The Origins of American Noir by Megan Abbott
This article has been published on the Paris Review website. It begins:
Reading Dorothy B. Hughes’s novel In a Lonely Place for the first time is like finding the long-lost final piece to an enormous puzzle. Within its Spanish bungalows, its eucalyptus-scented shadows, you feel as though you’ve discovered a delicious and dark secret, a tantalizing page-turner with sneakily subversive undercurrents. While only intermittently in print for much of the last half century, its influence on crime fiction is unsung yet inescapable. From Patricia Highsmith and Jim Thompson to Bret Easton Ellis and Thomas Harris, nearly every “serial killer” tale of the last seventy years bears its imprint—both in terms of its sleek, relentless style and its claustrophobic “mind of the criminal” perspective. But its larger influence derives from Hughes’s uncanny grasp of the connection between violence and misogyny and an embattled masculinity. And its importance extends beyond form or genre and into cultural mythos: the birth of American noir.