“It’s terrible when you fasten all your life to a mirage…The worst of it all is when you begin to see the truth—not the truth as the other might have revealed it, but finding it scrap by scrap, little by little. All the time you’re clinging to what you thought was there, and the change, the corruption, is eating it away, and finally there is nothing at all and you think it would be better to die.”
California is a place to reinvent yourself, but what happens when that doesn’t work? When you don’t find what you’re looking for and there’s nowhere left to go? That’s why California noir is the most hopeless. For the characters in Dolores Hitchens’ 1954 novel Beat Back the Tide, California is the end of the line. The gulf between its dazzling promises and what it actually delivers is profound. Everyone has a past they are trying to forget, but, like the tide, it just keeps roaring back. Continue reading “Reprint of the Year Nomination 1: Beat Back the Tide”
“She tried not to feel afraid for herself. He had made no real threat at all. But there was murder in the air.”
Miss Moynton can hardly believe her eyes. A man is standing in the bushes at the edge of the schoolyard. “Marion,” he calls out softly. “Marion.” Even after he runs away, her worry remains—one of her second-grade students is named Marion.
The principal doesn’t seem concerned, however, and neither does little Marion’s mother. Miss Moynton is a new young teacher. Maybe she’s imagining things. Maybe she’s overreacting. After all, it’s not as if anything really happened. At least, not yet. Continue reading “The Abductor (1962) by Dolores Hitchens”
“We came here to offer our sympathy,” Mrs. Poggett stuttered.
“Do you think I need it?”
A routine prison transfer goes terribly wrong when a gunman opens fire on a crowded train. The targets are convicted murderer Fred Tzegeti and his police escort Robert Luttrell. With a pile of cash found beside the bodies, local authorities are eager to hush up an apparent case of bribery. They reckoned without Amy Luttrell, who will do whatever it takes to clear her late husband’s name. Her quest for vengeance leads to powerful enemies who are just as determined to keep their sins buried—even if it means another dead body. Continue reading “Nets to Catch the Wind (1952) by Dolores Hitchens”
“Money could do a lot of things in this world. It could build you a castle, Sader told himself—or a dungeon.”
There are two kinds of money in Long Beach, California. Old money means prosperous Midwesterners who settled there a few decades ago; they speak only to each other. That’s Felicia Wanderley. New money comes from oil, and they tell themselves they have more fun without those snobs on Ocean Avenue. That’s Perry Ajoukian.
As far as anyone knows, these two have never met. They have only two things in common: both vanished on the same night, and both families retained the firm of Sader and Scarborough to investigate. It’s up to Sader and his partner Dan to learn whether Mrs. Wanderley and young Ajoukian are connected by one more thing—murder. Continue reading “Sleep with Strangers (1955) by Dolores Hitchens”