Monday, October 21, 2019

79. One-Way Ticket by Dolores and Bert Hitchens

I've been looking for any book by Dolores Hitchens for quite some time now so was happy to discover this at Pulp Fiction in Vancouver, but slightly disappointed that it was a collaboration with her husband, rather than a "pure" Dolores Hitchens.  I needn't have been.  Her husband was a railroad detective and at least in this collaboration the combo comes out solidly.

It's the mid-50s and the story takes place in and around Los Angeles, mostly in the poorer parts of town and industrial neighbourhoods.  Everywhere there is a feeling of inevitable change as well as loss.  Streets so down that they seem ready to simply disintegrate and be replaced by modern homes for a wealthier class, the last house now surrounded by warehouses and machine shops, an entire block already razed to make way for a new hospital.  The writing of place here is very evocative, that sun-blasted southern California noir that makes you want to go to a bar and get a drink.

The protagonist is ambivalent railroad detective Vic Moine.  He is going with a rich girl whose dad wants him to join his law firm, but his dad was a cop and he doesn't really know what he wants to do besides a resentment and suffocation against anybody trying to hem him in.  His character arc is what strings the entire book together, but the real storyline is the cases he is investigating, especially the passing of forged railway reimbursement checks.  This puts him on the trail of a strange group of two men and two women and a baby.  I liked this book all around, but the mundane detecting I particularly enjoyed.  There is a lot of Moine just walking and driving around, talking to people, thinking things through, hashing things out with his boss. It felt very real, yet very interesting.  They wrote another one together and I will not hesitate to grab it if it every crosses my path.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

They wrote a series of five novels about these railroad cops between 1955 and 1964. The others are F.O.B. Murder; End of the Line; The Man Who Followed Women; and The Grudge. They are all well worth reading.