RARA-AVIS: The Expendable Man by Dorothy Hughes

From: billha@ionet.net
Date: 24 May 2001

I found this 1963 novel to be a very conscientious, and fairly successful effort to get inside a black doctor who is being set up to take the blame for an abortion-turned-murder case. Continuing her interest in and sympathy for minorities--seen esp. in The Fallen Sparrow and Ride the Pink Horse--Hughes dramatizes the sensitivities of an accused black in white Southwestern (Phoenix) culture. I think she's got the transitional attitudes and practices about right, including how blacks can "read" white reactions.

Although the book is crime suspense, it is not hard boiled or particularly noir. Even has a romance going on the side. But it is effective in what it's attempting to do. Typical of her other novels, Expendable Man has some very visual scenes and characters--an outlaw abortionist's "operating room," the teen victim, cops both racist and honestly struggling.

Bill Hagen billha@ionet.net

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