cover image Ride the Pink Horse

Ride the Pink Horse

Dorothy B. Hughes. Penzler, $25.95 (288p) ISBN 978-1-61316-201-9

Originally published in 1946, this standout noir from Hughes (1904–1993) opens with Sailor, a Chicago gangster, arriving in Santa Fe, N.Mex., where he has learned former Illinois senator Willis Douglass now lives. Back in Chicago, Douglass hired Sailor to murder his wife, but failed to pay Sailor the agreed-upon amount. To complicate matters, McIntyre, the head of Chicago’s homicide bureau, is in Santa Fe, apparently also on Douglass’s trail. Just how the crossing of paths of the politician, the cop, and the hit man will play out generates a high level of suspense. Though Sailor has many unappealing qualities, including his racism, Hughes manages to make him sympathetic. Evocative prose is a plus (“The bus traveled further across the wasteland; miles of nothing, just land, empty land. Land that didn’t get anywhere except into more land, and always against the sky the unmoving barrier of mountains”). Readers familiar with Hughes only from In a Lonely Place, filmed with Humphrey Bogart, will want to check out this entry in the American Mystery Classics series. (Mar.)