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The Blackbirder (Black Dagger Crime) Hardcover – Large Print, 1 Jan 2000

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 216 pages
  • Publisher: Black Dagger Crime; Large type edition edition (1 Jan. 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0754085589
  • ISBN-13: 978-0754085584
  • Product Dimensions: 14.2 x 1.9 x 23 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 5,990,567 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"Dorothy B. Hughes ranks with Raymond Chandler and Patricia Highsmith as a master of mid-century noir" (New York Review of Books)

"Nobody but Dorothy Hughes can cast suspense into such an uncanny spell" (San Francisco Chronicle)

"A gun molling wordslinger who took it to the tough guys . . . I simply call Hughes one damn good story teller" (John Hood Bully Magazine) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Book Description

Espionage, adventure and a hard-boiled heroine not to be trifled with - this classic noir will have you gripped from start to finish --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 8 reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Not Her Best! 8 Dec. 2006
By Louisa the Lemming - Published on
Format: Paperback
This is one of two Dorothy B. Hughes thrillers reprinted by FEMINIST PRESS. The other, IN A LONELY PLACE, is a classic of historical significance in the crime genre: beautifully written, well-characterized, and chilling.

THE BLACKBIRDER, by contrast, is your bog-standard women's suspense: More interesting, historically, than some, but only barely entertaining, and with the same old obligatory plot "twists" you can see coming from chapter one. FEMINIST PRESS would have done better by Hughes' reputation to have re-printed RIDE THE PINK HORSE or THE EXPENDABLE MAN instead. And THE DAVIDIAN REPORT made a far better potboiler.

This does have some good stuff in it, though. The heroine is a French WWII refugee who has illegally taken shelter in the USA, and who is seeking out a "blackbirder" to smuggle her fiance into the country. Meanwhile, of course, US agents are looking for the blackbirder to shut him down - since such men are also the means by which enemy spies enter the country. It is an interesting premise, and Hughes descriptive abilities bring the various locations - particularly in New Mexico - to life. The heroine is not a complete idiot, but her competence doesn't do her much good, as she is straight-jacketed by the conventions of the genre.

The book throws a little light on some aspects of the refugee experience, and in that sense wasn't a complete waste of my time. But I'm still really surprised it warranted reprinting. Hughes has done so much better than this.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
World War II United States 15 July 2009
By Lyn Reese - Published on
Format: Paperback
This suspenseful, fast moving thriller follows Julie Guille/Juliet Marlebone as she careens in a mad flight from New York to New Mexico trying to escape the clutches of Gestapo agents working undercover in America. Or are her pursuers F.B.I. agents? Or New York police seeking the woman who was last seen with a murdered German? Flashbacks describe Julie's even more terrifying ordeal when she escaped from Occupied France to Cuba, and then, illegally, to the USA. Fleeing Paris from her guardian Uncle Paul, whom she has discovered is a Nazi collaborator with nefarious plans for her hefty inheritance, she hopes to find the love of her life, Paul, and the mysterious "Blackbirder,"known to provide assistance to refugees who want to enter, or leave, America. Her impressive survival skills, honed by experiences of hidden identities, imprisonment and attempts on her life, make us cheer for Julie every inch of her nerve raking journey.

First published in wartime 1943, The Blackbirder draws the reader into the intrigues, fears, and suspicions, even paranoia, surrounding refugees like Julie. Populated with people involved in clandestine resistance movements as well as those suspected of German "fifth column"operations in America, The Blackbirder represents a classic spy thriller of the period with its plot of wartime espionage and the struggles of people seeking freedom from fascist rule. The lengthy Afterword does a top knot job describing the book's backstory, Nazi occupied France, as well as a well deserved portrait of Hughes' writing style and place in American literature.

The Blackbirder is part of Feminist Press's "FemmesFatales: Women Write Pulp" series which has restored to print the "best of women's writing in the classic pulp genres, originally published in the 1930s, 40s, and 50s."
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
saltycat 18 July 2004
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
Give the women mystery writers a chance! A great page turner. I can just imagine Hitchcock doing a job on this one. It's a no-frills mystery. If you enjoy WWII era movies (black and white) you'll love this thriller. Sit back and enjoy. I read it on the beach and lost all track of time.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Shallow & Lacking 14 July 2011
By CA Book Lover - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This novel is missing any characterization of the main female character. It starts out with the woman, a refugee from Nazi-occupied France, in New York City, quickly on the run because she fears the Nazis are after her in New York City. No reason given, nothing to make us care about her as a character. On and on it goes, with the heroine's stratagems to dodge pursuit from New York City to Santa Fe, New Mexico, suspicious of a "gray man" on the train. Apparently written during World War II, seemingly as a propaganda piece, Hughes must have felt no context was necessary, that we would root for the heroine simply because she ran from the Nazis. Her goal was a 'blackbirder' who would fly her and her beloved Fran [a man she hopes to be reunited with] over the Mexican border to safety--as if the Nazis couldn't easily follow into Mexico. There she encounters more hugger-mugger in a village outside Santa Fe. Hughes handles the escape passages decently, but that's all there is. Nada else. Words which make no sense often appear in sentences, likely because the original text was scanned, creating these mistakes. Since the book was published in the 1940s, Hughes probably is no longer alive to correct the text; but someone should have. A very disappointing read, missing the essential elements that make reading a novel worthwhile.
Hughes, terrific as ever! 22 Aug. 2012
By Jeff - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The Blackbirder is about a woman who illegally enters the United States and has to travel across the US to find a 'blackbirder', someone who can help her with little problems about border crossings. It's told from the woman's point of view, and the action takes place in WWII America. The scenes of America, especially headed west on trains are great.

The constant strain of not knowing who can help and who wants to hurt you brings a palpable presence to the feel of the novel. I especially like the grittiness of the heroine. Although often discouraged, she does not give up, and it isn't because she is some cardboard character. Hughes is a master of psychological rendering and although this isn't quite In a Lonely Place or Ride the Pale Horse, it's a damn find read from one of our more neglected authors. Hughes really does belong up there with Cain, Chandlet, and Hammett.

As an added plus, there is some great color about what life is like for Hispanics in the West at this time, and although this is just one of many scenes, the detail and realism Hughes imparts about these people will not be soon forgotten.

Highly recommended.
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