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George Kelley Paperback & Pulp Fiction Collection

The Blackbirder

cover image By: Hughes, Dorothy B. (female)
Publisher: Dell Publishing Co. (149)
Place of Publication: New York, NY
Catalog #: Kelley Box 275: PS3515 .U268 B53 1943
Contributor: K. Marschall


Era: 1940s Author as on Cover: Dorothy B. Hughes Geographic Locale: New York City and Santa Fe, New Mexico Date of Publication: 1943  |  Original Date: 1943 Setting: urban (downtown New York); in the town of Santa Fe and outside the town on a ranch near the Indian reservation Motives: greed, fear

Plot Summary

As the story opens, Juliet Marlebone, who was raised in Paris by her uncle, Paul Guille, but fled the Nazi occupation and her uncle's treachery, is living illegally in New York. She is waiting to hear from her cousin, Fran, whom she believes to be interned in the United States on false accusations. By chance, Juliet meets a friend who tells her about the mysterious Blackbirder, someone who supposedly smuggles illegal aliens in and out of the United States. When her acquaintance is murdered in front of her apartment, Juliet flees to Santa Fe, New Mexico, hoping to find the Blackbirder and someone to help her free Fran, whom she believes was framed by Nazi agents. Juliet locates the person she hopes will lead her to the Blackbirder, but becomes confused as she discovers that she was followed by the "Gray Man," and by a sinister German, whom she had first seen as a waiter in New York, and whom she suspects of killing her acquaintance.

Major Characters

Juliet Marlebone a.k.a. Julie Guille, adult female, thin, blue eyes, dark hair, beautiful

Maximilian Adlebrecht "Maxi," adult male, German, black eyes and hair, spectacles, narrow face, small bones

Jacques Michet adult male, French, thin, dark curly hair, smuggler of illegal aliens

Roderick Blaike "Grayman," adult male, tall, lean, blonde hair with some gray, gray eyes, straight nose and mouth, walks with a limp, FBI agent

Popin adult male, French, small, brown hair, beard, mild, artist and smuggler

Francis Guille "Fran," adult male, French, thin, dark, very handsome, pilot and smuggler

Albert Schein adult male, German, heavy, square, thick black eyebrows (caterpillar eyebrows), spy



Level of Violence

personal violence (murder by gunshot, someone knocked unconscious) takes place against the larger background of Nazi aggression and torture. The description of violence is mildly graphic; the horror most often lies in the uncertainty of whom to trust, and in threats, both direct and perceived.


very little sex in the plot

Gender Roles

fairly traditional, although Juliet demonstrates skills and attitudes not entirely typical of heroines of the times. She is often proactive, and knows how to shoot and fly an airplane. Minor female characters are generally mothers and housewives, or are engaged in typical female professions of the times (e.g. nurse). Sexist attitudes become most obvious at the end of the novel; no one expects Juliet to be able to fly an airplane. One of the arguments presented to persuade her not to try to take revenge on her uncle, includes the following: "We'll conquer them [the Nazis}. When that's done you may share. The woman's way. Feeding and clothing, and helping the children to forget that once there was a world like today's." However, on the very next page, she is offered work in breaking an espionage ring.


the Nazi's attitude of superiority becomes the backdrop. Racism against the Indians is part of her flight in New Mexico. Juliet can flee disguised as an Indian woman, but is restricted by where Indians were considered acceptable.

Alcohol/Drug Abuse

no drugs, some alcohol, but not to excess.

Law Enforcement

some minor involvement of local police; the FBI plays a background but major role in Juliet's fears and reactions. There is one undercover FBI agent, one German spy.

Added Features

while slightly dated in its outlook, this book is a window on the World War II era, both as a novel written during the war and as a novel about the times during the war.

Subject Headings

New Mexico - Santa Fe/ New York (N.Y.)/ World War, 1939-1945/ International Intrigue

Psychological Elements

no outright disorders. Juliet's fears border on paranoia because of her experience with her uncle and the Nazis.