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Special Report

Reading in the Dark

In a Lonely Place

Dorothy B. Hughes

Publisher: New York: Duell, Sloan, and Pearce, 1947

In a Lonely Place was the last of eleven novels author Dorothy B. Hughes wrote in the prolific first seven years of her career, and is generally considered to be her finest work. She continued to write after 1947, and completed three more novels and numerous book reviews between 1950 and 1979, but directed her attention primarily to family matters during that time.

While Hughes spent most of her adult life in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and set many of her novels there, In a Lonely Place is set in Los Angeles—specifically Hollywood—and is today thought to be one of the great “Hollywood novels,” evidence of the author’s extraordinary range. In interviews, Hughes has acknowledged the influence of Eric Ambler, Graham Greene, and William Faulkner in her work, but always brings a feminine brand of moral depth to her characters and situations while maintaining a distinctive hard-boiled style.

Haycraft Queen cornerstone.

Black pebbled cloth-covered boards quarter-bound in tan cloth, with black titles and publisher’s device on the spine. No topstain. No statement of edition or later printings on the copyright page. Front flap shows a price of $2.50 at the top right corner, followed by a plot summary, ending with the publisher’s name and address. Rear flap contains three reviews, the publisher’s name and address, and a diagonally set proof-of-purchase label at the bottom left corner. Rear panel begins with a photo of the author, followed by short biography, ending with the publisher’s name and address.

In a Lonely Place

Nicholas Ray

Producer: Henry S. Kesler, Robert Lord
Screenwriter: Andrew Solt, Edmund H. North
Cinematographer: Burnett Guffey
Composer: George Antheil
Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Gloria Grahame, Frank Lovejoy, Carl Benton Reid, Robert Warwick, Art Smith, Jeff Donnell, Martha Stewart, Morris Ankrum, William Ching, Steven Geray, Hadda Brooks
Studio: Columbia, 1950
Alternate Titles: Late at Night (working title)
Runtime: 94 minutes

Humphrey Bogart’s production company, Santana, after completion of its first project with director Nicholas Ray (Knock on Any Door), surprised RKO by wanting to exercise its option to use the director once more. So while the production circumstances were the same, the adaptation of Dorothy B. Hughes’ In a Lonely Place was to be as enigmatic as Knock on Any Door was explicit.

In a Lonely Place explores many facets of its title, borrowed by the book’s author from a poem by J.M. Synge. It is a portrait of Hollywood seen through the lens of a single player, an eternally slighted character whose dislocation begins to take on a life of its own. In the film we never see a sound stage, but the central character is an aging scriptwriter, tacitly blacklisted by producers as an alcoholic with a taste for brawling. The film’s style ultimately surfaces somewhere closer to Nathanael West or F. Scott Fitzgerald than to hard-boiled crime fiction, and though the hard-boiled element is there, the non-crime elements stand as a testament to the breadth of the noir style present in the films of the 1940s and 1950s. (Eisenschitz)

Reference: Selby, Silver and Ward

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