RARA-AVIS: Re: Dolores Hitchens . . . anybody know?

From: JIM DOHERTY ( jimdohertyjr@yahoo.com)
Date: 30 Oct 2007


Re your question below:

". . . I saw Band of Outsiders (again. One of my fave films). It was based on a book by Dolores Hutchens. Anybody heard of her?"

Dolores Hitchens was a terribly underrated writers who was capable of writing both in the hard-boiled vein and in a softer, cozier style.

Oddly, it was as the undeniably feminine "Dolores Hitchens" that she wrote most of her harder stuff. It was as the more androgynous "D.B. Olsen" (her name prior to marrying Bert Hitchens was Dolores Birk Olsen) that she tended to write her gentler stuff. She also wrote as "Dolan Birkley" and "Noel Burke."

As others have pointed out, she wrote a highly regarded two book series about Southern California private eye Jim Sader, SLEEP WITH STRANGERS and SLEEP WITH SLANDER. Bill Pronzini called SLANDER the best hard-boiled traditional male private eye book written by a women (and he specifically included Leigh Brackett's NO GOOD FROM A CORPSE in making that declaration) and one of the best PI novels by anyone.

As Mr. Gorman mentioned, she was married to Bert Hitchens, who was a detective in the Southern Pacific Railroad Police, and they collaborated on a series of five police procedurals about railroad cops in the Los Angeles area. These books have always resonated with me because my grandfather, the first member of my family to go into law enforcement, was also an investigator in the SPRR Police. Since I recently became a railroad officer (I joined the AMTRAK Police a few weeks ago), I find this series of collaborations more resonant than ever.

Mr. Gorman suggests that Investigator Hitchens was little more than a technical advisor on the series. I have no doubt that the bulk of the actual writing was done by Mrs. Hitchens, who was, after all, already professional writer with a long string of credits, but I've always assumed that, in addition to keeping the technical details accurate, Bert Hitchens was also involved, at the very least, in plot and character development, and that the collaboration was much in the Dannay/Lee or Lockridges vein, with one partner providing a detailed plot, and the other doing the writing. After all, who better to come up with plots involving crime on the railroad than a railroad cop?

One of the interesting things about this series is that, in each book, a different cop of set of cops takes center stage. Thus, one full year before McBain's first 87th Precinct novel, the Hitchenses anticipated his concept of a series of cop novels featuring a "corporate hero." And, in fact, they brought it to fuller fruition. In the 87th Precinct books, Steve Carella very quickly became "first among equals" among the boys of the 87th. In the Hitchenses' series, there really is a rotating set of cops who carry the ball in one book and retreat to the backfield in the next, with no single character becoming as prominent as Carella.

There's an article about Ziff-Davis's hardback mystery line, "Fingerprint Books," at the MysteryFile website, which includes some info on Mrs. Hitchens, who contributed two novels to that line in the late '40's.
 You can find it here:


Hope that helps.



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