The Blackbirder eBook µ Paperback
- 288 pages
- The Blackbirder
- Dorothy B. Hughes
- 18 May 2016 Dorothy B. Hughes
I’ve written before of my fondness for the novels of Dorothy B Hughes – most notably her noir classic In a Lonely Place published in 1947 and her ‘wrong place wrong time’ thriller The Expendable Man 1963 If anything The Blackbirder 1943 falls somewhere between the two with its noirish atmosphere and breakneck pace It’s also very good indeed a gripping thriller set in the midst of WW2 as a young woman tries to figure out who she can trust in a shadowy uncertain worldThe novel opens in New York where Julie Grille aka Juliet Marlebone is currently residing following her flight from occupied Paris and her Nazi sympathiser uncle some three years earlier In essence Julie is an illegal immigrant; her entry into the country by way of Cuba making her status precarious to say the least Conseuently she has been trying to keep a low profile possibly until the war is over or the situation settles downOne night after a concert Julie spots an old acuaintance a man names Maxl whom she knew a little in Paris Unfortunately for Julie her attempts to hide from Maxl prove fruitless and she is drawn into a conversation with him in the lobby of Carnegie Hall Right from the start there is a strong sense of tension to the narrative as Maxl coerces Julie into joining him for a drink Can Julie trust him? It’s hard for her to tellTo read the rest of my review please visit A classic World War II era noir with a page turning plot a cast of colorfully sinister characters and a protagonist who is thrust into the heart of political intrigue this captivating 1943 novel parallels the spy novels of Grahame Greene Eric Ambler and the films of Hitchcock and Lang But in signature Hughes fashion The Blackbirder has a genre bending twist its hardboiled protagonist is a womanBorn of American expatriate parents Julie Guilles was a pretty sheltered rich girl growing up in Paris a favorite of the “Ritz Bar” set But everything changed when the Nazis rolled into the City of Lights After three years of life underground Julie is hiding out in New York; but she knows trouble is coming when the corpse of an acuaintance appears on her doorstep With a host of possible dangers on her tail—the Gestapo the FBI and the New York cops—she embarks on a desperate journey to Santa Fe in search of her last best hope “The Blackbirder”is a legend among refugees a trafficker in human souls who flies under the radar to bring people to safety across the Mexican border—for a priceWith no resources at her disposal but a smuggled diamond necklace and her own razor sharp wits Julie must navigate a tangle of dangers—and take a stand in the worldwide struggle that has shattered the lives of millions In contrast to the typical representations of wartime women as “Mrs Minivers” guarding home and hearth Dorothy B Hughes gives her intrepid heroine a place at the heart of the actionDorothy B Hughes 1904–1993 is the author of numerous hardboiled mystery novels Three of her books became successful films The Fallen Sparrow 1943 Ride the Pink Horse 1947 and In a Lonely Place 1950 reprinted by the Feminist Press in 2003 In 1978 she was named a Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of AmericaFemmes Fatales restores to print the best of women’s writing in the classic pulp genres of the mid 20th century From mystery to hard boiled noir to taboo lesbian romance these rediscovered ueens of pulp offer subversive perspectives on a turbulent era Enjoy the series Bedelia; The Blackbirder; Bunny Lake Is Missing; By Cecile; The G String Murders; The Girls in 3 B; In a Lonely Place; Laura; Mother Finds a Body; Now Voyager; Skyscraper; Stranger on Lesbos; Women's Barracks It's the middle of WWII Julie Guille aka Juliet Marlebone has been on the run for three years since fleeing occupied Paris and her vile pro Nazi uncle; she's managed to reach New York by way of Portugal and Cuba After a concert at Carnegie Hall she runs into an old if slight acuaintance from Paris Maxi; they have a meal and he drops her off home The next she knows he's been murdered shot dead in the street outside her apartment block She realizes she could be a suspect and besides as an illegal immigrant she can't afford to be uestioned by the cops So she changes her appearance and heads by train to Santa Fe where she believes she can contact the Blackbirder a pilot who flies people illegally to and fro across the Mexican border There too she might be able to find Fran the step cousin whom she loves and who likewise fled FranceAlmost at once she realizes she's being followed by a limping stranger who introduces himself to her as Blaike Who can he be? Is he a Gestapo agent using her as a means to track down other Free French supporters? Could he be from the FBI hoping to lay hands on the Blackbirder? Is he a cop chasing her as a suspect in the killing of Maxi? Sometimes inclined to trust him sometimes not Julie knows she must play the safe card and try to lose him When she finds that he's acting in partnership with Schein whom she encountered on the evening of Maxi's death and whom she's certain is a Nazi and likely Maxi's killer she knows she was right This is a hugely enjoyable thriller although the ending's a bit too neat it's unusual for me to find myself wishing a book could have been a dozen pages longer Hughes has a kind of breathless style and it perfectly matches the subject matter hereShe also has an unusual way with words which can be uite disconcerting until you get used to it She has the occasional habit of using a well known turn of phrase yet substituting one of its words with a less common one as for example in her bedroom was far and away at the opposite pole of the house And she's not at all averse to taking risks with her imagery which gives her narrative a lot of life but as with all risk taking can sometimes be disastrous The very opening page of The Blackbirder has a couple of these teeth grating moments and I'm sure will have deterred some readers from venturing furtherUnder black caterpillar eyebrows his cold little black eyes were crawling on her face She smiled now across the red checkered tablecloth across the stone mugs of beer at the boy opposite her He had black eyes too but not like the waiter's horny onesAll through this novel which was first published in 1943 there's a sense that Hughes anticipated the war wasn't going to last very much longer Such a tragedy that she was wrongWith a marvelously likeable resourceful and admirable central character and a constant tumble of events that makes sure Julie can never retain control of her situation