Saturday, June 4, 2011

Hughes, Dorothy B.: In a Lonely Place

A masterly tale of a psychotic killer whose identity is known to the reade from the start. Dixon Steele, a World War II veteran,
has moved to Los Angeles to write, being supported by a monthly cheque from his uncle. He is living in an apartment which
belongs to a former Princeton colleague who is supposedly in Rio. His best wartime friend is now a sergeant detective with
the Los Angeles police and he uses this friendship to keep abreast of developments in the latest murder, the sixth in recent
months. His friend's wife is not altogether sure of him but the wartime friendship prevails. Steele takes up with a woman in
the apartments who, like him, is an opportunist but they fall in love though she does keep some distance between them. The
denouement, after more murders, results in his being caught with the twist being that all the murders had duplicated his killing of an English girl whom he had loved but then strangled. Tightly plotted and written, the book confirms Dorothy B.
Hughes' place at the very top of thriller writers of the period - if not of all time.
The book was made into a film a few years after its publication with Humphrey Bogart in the lead and Gloria Grahame as the
girl living in the same apartments. Although the names are the same, the plot is both simplified and coarsened with Bogart
playing an established screenwriter with a violent temper. The end result is the same though it would appear that he commits only one murder. Both Bogart and Grahame are on top form and Nicholas Ray's directing is competent enough to make the film a highly considered one but it is not a patch on the book.

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