The Lights of Skaro
Loo Loo's Legacy
The Lights of Skaro
THE LIGHTS OF SKARO. By David Dodge. (Random House; $3). Of late, Dodge's thrillers have omitted fun and flippancy in favor of tight suspense, and very capable yarns they are. This time a quarreling newspaperman and woman, in flight through a Central European country, look back in occasional breathing spells on the events that put the price on their heads--events which, though melodramatic and mysterious, seem quite likely. Love angle is well justified, and there's a walloping climax. Even if you're tired of iron curtains, try this. B plus.
This World (San Francisco Chronicle), vol. 17, no. 46 (Mar. 14, 1954), p. 19
(reviewed by Lenore Glen Offord)
*Dodge, David. The lights of Skaro. Random House. $3.
Jess Matthews, foreign correspondent, relates his thrilling escape with Cora, fellow-American and rival newspaperwoman, through a Balkan state, conveying the terror of their flight and temporary capture. Sophisticated.
The Bookmark (New York State Library), vol. 13, no. 7 (Apr. 1954), p. 159 (*=of first interest)
THE LIGHTS OF SKARO. By David Dodge. 245 pp. New York: Random House. $3.
Mr. Dodge, an artful international traveler, slips this time behind the Iron Curtain and gives us a breathless account of the harassed escape of two foreign correspondents (male and female) from something called the People's Free Federal Republic.
His customary jauntiness mixes oddly with the grim totalitarianism of the interior and the state secret police are as uniformly incapable of more than cold menacing stares as if they were so many lead soldiers. But the rural scampering of the pair is a quick slick slither and meantime Mr. Dodge has managed a remarkably smooth succession of flashbacks to brief us as we run. The Superman finale is fairly silly, but as it leaves everybody but the conveniently opaque villain happy, I suppose we ought not to complain.
New York Herald Tribune Book Review, vol. 30, no. 31 (Mar. 14, 1954), p. 11
(reviewed by James Sandoe)
There's another fine creation of a nameless country in David Dodge's THE LIGHTS OF SKAR0 (Random, $3), along with a rattling job of story-telling to rank with the top spy-thrillers of recent years. Two American correspondents stumble upon evidence, which seems to point to the incredible conclusion that the cruel head of the security police of a People's Free Federal Republic is also the one-man underground, who has been smuggling patriots out beyond the Iron Curtain, and their knowledge precipitates a palace revolution and a reign of terror, which drives them into hopeless headlong cross-country flight. Even Dodge's excellent earlier books have hardly prepared one for the pure virtuosity of narrative excitement which he reveals here.
The New York Times Book Review, vol. 59 (Feb. 28, 1954), p. 28
(reviewed by Anthony Boucher)
Title and Author: THE LIGHTS OF SKARO David Dodge (Random: $3)
Crime, Place, and Sleuth: Yank newshawks (m. and f.), on lam behind Iron Curtain, have rugged time.
Summing Up: Flashback treatment hindrance; yarn moves when let.
Verdict: He's done better.
The Saturday Review of Literature, vol. 37, no. 15 (Apr. 10 1954), p. 62
(reviewed by Sergeant Cuff)
The Lights of Skaro. By David Dodge. (Michael Joseph. 10s. 6d.)
[Note: Reviewed with: The Indian Woman, by Diana Gardner; The Better to Eat You, by Charlotte Armstrong; The Fountain of Marlieux, by Claude Aveline; and, Caesar's Honour, by Janet Hepburn]
These five novels ... rely on suspense. They present characters in predicaments designed to excite us and make us eager to know what will happen next. If this design is to succeed, five requirements must be fulfilled. The characters must be sufficiently realized to make us care what happens to them. The tempo must be flexible, quickening and slowing to match the incidents. We must believe in all that is said and done. We must never be in doubt as to who is who. We must be able immediately to follow everything that is going on.
Only one of the novels satisfies these requirements ...
The Lights of Skaro triumphantly fulfills all five requirements. It is a first-class story of adventure, and more. Two war correspondents, a man and a woman, assigned to an Iron Curtain country in the Balkans, have found out too much for the safety of the Chief of Security. Their flight, disguised first as peasants with goats to sell, then as members of a touring Party propaganda team, is a long crescendo of tension in which outer and inner stresses have equal play. Mr. Dodge writes with a conviction and a professional integrity which compel belief from the first page to the last. The events which lead from the churchyard to capture and deliverance are vividly imagined and most ably told.
