Re: RARA-AVIS: What about Dorothy Hughes ?

From: William Hagen (
Date: 04 Sep 2002

miker asked recently,
"What about Dorothy B. Hughes? Is the SO BLUE MARBLE a good one? I've heard that RIDE A PINK HORSE is her best effort but that it's a bit surrealistic, and I'm not hot on that at all. Are her novels hardboiled or not?"

SO BLUE MARBLE has some hard-edged aspects to it, but is more in the mode of a Buchan (39 Steps) thriller. The heroine is learning on the job, and her escapes are not quite believeable. Not quite up to Ambler standards.

THE FALLEN SPARROW (movie made starring John Garfield) showed Hughes moving to a male protagonist who has been released from a Spanish prison (Span. Civl War era) so that he can lead a lame-footed villain to friends in NYC. Gets inside the head of someone who is still suffering the trauma of being imprisoned and has to determine and pursue the murderer of a friend of his. I think she's achieved something hard-boiled in that novel.

RIDE THE PINK HORSE (also a film, starring & directed by Robert Montgomery) is much better than Blue Marble, with a gunman named Sailor waiting to confront his old boss in Santa Fe, during a festival celebrating the casting out of old bad spirit of winter (Sosobra or something like). It is definitely hard-boiled, and very dark. It has some nightmarish qualities, if that's what surreal means. It's quite interesting in its mixing of Indian, Mexican, and tough urban (Chicago) perspectives.

IN A LONELY PLACE (also a Nicholas Ray film with Humphrey Bogart and Gloria Grahame) is possibly her best, about a writer who may or may not be a serial killer in LA.

My view of her--which wrote up in a paper, but have never published--is that she may be the first major woman writer of noir novels. Sparrow and Pink Horse were published in 1943-45, as I remember.

Bill Hagen

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