James "Whit" Whitney
Created by David Dodge
"Was your husband in the army, Mrs. Whitney?"
"I never saw a public accountant before with bullet scars in his abdomen."
"He isn't an ordinary public accountant."
-- from It Ain't Hay
In July 1941, David Dodge's first novel, Death and Taxes, introduced readers to San Francisco tax accountant JAMES "WHIT" WHITNEY.
When Whit's partner is murdered, he becomes a reluctant detective in order to help the San Francisco police solve the murder and recover a hefty tax refund for a beautiful blonde client. Reviews of the novel compared it to Dashiell Hammett's The Thin Man for its fast-paced tone and witty dialogue -- chiefly between Whit and his love interest, Kitty MacLeod. The characters also consume large quantities of alcohol, drawing comparisons to the screwball-comedy mysteries of Jonathan Latimer.
The series continues with Shear the Black Sheep and Bullets for the Bridegroom, in which Whit and Kitty are married. In the last Whitney mystery, It Ain't Hay, Whit takes on a ring of marijuana smugglers led by a gangster named Barney Steele. This novel is much darker and grittier than its predecessors-Whit's primary motivation is revenge for a beating he takes after refusing to do Steele's taxes -- and marks the beginning of Dodge's shift to a more hardboiled style of writing.
Before becoming a novelist, Dodge worked as a Certified Public Accountant and, since you write about what you know, his first fictional hero was a tax man. A notable aspect of the Whitney novels is the volume of information about taxes and finances that Dodge effortlessly weaves into his plots.
Dodge is also responsible for a series of novels featuring Al Colby, a private investigator and tough-guy adventurer working in Latin America.
Respectfully submitted by Randal Brandt (June 1999).
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