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University at Buffalo Libraries

George Kelley Paperback & Pulp Fiction Collection

The Candy Kid

cover image By: Hughes, Dorothy B. (female)
Publisher: Pocket Books, Inc. (845)
Place of Publication: New York, NY
Catalog #: Kelley Box 275: PS3515 .U268 C36 1952
Contributor: S. Hoffman, J. Vourgourakis


Era: 1950s Author as on Cover: Dorothy B. Hughes Geographic Locale: El Paso, Texas; Juarez, Mexico; Santa Fe and Los Alamos, New Mexico Date of Publication: 1952  |  Original Date: 1950 Setting: small towns; Mexican border towns; post World War II era Motives: theft, murder

Plot Summary

Dulcinda Farrar, mistaking Jose Aragon for a migrant worker, lures him into smuggling a package across the Mexican border. Soon Jose is embroiled in an international smuggling crime ring and finds himself surrounded by murder. After his brother is murdered, Jose, moved by vengeance, must solve the mystery and the crime before he becomes a victim as well. With the help of Francesca, a "sobrita", he uncovers the villains and the crime of international espionage. The package Jose carries across the border - a bottle of perfume and a box of candy - is later discovered to contain microfilm lists of spies. In the process, Jose also discovers that his best friend is involved.

Major Characters

Jose y Maria Angelu Aragon y Vaca a.k.a. Joel "Jo" Aragon, adult male, Spanish-American, upper class, cattle rancher, served in intelligence during WW II. Much is made of the fact that Jose's family is of Spanish descent. They are Southwestern U.S. landed aristocracy with ancestral roots in Old Spain.

Dulcinda Farrar "Dulcy/Dulce", adult female, white, blonde and brown hair cut short, tall with a million-dollar figure, tourist

Francesca female adolescent, Mexican peasant, small, sloe-eyed, long black hair, sold by her parents, she acts as a servant to El Greco

Adam Adamsson adult male, white, businessman, widely-traveled, buys and sells across borders, an old and close friend of Jose and Beach Aragon

Beach Aragon adult male, Mexican, six feet, yellow hair, blue eyes, angelic face but he is a brat, rancher

Tim Farrar adult male, white, young, yellowish-brown beard, Dulcinda's brother

Seor Praxiteles "El Greco", adult male, white, a Greek living in Mexico, said to own most of Juarez; buys the children of poor peasants and prostitutes them

Harvey Ragsdale adult male, white, big brute, brawny and muscular, curly dark hair

Captain Harrod adult male, white, middle-aged, tall, bony, weather-beaten face, gray eyes, quiet voice, pleasant manner, border patrol officer

Lou Chenoweth adult male, white, round pretty face, curly gray bob, hotel owner and friend of the Aragons


guns, fists, cars

Level of Violence

the description of the murders is not described in any great detail. The description of violence is explicit in a scene where Jose, in a rage, begins to strangle Dulcinda on the balcony of her hotel room. In an extension to this scene which reflects attitudes toward sexual violence against women, some guests of the hotel witnessing the scene begin to laugh, thinking they are witnesses to a rape.


both Beach and Joel are interested in pretty women and get involved with Dulcinda, but sex is not described in detail. Dulcinda uses her sexuality to get Jose to bring a package across the border for her. When Jose's brother, Beach, is murdered, Jose storms into Dulcinda's hotel room and accuses her of the murder. She is wearing a negligee, and Jose struggles between hatred of her and a desire for her. After he attempts to strangle her, he then desires to hold her in his arms. Francesca is motivated to help Jose partly from her hatred of El Greco, but also out of an adolescent crush on Jose.

Gender Roles

Jose is described as a perfect gentleman; he proceeds with the errand Dulcinda sends him on out of a sort of chivalry, even after he realizes something is fishy. Although for a time the reader is led to believe that Dulcinda is complicit with the treachery that occurs, she is exonerated of any knowledge of the truth of the crimes and is said to only be trying to protect her brother. Jose's initial lust for her is called into question with the suggestion that Dulcinda may be a shady character, but all comes out well in the end when she is shown to be pure and sweet.


the author takes pains to distinguish the differences between Jose, who is Spanish-American, and the Mexican characters. Racism is not as much an issue as social class is, though class is often conflated with nationality in a way that seems racist. Dulcinda at first mistakes Jose for a poor Mexican when she sees him in his sweaty work clothes, and Jose wears this cover when he wants to pass unnoticed in Mexico. When he changes into his linen and gabardine suits, his class and gentility are meant to become obvious. The Mexicans are described as having a low standard of living and viewed as not up to the standards of whites. Although Pablo, Jaime, and Francesca are described in stereotypical ways as stone-faced and sly, the novel is quite sympathetic to their reasons for acting this way.

Alcohol/Drug Abuse

most characters drink alcohol which is accepted as a part of everyday life. Beach, Adam, and Jose like to bar hop, but there is no explicit alcoholism.

Law Enforcement

the police are respected. The police are interested in solving the crimes and respect the citizens. Jose at first thinks that he has fooled Captain Harrod, the border policeman who follows the case, but ultimately it is Harrod who is shown to have been on top of things and who first guessed the motives and crimes.

Added Features

Mexican border culture permeates the atmosphere of the novel. The cover of the Pocket Books edition shows a man strangling a woman, reflecting the only violent scene described in the novel. The Candy Kid followed on the success of In a Lonely Place, a novel about a serial strangler written three years earlier by Dorothy B. Hughes. It is interesting to note that the cover of her next novel depicts a strangling scene.

Subject Headings

Mexico - Juarez/ Texas - El Paso/ New Mexico - Santa Fe/ New Mexico - Los Alamos/ Murder/ Smuggling/ International Intrigue

Psychological Elements

Tim Farrar is said to murder because he was raised in an unstable environment. He grew very attached to one of his tutors who led him down a criminal path. Dulcinda's sororal affection is what motivates her to try to cover up Tim's crimes and to help Tim by agreeing to smuggle the package across the border.