The Expendable Man
by Dorothy B. Hughes, afterword by Walter Mosley
“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.
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.
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)