Sunday, February 28, 2010

Book Review: Dorothy B. Hughes, In a Lonely Place (1947)

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 today's writers of psycho noir, who are free to indulge their every excessive impulsive (and often do), would do well to learn a few things from this understated masterpiece. Grade: A

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