The Expendable Man
Publication Date: July 3, 2012
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“It was surprising what old experiences remembered could do to a presumably educated, civilized man.” And Hugh Denismore, a young doctor driving his mother’s Cadillac from Los Angeles to Phoenix, is eminently educated and civilized. He is privileged, would seem to have the world at his feet, even. Then why does the sight of a few redneck teenagers disconcert him? Why is he reluctant to pick up a disheveled girl hitchhiking along the desert highway? And why is he the first person the police suspect when she is found dead in Arizona a few days later?
Dorothy B. Hughes ranks with Raymond Chandler and Patricia Highsmith as a master of mid-century noir. In books like In a Lonely Place and Ride the Pink Horse she exposed a seething discontent underneath the veneer of twentieth-century prosperity. With The Expendable Man, first published in 1963, Hughes upends the conventions of the wrong-man narrative to deliver a story that engages readers even as it implicates them in the greatest of all American crimes.
Dorothy B. Hughes (1904–1993) was an American mystery writer and critic. Born Dorothy Belle Flanagan in Kansas City, Missouri, she received a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and worked as a reporter before attending graduate school at the University of New Mexico and Columbia University. In 1931 her collection of poetry, Dark Certainty, was selected for inclusion in the Yale Series of Younger Poets. The next year she got married and it was not until 1940 that she published the first of her fourteen mystery novels, The So Blue Marble. For four decades Hughes was the crime-fiction reviewer for The Albuquerque Tribune, earning an Edgar Award for Outstanding Mystery Criticism from the Mystery Writers of America in 1950. The Expendable Man, published in 1963, was her last novel. “I simply hadn’t the tranquility required to write” while caring for her family, she later said. In 1978, however, she published The Case of the Real Perry Mason, a critical biography of Erle Stanley Gardner, and that same year she was recognized as a Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America. Among Hughes’s best-known books are The Cross-Eyed Bear, Ride the Pink Horse, and In a Lonely Place (which was made into a movie directed by Nicholas Ray and starring Humphrey Bogart).
Walter Mosley is the author of more than thirty-four books, including the best-selling mystery series featuring Easy Rawlins. Among the many honors he has received are an O. Henry Award, a Grammy, and PEN America’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
“The Expendable Man is one of the great trick novels of crime fiction. Yet to call it that is to belittle it. Its trick is no clever, superimposed bit of literary legerdemain: it is integral to the whole conception of the book. . . . A fine achievement.” —H. R. F. Keating, Crime and Mystery: The 100 Best Books
“Hughes didn’t just pre-date Jim Thompson, she also pre-dated Patricia Highsmith, Ruth Rendell, and other so-called Masters of Psychological Suspense or Noir. And her writing style stands up to the test of time.” —Sarah Weinman, Bookslut
"Puts Chandler to shame . . . Hughes is the master we keep turning to."—Sara Paretsky, author of the V. I. Warshawski novels
“You are rocked back by Ms. Hughes some fifty pages into her story, and I can certify that the effect is truly rocking. You even read past the vital word, just one word in a sentence of swift
dialogue, before you realize what it has said, and what a new and different light it casts on everything you have read up to that moment.” —H. R. F Keating
“A mystery writer who. . . in America was regarded as one of the great names of detective fiction. . . . Her real talent lay in an ability to create atmospheres of growing apprehension and
fear, a very modern approach at a time when Agatha Christie was producing her comparatively predictable puzzles. . . . Her last, and some consider her best, work of fiction was The
Expendable Man.” —The Times (London)
“Let me say that it is Mrs. Hughes’ finest work . . . of unusual stature both as a suspense story and as a straight novel and nowise to be missed.” —Anthony Boucher, The New York Times
“The suspense twist makes this tale a stand-out.” —Saturday Review
“To read The Expendable Man today is to experience a mature work by a mistress of her craft.” —Dominic Power
"A surprise-twist gasper about a young doc who picks up a sick chick and gets framed by a hack dick for her kill" —Time
“One of crime fiction's finest writers of psychological suspense.” —Marcia Miller, author of the Sharon McCone novels
"This lady is the queen of noir. . ." —Laurie R. King, author of the Mary Russell novels
“Nobody but Dorothy Hughes can cast suspense into such an uncanny spell . . .” —San Francisco Chronicle
"A gun molling wordslinger who took it to the tough guys . . . I simply call Hughes one damn good story teller." —John Hood, Bully Magazine