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In a Lonely Place


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.


It’s something of an axiom that good novels make bad movies. But one of my favorite exceptions is In a Lonely Place....the novel is more groundbreaking than the film and that Hughes, who died in 1993, belongs in the crime-writing pantheon with male icons like Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler….In a Lonely Place is a gripping story, but Hughes was too talented, ambitious, and grounded to play it merely for suspense….as Megan Abbott points out in her splendidly perceptive afterword, Hughes takes the gender clichés of noir and turns them on their head.
—John Powers, NPR

In a Lonely Place blasted my mind open to new ways of reading.
—Sarah Weinman, Los Angeles Review of Books

Crime was never Hughes’s interest, evil was, and to be evil, for her, is to be intolerant of others...With her poetic powers of description, she makes that evil a sickness in the mind and a landscape to be surveyed.
—Christine Smallwood, The New Yorker’s Page-Turner Blog

A tour de force laying open the mind and motives of a killer with extraordinary empathy. The structure is flawless, and the scenes of postwar LA have an immediacy that puts Chandler to shame. No wonder Hughes is the master we keep turning to.
—Sara Paretsky

If you wake up in the middle of the night screaming with terror, don’t say we didn’t warn you.
The New York Times Book Review

Bringing ...[Dorothy B. Hughes] back is no act of nostalgia. It is a gateway through which we might access her particular view of that road between our glittering versions of American life and the darker reality that waits at the end of the ride.
—Walter Mosley

This lady is the queen of noir, and In A Lonely Place is her crown.
—Laurie R. King, author of the Mary Russell novels

A fascinating example of a genre novel where the author is doing what she needs to do to be a part of the genre while totally turning genre tropes upside down. . . [In a Lonely Place] is a refusal to turn [characters] into classic femme fatales. . . Exhilarating.
—Backlisted Podcast

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