Femme Fatale: Laurel Gray



Femme Fatale Laurel Gray is a failed and lonely actress who hooks up with a lonely, washed-up screenwriter, Dix Steele – a man with a murderous psychotic mind.

Dorothy B. Hughes, author of In A Lonely Place, introduces her Femme Fatale when she runs into Dex, who lives in the same apartment building as she does.

The girl didn’t move for a moment. She stood in his way and looked him over slowly, from crown to toe. The way a man looked over a woman, not the reverse. Her eyes were slanted; her lashes curved long and golden dark. She had red-gold hair, flaming hair, flung back from her amber face, falling to her shoulders. Her mouth was too heavy with lipstick, a copper-red mouth, a sultry mouth painted to call attention to its promise. She was dressed severely; a rigid tailor suit, but it accentuated the lift of her breasts, the curl of her hips. She wasn’t beautiful, her face was too narrow for beauty, but she was dynamite. He stood like a dolt, gawking at her.

Although In a Lonely Place has a tense, dark atmosphere, it isn’t without its smart-ass humor. Hughes delivers this through Laurel, a tough woman not about to fall into Dix’s charm.

“Don’t ever marry money. It isn’t worth it.” She began to eat as if her hunger had reawakened.

“I’ve always thought it might be a good racket.” He added, “For a woman.”

“There’s nothing wrong with the money. It’s what goes with it.

In a Lonely Place was first published in 1947 and chosen as one of critic HRF Keating’s 100 Best Crime & Mystery Books for 1987. Hughes wrote fourteen crime and detective novels, primarily in the hardboiled and noir styles of  writers such as Chandler, Hammett,  James M.Cain and Jim Thompson.

 photo source

She’s won several awards including the prestigious Edgar Award in 1950 and was named a Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America in 1978.  She died in 1993 at the age of 89.

In a Lonely Place was made into a movie and stared Humphrey Bogart as Dex and Gloria Grahame as Laurel.

For my short analysis of Dex see my review on Goodreads.




24 thoughts on “Femme Fatale: Laurel Gray

  1. I really do feel as if you are creating a very important archive here. Women authors not always remembered as much as the uber famous ones- your bringing them back to the living again, Carol.


    • Thank you, Bryan for commenting. I’m glad that you’re enjoying the femmes fatales series. Although I love doing the research and reading the novels I also equally enjoy the sharing aspect of writing. If you haven’t read In A Lonely Place, I think you would like it. I think it’s around the same time period as your Kay Francis’ series. She too is kind of a femme fatale, wouldn’t you say?


  2. Thanks. Makes me want to read the book now having always loved the film. Gloria Grahame great incarnation of the femme fatale. I’ll be returning to your blog. Regards from Thom at the immortal jukebox.


  3. Gloria Grahame and Bogie… the golden age of cinema…”o tempora, o mores!” 🙂 P.S. my papa(RIP) looked like Bogie’s twin: they were born on X-mas day… it seems that we all have 7-8 doubles(sosies).


      • I’ve always loved Paul Newman, RIP… and I still love Robert Redford who’s been francophone and francophile since his early 20’s when he spent more than one year in Paris to study French art, before he became THE talented actor and director, deeply committed in social and humanitarian causes… I had the chance to visit SLC, Sundance Mountain Resort and Park City, Utah – famous for its winter film festival.


      • I didn’t know that about Redford speaking French. Thanks for the info…That must have been glorious to visit Sundance Mountain Resort and Park City, Utah. I’ve been to Zion Canyon in Utah and then travelled across Utah to Las Vegas. I found Utah to be incredibly beautiful with its wide open spaces and water falls. Cowboy Country.


      • on en apprend tous les jours… 🙂 I did visit Bryce and Zion, as well and it reminded my of our Pyrénées… 🙂 we loved Utah, we spent one day @ Bear Lake…


  4. I like mysteries with a lot of witty dialogue, Carol. I need to first watch this movie, since that is more in my ‘time frame’ lately. Then, next Fall, when I get more into my reading ‘mode,’ I will check out all the excellent books you are featuring here! I like 1947 and its time period: clothing, way of life and the different items featured in the scenery. It is fun to spot the different ‘icons’ (like the Hollywood letters) or labels featured. I liked the Paul Newman and Robert Redford movie called, “The Sting.” I found the ketchup bottles not to be ‘authentic,’ since they had twist off lids instead of the ones that were metal caps. Details are always interesting, but the plot is the most important feature, of course! Smiles, Robin


    • You make me envious, Robin. I’d like nothing than to be secluded by a lake with a pile of movies but that’s not in the cards right now.
      I know what you mean about details. And it’s exactly these little details (like the ketchup bottle) that can make readers stop reading you. Thanks for that insight. 🙂 Happy movie watching. 🙂


  5. I am lovin’ your Femme Fatale posts, Carol. I am more of a crime addict than I may appear. I love Jane Eyre which is not crime, per se, but crime in a sense. I love it when the supernatural is included, like when Mr. Rochester’s insane wife attempts to set his bed aflame, and Jane rescues him. Also, how the ending is so tragic, but Jane reappears and the triangle of love, crime and the supernatural is incorporated.
    I am going to look up this crime writer and you know me. I have to get to the bottom of this. Super thanks for pointing some of these writers out to us. Awesome reading. 🙂


  6. Carol, thanks for wetting my appetite for Dorothy Hughes. I love her description of Laurel and I think Gloria Grahame was perfect casting considering the author’s description. Will search out her books.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love Dorothy Hughes work. In fact, in my series on the femme fatal I like all the writers of that era and the cleanest and precision of the writing. Most of the books I’ve featured in this series have been transformed into movies.


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