Why David Dodge?

   I know the questions you are asking. Why is there a web site about David Dodge? Who has even heard of David Dodge? And what is oogly-boo?

   Except for a few knowledgeable used book dealers, not many people are familiar with the name David Dodge. Luckily, there is an automatic point of reference when they learn that he is the author of the novel To Catch a Thief, on which the Alfred Hitchcock film of the same name is based.

   The goal of this web site is to introduce readers of crime and mystery fiction to an author who wrote fast-paced, tightly plotted and expertly dialogued “blood-and-thunder melodramas.” It also points readers to Dodge’s whimsical travel literature which evokes a time when travel misadventure could be recalled with fond humor instead of with grim stories of terrorism.

   So, how did I get interested in David Dodge? The credit (or blame?) for this obsession of mine lies entirely with my wife. Since Mexico is both the jumping off point for David Dodge’s career as a world traveler and his final resting place, it is only fitting that Mexico is also the reason for my interest in him.

   In 1994, my wife and I went to Mexico City for a vacation. One of the travel habits we have is to read novels set in the locales we are visiting. For this trip my wife took along an old tattered paperback she had picked up in a thrift store years before. The book, a Dell mystery “mapback,” had a colorful map of Mexico and South America, promised “A man hunt (girls included) from California to Chile,” and featured Al Colby, a Mexico City private eye.

   One morning I awoke with a stomach-ache. No matter how careful you are -- and believe me, we were careful, we even brushed our teeth with bottled water -- la turista can reach out and grab you by the intestines. We decided to spend a day resting and relaxing in our hotel room. To pass the time, my wife got out her paperback, The Long Escape, by David Dodge. She offered to read it aloud to me, giving me an excellent opportunity to sleep it off.

   Several hours later I still had not slept a minute -- but not because of la turista. We read that book aloud, cover to cover in one sitting. When we finally closed the book I was feeling much better and my wife and I had a new author to pursue and, apparently, a new cure for the Aztec Two-Step.

   When we returned home, we visited Bell’s Books in Palo Alto. To our surprise, while browsing their non-fiction Latin America section, two words jumped out from one of the book spines -- David Dodge. This book, How Green Was My Father, introduced us to the zany, wonderful world of the Dodge family’s travel adventures.

   My original idea for this web site was simply a bibliography of Dodge’s works. I was able to compile an initial list through online catalogs and the Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature. Then we met Kendal.
Kendal and Lulu, 1999
   I am extremely grateful to David Dodge’s only child, Kendal Dodge Butler, for allowing me access to -- and permitting me to reproduce here on this web site -- personal information about her and her parents. Of course, the way we met her is a story in itself. On January 16, 1996, I happened to glance at Jon Carroll’s column in the San Francisco Chronicle. The phrase “Dead Men Pay No Taxes” was intriguing, especially because David Dodge had been an accountant, among other things, before he took up writing full-time. Indeed, the column was about David Dodge’s tax situation (over 20 years after his death!) and mentioned that his daughter Kendal lived in the Bay Area. (You can read the whole column by going to sfgate.com). We obtained Kendal’s address, wrote her a letter expressing our interest in her father’s works, and asked if we could meet. The rest, as they say, is history.

   In addition to several short stories and articles published in sources not widely indexed, Kendal’s collection includes unpublished stories, her father’s first story (written when he was a mere school boy), a completed, unpublished novel, numerous photographs and other memorabilia. All of the photographs on this web site (unless otherwise noted) are courtesy of Kendal.

   Will David Dodge ever be included in a list of the 100 greatest novels in the English language? Not likely. Does he deserve to be remembered -- and reprinted -- alongside writers such as Dashiell Hammett, Cornell Woolrich, Jonathan Latimer, David Goodis and numerous others who are currently enjoying a renaissance? Absolutely.

   And, as for oogly-boo, you’ll need to read How Lost Was My Weekend, Dodge’s second travel adventure, to find out.

Randal Brandt, November 1998  

(The above photograph shows Kendal wearing the official david-dodge.com t-shirt; my daugther Lulu is modeling a beautiful Mexican dress from San Miguel de Allende.)

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