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A movie star fears for her life on a train journey from Los Angeles to New York…
Hollywood big-shot Vivien Spender has waited ages to produce the work that will be his masterpiece: a film adaptation of Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain. He’s spent years grooming young starlets for the lead role, only to discard each one when a newer, fresher face enters his view. Afterwards, these rejected women all immediately fall from grace; excised from the world of pictures, they end up in rehab, or jail, or worse. But Kitten Agnew, the most recent to encounter this impending doom, won’t be gotten rid of so easily—her contract simply doesn’t allow for it. Accompanied by Mr. Spender on a train journey from Los Angeles to Chicago, she begins to fear that the producer might be considering a deadly alternative. Either way, it’s clear that something is going to happen before they reach their destination, and as the train barrels through America’s heartland, the tension accelerates towards an inescapable finale.
Reprinted for the first time in over twenty years, Dread Journey is a taut thriller that exemplifies Dorothy B. Hughes’s greatest strengths as a writer—namely, her sharpened prose and mastery of psychological suspense. While its fine-tuned plot is just as exciting as it was in 1945, when the novel was first published, and its portrayal of Hollywood’s less savory elements remains all-too-relevant today, the book’s characters and setting provide pure Golden Age fare, sure to please any devotee of classic mystery novels.
Dorothy B. Hughes (1904–1993) was a mystery author and literary critic. Born in Kansas City, she studied at Columbia University and won an award from the Yale Series of Younger Poets for her first book, the poetry collection Dark Certainty (1931). After writing several unsuccessful manuscripts, she published The So Blue Marble in 1940, winning praise for its terse, hard-boiled prose.
Hughes published thirteen more novels, the best known of which are The Fallen Sparrow (1942), Ride the Pink Horse (1946), In a Lonely Place (1947). All three were made into successful films. In the early fifties, Hughes largely stopped writing fiction, preferring to focus on criticism, for which she would go on to win an Edgar Award. In 1978, the Mystery Writers of America presented Hughes with the Grand Master Award for literary achievement.