Her [Dorothy B. Hughes’s] 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.
—Dorothy B. Hughes’s The Expendable Man was reviewed in the “Page-Turner” blog at The New Yorker by Christine Smallwood. The Expendable Man is a classic of American noir, with a twist that will be spoiled by reading the full review. It also has some wonderful descriptive landscapes of the Arizona desert. As Smallwood puts it:
Blackness is on the horizon, and Hughes drives the novel straight towards it. In the desert across the tracks from civilization, from the Los Angeles where Densmore is known and respected, the world is all sand—grainy and bland, a wash of blinding neutrals. To keep your eyes focused requires some effort, perhaps some practice. One way to understand The Expendable Man is as an exploration of ‘conscious seeing,’ both for the reader, who learns discernment, and within language itself.