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World War II United States

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The Blackbirder

by Dorothy B. Hughes

This suspenseful, fast moving thriller follows Julie Guille/Juliet Marlebone as she careens in a mad flight from New York to New Mexico trying to escape the clutches of Gestapo agents working undercover in America. Or are her pursuers F.B.I. agents? Or New York police seeking the woman who was last seen with a murdered German? Flashbacks describe Julie’s even more terrifying ordeal when she escaped from Occupied France to Cuba, and then, illegally, to the USA. Fleeing Paris from her guardian Uncle Paul, whom she has discovered is a Nazi collaborator with nefarious plans for her hefty inheritance, she hopes to find the love of her life, Paul, and the mysterious “Blackbirder,”known to provide assistance to refugees who want to enter, or leave, America. Her impressive survival skills, honed by experiences of hidden identities, imprisonment and attempts on her life, make us cheer for Julie every inch of her nerve raking journey.

First published in wartime 1943, The Blackbirder draws the reader into the intrigues, fears, and suspicions, even paranoia, surrounding refugees like Julie. Populated with people involved in clandestine resistance movements as well as those suspected of German “fifth column”operations in America, The Blackbirder represents a classic spy thriller of the period with its plot of wartime espionage and the struggles of people seeking freedom from fascist rule. The lengthy Afterword does a top knot job describing the book’s backstory, Nazi occupied France, as well as a well deserved portrait of Hughes’ writing style and place in American literature.

The Blackbirder is part of Feminist Press’s “FemmesFatales: Women Write Pulp” series which has restored to print the “best of women’s writing in the classic pulp genres, originally published in the 1930s, 40s, and 50s.”

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