Dixon 'Dix' Steele, a down-on-his-luck screenwriter, needs to adapt a trashy novel. At a nightclub, the hatcheck girl, Mildred Atkinson, is engrossed reading it. Too tired to read the novel, he asks Mildred to go home with him, to explain the plot. Later that night, Mildred is murdered and Steele is a prime suspect. His record of violence when angry goes against him.