Death and Taxes (1941)

Shear the Black Sheep (1942)

Bullets for the Bridegroom (1944)

It Ain’t Hay (1946)

The Long Escape (1948)

Plunder of the Sun (1949)

The Red Tassel (1950)

To Catch a Thief (1952)

The Lights of Skaro (1954)

Angel’s Ransom (1956)

Loo Loo’s Legacy (1960)

Carambola (1961)

Hooligan (1969)

Troubleshooter (1971)

The Last Match (2006)

Cast of Characters

Book Reviews

David Dodge

   In July 1941, the Macmillan Co. published David Dodge’s first novel, Death and Taxes. This novel introduced readers to San Francisco tax accountant James “Whit” Whitney, who becomes a reluctant detective when his business partner is murdered. Reviews of the novel compared it to Dashiell Hammett’s The Thin Man, primarily for the light-hearted tone Dodge used in telling his tale. Other “Thin Mannish,” or screwball, elements in the Whitney novels include the copious amounts of alcohol consumed by the characters and the witty dialogue between Whit and his love interest Kitty MacLeod—widow of Whit’s slain partner and later his wife—who plays the Nora Charles role to Whit’s Nick. The series continues with Shear the Black Sheep (1942) and Bullets for the Bridegroom (1944), in which Whit and Kitty are married. In the last Whitney mystery, It Ain’t Hay (1946), Whit takes on a gang of marijuana dealers. The novel is much darker and grittier than its predecessors, and marks the beginning of Dodge’s more hard-boiled phase.

   Dodge’s second series character, Al Colby, a norteamericano working as a private investigator in Latin America, first appears in The Long Escape (1947). Colby is a tough-guy adventurer who, in the course of three novels, travels throughout Central and South America tracking down missing persons from Mexico City to Chile, lost Inca treasure in Peru (Plunder of the Sun, 1949), and high-altitude saboteurs in the Bolivian Andes (The Red Tassel, 1950). Although both Whit and Al are intelligent, courageous, and, when necessary, adept with their fists, Colby’s cynicism and expatriate status make him a darker character than Whitney. 

   After the last Colby novel, Dodge abandoned series characters and shifted his focus from detective mysteries to suspense novels in which ordinary characters are thrust into extraordinary situations. To Catch a Thief (1952), the story of John Robie, a retired jewel thief living on the French Riviera who is forced out of retirement to apprehend a copycat thief, is Dodge’s most famous novel. In addition to being the basis for an Alfred Hitchcock film starring Grace Kelly and Cary Grant, it has been reprinted numerous times and translated into many different languages. Dodge’s next three suspense novels are all taut thrillers. They tell the stories of a pair of journalists behind the Iron Curtain trying to escape from an unnamed Balkan country (The Lights of Skaro, 1954), a yacht captain who faces down murderous kidnappers off the coast of Monaco (Angel’s Ransom, 1956), and a mining engineer who must smuggle his ex-wife’s husband across the Pyrenees from Spain to France (Carambola, 1961).

   Dodge’s one excursion away from crime-mystery-suspense fiction resulted in Loo Loo’s Legacy (1960), a comedic novel set in a rooming house called “Dreamhaven.” Like the Whitney novels before it, Loo Loo’s Legacy relies on Dodge’s experiences as a tax consultant and accountant for its story and details.

   The hero of Dodge’s last two published novels is John Abraham Lincoln, a Treasury Department agent whose special qualification is in the use of a forty-five caliber Colt automatic pistol. In Hooligan (1969), Lincoln is sent to Hong Kong to investigate a series of insurance claims for U.S. dollars following a devastating typhoon. In Troubleshooter (1971), he is dispatched to South Africa to uncover the source of diamonds flooding the American market and ends up in the middle of a plot to ignite a full-fledged race war. The books in the Lincoln series are Dodge’s most graphic and violent works.


   Throughout his career, David Dodge relied heavily on his world travels and personal experiences to provide locations, plots, details, and local color for his fiction. One can trace the Dodge family’s international meanderings through the settings of his novels. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Dodge’s last novel, The Last Match (2006). The “hero” is a character whose name is never given—readers only know him by his nickname, Curly. Curly is a self-described “bunco-steerer,” a con man, who begins his career on the Côte d’Azur and spends time in South America, northern Africa, and the U.S. East Coast, before settling in Sardinia.

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