The Spectator, no. 6,587 (Sept. 24, 1954), p. 377-378
(reviewed by L.A.G. Strong)
DAVID DODGE, who wrote the novel whose film adaptation took Grace Kelly to Monaco, returns to that principality for the setting of ANGEL'S RANSOM (Random, $3.50). The shrewdly planned kidnapping of an international playboy and his yacht Angel becomes almost a new genre of story: a deliberately unheroic, patiently rational thriller, centering on the taut suspense of outwitting killers without provoking them to kill. It's highly readable (like Dodge in any form, from hard-boiled detection to travel guides) and refreshingly off-beat.
The New York Times Book Review, vol. 61 (Sept. 2, 1956), p. 15
(reviewed by Anthony Boucher)
Dodge, David. ANGEL'S RANSOM. Random House. $3.50.
Freddy Farr, millionaire owner of the Angel, trying to shake a Belgian countess, is then shaken down by a gangster, Holtz--for $100,000, and the seizure of the yacht brings Holtz and other undesirables aboard. Sam Blake, Farr's seagoing chauffeur, tries to keep the peace but one man is murdered--while the police in Monaco are alerted by the dotting of an i in a signature.... Maybe not to catch Her Grace--this time--but to keep up with a Monegasque-conscious rather than mystery-minded public. (LC: 56-5206)
Bulletin from Virginia Kirkus' Bookshop Service, vol. 24, no. 12 (June 15, 1956), p. 420
Mr. David Dodge in ANGEL'S RANSOM (Random, $3.50) returns to Monaco (where his success with "To Catch a Thief" four years ago is still bearing fruit) and sets before us an even more skillful thriller about the hijacking of a millionaire's yacht. The skipper is his sensibly rash and tentatively romantic principal--whose troubles are likely to concern you intensely since the heistmaster is a chilly villain with a trigger-finger in order and no compunction about allowing himself that much exercise. Very adept weaving of uncommon stuffs and all in all your only probable complaint will be that at the end there isn't any more. First rate.
New York Herald Tribune Book Review, vol. 33, no. 3 (Aug. 26, 1956), p. 9
(reviewed by James Sandoe)
Gangsters and Murders in This Tale of Suspense
"ANGEL'S RANSOM," by David Dodge [Random, 238 pages, $3.50].
The Angel of Dodge's new adventure novel is a yacht owned by bibulous Freddy Farr, worth 6 million dollars. When three gangsters board her and take over just outside Monaco, a plot to shear Freddy of $100,000 is put into operation. At gunpoint, captain and a handful of guests are carried out beyond the steamer lanes, while a check is sent ashore and to Switzerland for the money demanded by the trio holding the Angel and all aboard against the threat of death.
There is a modicum of violence in this novel--two murders are committed--but for the most part the situation is fairly static, with Capt. Blake trying to think of some way out of the dilemma and at the same time slowly falling in love with the witless tool who enabled the gangsters to take over the yacht in the first place. The ending satisfies all hands.
But, if David Dodge had not written "To Catch a Thief," in which Grace Kelly played in a Monaco setting, thus enabling her to meet Prince Rainier, and if Grace hadn't married the prince, "Angel's Ransom" would probably have been published as a straight mystery-adventure in the $2.75-$2.95 price range, which is the category in which it properly belongs. It is suspense-adventure fare, below average in quality.
Chicago Sunday Tribune Magazine of Books (Sept. 16, 1956), p. 11
(reviewed by August Derleth)
David Dodge on Monaco: Another Suspense Tale
Angel's Ransom. By David Dodge. Random House; 239 pp.; $3.50
That gay traveler, Mr. David Dodge, is in the unusual position (for suspense writers) of being responsible for a royal marriage. If he had not written "To Catch a Thief" and it had not been sold to the movies and filmed abroad, Grace Kelly might not have visited Monaco at exactly the right time.
The latest Dodge book, "Angel's Ransom," uses that same background in such an appealing way that it should add even more to his credit with the Monegasques. The Principality's police force emerges triumphant from a crook-chase made the more difficult by the absence of the villains and victims alike on a yacht at sea; and all the bad characters are from other parts of the world.
The original prey of the crooks is the rich, soft-living Freddy Farr, whose yacht "Angel" is captained by one Sam Blake. Blake has always done his job without becoming involved in his employer's problems or anyone else's; well paid as he is, he can easily shut his eyes to the cheap life of sex and alcoholism which seems all that Farr wants.
Then comes the evening in the harbor of Monaco when a charming American girl, escaping from a shadowy pursuer, sprains her ankle beside the yacht's gangplank--and the morning after that, when the rabbit-faced but formidable Holtz and the huge sailor, Jules, decoy the Angel's crew ashore, force Blake to take her out to sea; and are in an excellent position to extort from Freddy Farr a good chunk of his millions.
