Last summer I got into a discussion with the brilliant author and fellow 80s-survivor Megan Abbott on how that decade defined noir for the mainstream through various filmmakers and publishers who reprinted forgotten masters of crime fiction. Megan brought up that because most of those publishers were male fans choosing the authors they encountered in the fifties and sixties, many female authors were overlooked. She told me the forties and fifties held many great female hard boiled and noir writers. One lady who is often overlooked is Dorothy B. Hughes, who we will discuss at our History Of Mystery class on February 5th.
A book critic as well as a writer, Dorothy B. Hughes worked in many of crime fiction’s subgenres. Much like her readers of the time, she moved noir to the suburbs. The nice neighbor across the street was just as tortured or as ruthless as the low-life downtown. When it comes to mood and character she was a master. Her best known book is the haunting In A Lonely Place. It follows war veteran and struggling writer Dix Steele, who becomes involved in a serial killer case his police detective friend is investigating. The book uses atmosphere in a unique way and gives a vivid snapshot of postwar Los Angeles in place and attitude.
The book inspired the classic film of the same title directed by Nicholas Ray. Bogart stretched his acting chops as Dix and while the film took several liberties with the book, it keeps it’s tragic tone. One main difference is that Steele is now a working screenwriter, which gives Ray many opportunities to skewer Hollywood. We’ll be viewing the film at 3:30PM before our discussion.
Here’s a trailer of the film:
Also, to bring it full circle, Megan Abbott will be calling in to join our talk about the book and film, being a fan of both. Those who are not familiar with her work should pick up Queenpin or The Song Is You right now, as well as her first book, Die A Little, which shares a few things with In A Lonely Place. Her latest, The End Of Everything, earned a spot on many Best Of 2011 lists, including mine. You can learn plenty about crime fiction by just saying hello to her.
Once again, the class is on February 5th. The film starts at 3:30, discussion at 6pm, both on BookPeople’s third floor. The class is free and copies of In A Lonely Place are 10% off to those who attend.