Valerie Taylor’s The Girls in 3B led me into a series of books being put out by The Feminist Press entitled Femme Fatales: Women Write Pulp. I enjoyed Taylor’s novel about three young women, one of whom is lesbian, who are struggling to make it on their own in Chicago. Motivated by The Girls, I bought more books in the series and so had the pleasure of reading Dorothy B. Hughes’s work for the first time. Hughes started out her career as a poet before going on to write mysteries in a hard-edged, noir style. The Feminist Press has released two of her novels, both of which are fast reads because they are impossible to put down: The Blackbirder and In a Lonely Place. Feeding into the most striking difference between the two books is an essential similarity: both are written in the third-person limited point of view. But in The Blackbirder, the perspective is limited to a young woman with ties to the French Resistance who is now on the run, and in In A Lonely Place, the perspective is with a male serial killer. Both characters are trying their best to survive, which, in the case of the serial killer, means not getting caught. The blind spots that get in their way speak volumes about the limits of masculine and feminine roles. In the interest of not spoiling plots, I will say no more about the books except that I generally don’t like novels about serial killers. I don’t like descriptions of violence, especially when, having been processed into entertainment, the descriptions have no real meaning. Hughes, however, doesn’t write about the violent acts themselves but focuses on the consciousness that makes the violence possible.
Originally posted on 3.26.2005