not only judge it based on the usual criteria I apply to all novels I've read, but also to closely consider and compare it to other works of its specific genre, in this case the noir crime novel. Written in 1947, has it stood the test of time? Yes, I believe it has and it certainly holds its own against better known writers of the genre – mostly men such as Hammett, Chandler, etc. Hughes, with this novel, not only delivered a soli ...more
Susan Johnson
Dec 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I just read this for my mystery group's monthly read and it was fantastic. I have never read this author before and what a mistake that was. She wrote in the 1940's in the time of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett and really holds her own. For one thing, her female characters are fantastic. They are strong women who do not simper and hide behind men. By goodness, modern authors take note. They have been through WWII and have strong goals and ideas and actually do something about them.

Post World War II Los Angeles, the place you go to find the great American dream, but a stranger is preying on young women. Ex-airman, Dix Steele offers to help his detective friend solve the case and catch the serial killer in the hopes it will help him with the crime novel he is writing. Along the way he meets the luscious Laurel Gray—the femme fatale. The queen of noir, Dorothy B. Hughes blends psychological suspense with conventional Hard-boiled and Noir styles to give us In a Lonely Place.

Oct 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
'Fear was a girl whispering a word over and over again, a small word you refused to hear although the whisper was a scream in your ears, a dreadful scream you could never forget.'
In a Lonely Place is an excellent example of hard-boiled, LA Noir. Hughes is an expert at building tension. Although the violence almost exclusively takes place in the periphery, it is ever present the interactions Dix Steele has with his friends and lover. I particularly enjoyed how Hughes subverts some of the tropes of this genre, like the femme fatale, and avoids melodramatic, theatrical storytelling by placing us in the mind of the killer. I loved this and can’t wait to read more from Hughes ...more
Nov 03, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Like a bell buoy in sea fog, this noir classic guides the reader through treacherous waters by striking it's one note loud and clear and...with a regularity that quickly becomes predictable. My apologies to several pals who love this one, but I was not transported. When the mist cleared, there I was, still standing on the dock.
Dec 11, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It must be a statutory requirement for modern psychological thriller writers to read In a Lonely Place before they put pen to paper. There are no unreliable narrator, crazy plot twists here just an expert build up of tension till it suffocates the reader. Hughes puts us firmly in the head of Dix Steele, returning war vet and accomplished serial killer (not a spoiler, it is obvious in the first chapter). And Steele is the best part of the book, one of the most well drawn characters I have read in ...more
Oct 01, 2007 rated it it was amazing
If Mickey Spillane had named one of his heroes "Dix Steele," it would leave me shaking my head and rolling my eyes, but when Dorothy B. Hughes gives the name to a serial rapist and killer, I nod and smile. Hughes can get away with this name because everything else in In a Lonely Place is so restrained. Dix Steele is so scary because he seems so ordinary--which is, of course, why sociopaths are so dangerous: Inwardly they have no conscience, while outwardly they seem the same as you or I. Many of ...more
Rebecca McNutt
Jun 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
Set in postwar California, In A Lonely Place is not only a brilliant noir novel, but its underlying themes about the dreary side of the years after WWII make it all the more interesting.
Oct 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Amazing crime noir novel ....

A serial killer is killing young women. One of the detectives investigating is stymied. The detective's wife is beautiful and bold. So is another woman, determined to live her life the way she wants, sleep with whom she wants and well, this is so not the way I usually think of 1947.

(I should know better. My mother was a young woman in 1947 and she lived the way she wanted, too. Bright, bold, opinionated and 'nobody's fool' type women run in my blood, and so...)

The st
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Dorothy B. Hughes (1904–1993) was a mystery author and literary critic. Born in Kansas City, she studied at Columbia University, and won an award from the Yale Series of Younger Poets for her first book, the poetry collection Dark Certainty (1931). After writing several unsuccessful manuscripts, she published The So Blue Marble in 1940. A New York–based mystery, it won praise for its hardboiled pr ...more

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