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“The Crime of Blackness”

At the New Yorker, Christine Smallwood looks at Dorothy B. Hughes’ “forgotten Noir,” The Expendable Man (1963). “The creation of difference itself was her subject. Her books were widely praised for their atmospheres of fear and suspense, and criticized when they reached, as the New York Times said of The Fallen Sparrow, ‘toward conflict and situations that are rather beyond the usual whodunit scheme.’ But this is Hughes’s point. It is not whodunit, but who-ness itself, that she’s after. By this I do not mean that she asks why—specific motives are as mulish and unanswerable as sin. Crime was never Hughes’s interest, evil was, and to be evil, for her, is to be intolerant of others, of the very fact of the existence of something outside the self. With her poetic powers of description, she makes that evil a sickness in the mind and a landscape to be surveyed.”

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