The trick is all the more bitter to Blake because the charming Marian had a hand in it, no matter how rapidly she repents or how innocent a dupe she may have been.
At this point any experienced reader will know that those crooks must be foiled somehow, and that what the trade calls a "fighting love story" will have to be worked out in a way which is both romantic and self-respecting. What he does not know, and what provides the solid superstructure of the novel, is how either of these ends can be attained through character.
The actions ashore, during the three-day vigil of the police, are worked in neatly. The free-lance correspondent, who has been gathering material for a feature story on Freddy Farr, the sous-chef Neyrolle--at first so maddeningly incredulous and deliberate--fit into place with a satisfying click, and Neyrolle is able to provide a fresh solution of the villainy after everything else seems to be finished.
"Angel's Ransom" makes no pretense at being a true novel of character, nor is it even the best suspense story Dodge has ever done. It is, however, a beautifully put together piece of craftsmanship, with that brand of excitement and readability at which he excels.
San Francisco Chronicle (Sept. 13, 1956), p. 23
(reviewed by Lenore Glen Offord)
Loo Loo's Legacy
Custard Pie Treatment Given to a Solemn Subject
LOO LOO'S LEGACY, by David Dodge (Little, Brown, 239 pages, $3.75).
David Dodge has both a fine working knowledge of the laws of trusteeship and a pixyish sense of humor; he has combined the two into a frothy, extremely funny story.
Loo Loo is the life tenant (receives income for life) of a ramshackle boarding house inappropriately named Dreamhaven; the remaindermen (those with ultimate ownership who obtain possession when Loo Loo dies) are Loo Loo's two comely and unmarried nieces, the sisters Raymond.
Hovering between those two interests and protecting both is the Citizens National bank, corporate trustee under the will of Loo Loo's late husband.
Loo Loo, totally irresponsible, collects advance rent from her boarders and departs for Florida, leaving in her wake a multitude of creditors and a possible tax foreclosure; Citizens National, as the faithful and loyal trustee, must face up to the crisis. Charles, one of the bank's junior executives in the highest sense of that word, is given the mission of solving Dreamhaven's mess.
Charles encounters characters that are not in the usual corporate fiduciary portfolio: Oscar, Dreamhaven's ubiquitous cook, whose kitchen is so strategically constructed and located that he can and does eavesdrop on everybody and everything in the house; Sixteen Tons, probably the largest baby of his age in captivity, who is learning both to play chess and eat oatmeal neatly; Leo, a gargantuan, lovesick truck driver with a mid-Victorian outlook; Kipinsky, an enterprising auctioneer who loves horsehair sofas; and Never Say Die, a callused and vociferous bill collector who refuses payment of all of Loo Loo's bills because he wants to keep calling at Dreamhaven.
Loo Loo herself is the trust officer's classic example of the reason for the spendthrift trust.
The madcap plot includes four love interests, an hilarious auction scene worthy of the Marx brothers, and a lunatic wedding. The story hangs together thruout [sic] because of the author's crisp and comical narrative, and it proves that a deft writer can successfully give the custard pie treatment even to the solemn subject of trust administration.
Chicago Sunday Tribune Magazine of Books (Oct. 8, 1961), p. 11
(reviewed by Don Reuben, a Chicago attorney)
LOO LOO'S LEGACY. By David Dodge. 239 pp. Boston: Little, Brown and Company. $3.75.
The run-down boarding house called "Dreamhaven" belonged in trust to Loo Loo Calett, widow of Calvin Calett. After her death it was to go to Calvin's two nieces, the Raymond sisters. Knowing Loo Loo, still attractive at fifty but harebrained and extravagant, Calvin made the Citizen's Bank the trustees of his estate. It was Charles, junior officer of the bank, to whom was assigned the task of putting Loo Loo's tangled affairs in order when, without a qualm, she left for her annual visit to Florida and the race tracks.
Charles' struggles, emotional, physical and fiduciary with the widow, the lovely Raymond girls and their questionable work, with Oscar, the cook, with creditors, with the boarders and with his own boss, make the gay, mad and wholly delightful story.
New York Herald Tribune Books, vol. 38, no. 17 (Nov. 26, 1961), p. 11
(reviewed by Rose Feld)
Dodge, David. LOO LOO'S LEGACY. Little, Brown. $3.95.
