Classic Author Focus: Dorothy B. Hughes

Dorothy B. Hughes

I decided to write about Dorothy B. Hughes after reading her noir suspense novel In a Lonely Place. It is an excellent, dark novel that was made into a movie starring Humphrey Bogart in 1950, in which unfortunately they changed the ending.

Sadly, Hughes’s life wasn’t as exciting as her novels. She had a short, prolific career writing mostly suspense stories and novels that was interrupted in 1961 when she quit to take care of her ailing mother.

Hughes was born in Kansas City, Missouri, and knew she wanted to be a writer from the time she began to read, at six. She studied journalism in college, graduating from the University of Missouri and going on to graduate school at the University of New Mexico and then Columbia University without receiving a graduate degree. In 1932, she was married and eventually had three children.

Her first publication was a book of poems, Dark Certainty, out in 1931, which won the Yale Series of Younger Poets competition. Her next book was a history of the first 50 years of the University of New Mexico, published in 1939, but after that, she began publishing a series of suspense stories and novels, beginning in 1940 with The Cross-Eyed Bear. In fact, she published eleven novels in seven years, including her best-known In a Lonely Place. Three of her novels were made into movies: The Fallen Sparrow, In a Lonely Place, and Ride the Pink Horse.

At the same time, she began writing book reviews for the Albuquerque Tribune, the LA Times, and the New York Herald Tribune. She moved from New Mexico to Los Angeles in 1944. However, in 1963, she moved back to Santa Fe to care for her mother and wrote only a few novels and stories after that. Her The Case of the Real Perry Mason won a 1979 Edgar award for best critical/biographical work.

Hughes died in 1993 in Ashland, Oregon, from complications following a stroke.

Dates: 1904-1993

Most popular works: The Blackbirder, The Fallen Sparrow, In a Lonely Place, Ride a Pink Horse

Other works: Dark Certainty, Pueblo on the Mesa, The So Blue Marble, The Expendable Man, The Case of the Real Perry Mason, and others

8 thoughts on “Classic Author Focus: Dorothy B. Hughes

  1. What good timing. I am reading In a Lonely Place now. Very good writing but not pleasant reading.

    I have also read Ride the Pink Horse and The Davidian Report (aka The Body on the Bench). And have at least two more of her books.

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