for long this is a novel that reads at breakneck speed By the end of it I was as breathless as Hughes's prose Mid century noirJulie Guille is in trouble and must flee New YorkOn the run from the Gestapo the FBI and her UncleHer options are running outThe Blackbirder for the right price can promise a safe passage to New Mexico but who is the Blackbirder?An engrossing read Very well written Interesting setting and plot The message that no matter how tough a young woman is she is better off protected by the right man is frustrating Well The Blackbirder proved to be just the very thing I needed as I came to the end of my first full week back at work A piece of brilliant literary escapism The Blackbirder is forties noir by an author often acknowledged as a master of the genre My only other experience of Dorothy B Hughes is The Expendable Man which I read a few years ago – re issued by Persephone books if you haven’t come across it I urge you to do so it is absolutely brilliant Back to the Blackbirder then a book I loved so much I immediately ordered a Penguin Classics edition of In a Lonely Place – it seems many of her books are now available only as ebooks “The waiter was looking at her Not just looking He was watching Under black caterpillar eyebrows his cold little black eyes were crawling on her face She whispered ‘the waiter is looking at me’ For a moment she thought she had said it out loud that Maxl had heard her Her lips had moved but she hadn’t spoken only to herself She mustn’t let Maxl guess that she had noticed the waiter Maxl might have ordered the man to watch”Julie Guille is in New York having escaped from occupied Paris she is on the run from the gestapo and the FBI – her entry into the US illegal She has been lying low in a rented apartment biding her time trying to forget the girl she used to be In Paris she had been glamorous groomed before she felt the need to flee from the Nazis and her malevolent guardian Uncle Paul; Duc de Guille One night at Carnegie she runs into a young man she knew slightly in Paris Maxl – Julie can’t be sure – was their meeting accident or design Not everyone is who they seem but Julie can never let her suspicions show she agrees to a drink with Maxl where she is convinced she is being watched by the waiter Maxl insists on showing Julie home in a taxi moments after Julie enters her apartment Maxl lies dead on the pavement outside So starts Julie’s flight from New York aboard a train via Chicago headed for Santa Fe in search ultimately for the elusive Blackbirder The Blackbirder aids refugees across the border to New Mexico and with Maxl dead outside her apartment and the gestapo FBI and her guardian all looking for her he is Julie is convinced her best chance of escape from the USFull review This one took a while to get going for me To begin with I didn't get on with the writing style Too many sentences commenced with the word She However as the story progressed it improved and then the incredible plotting kept me entranced Rapidly my rating increased from three to four to five stars My opinions about the cast of characters also shifted as the various double crossings subterfuges etc were revealed JulieJuliet's naivete bravery and cunning all shone through And I loved the ending Clearly Ms Hughes was very very clever I think it is possibly significant that this was written and published while the war was still raging The story was thus intensified as there was no knowledge of how things would end in that respect I have no idea if this novel has ever been filmed but it felt very movie like and I would love to see it on the big screen Particularly if they were to film it all in black and white I think it would need the atmosphere that that would create All in all I loved this book and will be seeking out of this author's work 24 jun 16 1st from hughes for mesaw it listed in a list of stories also published by that one press i mentioned two reviews backwas it in the last macdonaldjohn d story i read i believe socoming to merevval press? rvival press? something anywaythere was a list of stories and who can resist a list so when on that list there are names with whom one is familiar so hughesonward and upward i think i picked this one 'cause of the title and a uick look see at the description sounds like a winner we'll see25 jun 16 finished great story ooga booga non stop suspense non stop action not breathless white knuckle action low key suspenseful action i like how nobody really in this story knows what the other is doing thinking what their purpose is everyone has an idea not often right and that adds to the suspense and yeah this is another book revivals press and it must be listed amongst the groupings to do with wimmen wimmen and literature saw it listed as such but in this one they spelled revivals right or did they spell it wrong here? heh this one too has some oddball things about it that i attribute to the editing process the other has things like 111 for i'll other kindle typos notzis they're everywhere they're everywheregood read onward ever onward I have to say I was a little disappointed in this book set in WWII the main character was supposed to be travelling throughout Europe and the states evading Nazis In fact she just took a train from New York to Santa Fe While the woman spent most of the time on the run and paranoid she was terribly inept and realising when she was being followed judging people and making decisions about what to do I think the most interesting thing about this book was the white people’s perceptions of the Indians living in New Mexico and the barriers between the culture and the racism that barely got mentioned As a thriller it wasn’t that exciting not enough happened none of the characters were very likeable and the writing lacked style It mostly seemed to be a book by an American about what she thought French people might be like but really had no clue I think it was particularly striking to read after having read the amazing Women’s barracks by Teresa Torres which is published as part of the same series that was a book by a French author about French women in WWII and was much passionate interesting and insightful I don’t think I will be reading any books by Hughes Crisp little World War II European refugee heroine fleeing through New York and New Mexico searching for cousin not knowing who to trust Hughes is consummate narrator with some lovely turns of phrase and super visual yes movie esue pacing and narrative form I kept visualizing it as an RKO B picture from 1946 directed by John Farrow starring Jane Greer as Julie Richard Widmark as Blaike and Claud Rains as Paul Well I can dream can't I?