Loo Loo's legacy, in trust, is an old boarding house -- Dreamhaven -- which assistant bank officer, Charley, trying to administer the property, finds a nightmare of unmade beds and unpaid bills. In the interest of the next heirs, her lovely nieces Virginia and Ellie, he moves in there, while Loo Loo is in Florida at the racetrack. His attempt to restore order, financial and otherwise; to transfer Loo Loo's antiques into working capital; to promote Ellie's romance with one paying guest and prevent her marriage to another; and to acquire Virginia as his own, provide some brassy, bouncy moments ... Not always effortless, but effervescent and certainly likable. (LC: 61-13896)
Bulletin from Virginia Kirkus' Bookshop Service, vol. 29, no. 15 (Aug. 1, 1961), p. 694
For Love of Ginger
LOO LOO'S LEGACY. By David Dodge. 239 pp. Boston: Little, Brown & Co. $3.75.
When a character named E. Farrington Ott appears on the second page of a novel, one can be fairly sure that much good-natured but unsubtle comedy lies ahead. A complex plot, eccentric characters and apparently insuperable difficulties which, miraculously resolved in the last few pages, shade into a blissful ending (i.e., marriage all round) are the staple ingredients of the form. It is particularly popular with English writers and although Mr. Dodge has set his novel somewhere in the U.S.A., he adheres rigidly to the English conventions.
His central character, Charlie, is both the book's narrator and a junior officer of a trust company, assigned to rescue from bankruptcy a boarding house run by a spendthrift old lady named Loo Loo. The boarders are as whacky [sic] a collection of characters as have been assembled since the last comic novel of this type. They include a child named Sixteen Tons and a middle-aged bachelor who loves the child so much that he ends up marrying its mother.
Then there are two gorgeous sisters. The elder, Ginger, falls in love with the narrator; the younger, with a hulking, inarticulate truck driver who is prevented by old-fashioned scruples.
Ellie: Taken feature for feature, Ellie's face might not have launched a thousand ships. Taken all together -- the kissable mouth, the big, grey-blue eyes, the long smoky eyelashes that practically stirred up a breeze when she waved them at you -- it would have sunk navies, and the rest of her could have burned the topless towers of Ilium by mere radiation. Even in a raincoat, her vital statistics strove for expression in a way that couldn't be ignored -- "Loo Loo's Legacy."
The New York Times Book Review, vol. 66 (Oct. 22, 1961), p. 50
(reviewed by Sarel Eimerl)
LOO LOO'S LEGACY, by David Dodge (Little, Brown). This comical, light-hearted, harmless boarding-house story has for its personnel a wacky landlady who absconds with the paying guests' money in order to amuse herself at the race track; her two gloriously beautiful nieces, who pose for calendar artists; two bank representatives, both male and both unmarried; and others--every one a "character," but in a mildly diverting musical-comedy fashion. Only a writer with Mr. Dodge's genuinely enthusiastic touch could have brought this old story out of the files and made it go again, but he has done it.
New Yorker, vol. 37, no. 36 (Oct. 21, 1961), p. 210
DODGE, David. Loo Loo's Legacy. 240pp. 61-13896. Little. Oct. $3.75.
Aunt Loo Loo's insouciant irresponsibility regarding money (she played the horses) was accompanied by a disingenuous charm in extracting it from unsuspecting innocents. But the aforesaid charm got a real workout when her husband bequeathed her the income from an irrevocable trust, eventually designed to go to two nieces. Moreover, the trust consisted mainly of Loo Loo's far from solvent boardinghouse in an unnamed American city. Boarders include the two nieces, whose sex appeal was potent (both modeled in the nude), a young trust officer, and sundry others, all marriageable, but who looked upon matrimony with emotions varying from reluctance to enthusiasm. A crazy story about zany people, but decidedly funny. Not as risqué' as it seems to threaten. Light reading for public libraries in general. --Robert W. Henderson, Ln., Racquet & Tennis Club, N.Y.C.
Library Journal, vol. 86, no. 18 (Oct. 15, 1961), p. 3490
DAVID DODGE: Loo Loo's Legacy. 238pp. Michael Joseph. 15s.
Mr. David Dodge's new book, Loo Loo's Legacy, belongs to the Hollywood school of warm-hearted, slightly crazy comedy. Loo Loo is one of those lovable old aunts who sail, serenely unconcerned, through the tedious mechanisms of the world. The scene is a boarding-house which has been left to her. Loo Loo suddenly departs on holiday, taking all the available cash and leaving the boarding-house to be run, under farcical difficulties, by one of those harassed young men who are constantly bullied by tycoons and women. The results are mildly funny, entirely predictable and quite harmless.
The Times Literary Supplement, no. 3,038 (May 20, 1960), p. 325