Bikini postcard
David Dodge Explores the Curves of the Côte d’Azur
Published in Mystery Readers Journal
Volume 16:2 (Summer 2000)

   Many filmgoers have been captivated by the visual aspects of the 1955 Alfred Hitchcock film To Catch A Thief set in the glittering landscape of the Côte d’Azur. The film’s depiction of the beauty of the locale, as well as that of its stars Cary Grant and Grace Kelly, was so well done that it won the Oscar for Best Cinematography that year. The movie was based on the novel of the same name by American writer David Dodge (1910-1974), who had been similarly captivated by the allure of the graceful curves found in the mountains and shores of the south of France and revealed on the beaches by its scantily-clad female denizens. Dodge’s often light-hearted preoccupation with southern France’s visual enticements serves as a perfect foil to his taut suspense-filled works.

   David Dodge helped fuel the post-World War II revival of foreign travel with his exuberant mystery and travel writing. With the exception of his first series featuring hard-boiled San Francisco taxman James “Whit” Whitney, all of Dodge’s mystery and suspense novels spin yarns of Americans abroad. A second series chronicling the adventures of tough-guy private investigator Al Colby takes readers throughout Latin America. The Balkans, Hong Kong, and South Africa all provide locales for later Dodge novels. But with three novels set in and around southern France—the Dodge family lived in Golfe-Juan, on the Côte d’Azur, for a number of years in the early 1950s—that region established itself as one of Dodge’s favorite settings. Invariably, key plot points in those three novels hinge on the tortuous undulations of the landscape and the voluptuous undulations exposed when female characters don that garment notoriously popularized in post-War France—the bikini.

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