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“It’s rumored that the novel has been bought before publication for a film by Alfred Hitchcock; if it hasn’t been, it should be”
--N.Y. Times Book Review
To Catch a Thief, 1st ed

To Catch a Thief

(1952)

Publishing History

 

Film and Radio Links

Setting

  • Côte d’Azur

   “When people ask me who my favorite actress is, who my favorite actor is, who my favorite director is, and what my favorite film is, I tell them to watch To Catch a Thief (1955) and they’ll get all the answers”--Costume designer Edith Head. (Edith Head’s Hollywood. E.P. Dutton, 1983, p. 109)

 

Summary

   David Dodge’s eighth novel, To Catch a Thief, represents a distinct departure in style and subject matter from his previous works of fiction. John Robie, aka Le Chat, is a retired American jewel thief living quietly in a luxurious villa, Villa des Bijoux, on the Côte d’Azur. His peace and quiet is disrupted when a string of copycat burglaries lead the flics to suspect that Le Chat has returned to his old habits. In addition, Robie’s freedom is threatened by an unfinished jail term of 20 years, for which he has only unofficial amnesty. Convinced that the authorities would never believe him innocent, Robie decides to take matters into his own hands.


   The distinction between thief and non-thief was a state of mind.... Just as a burglar did not cease to be a burglar between actual housebreakings, he need not necessarily change his nature after age and stiffening joints made it impossible for him to climb to second-story windows.... He was retired, not reformed. He was still Le Chat, with Le Chat’s mind.
   Or I wouldn’t be here doing the Sûreté’s work for them, he thought. Set a thief to catch a thief. Whoever had said it first must have been a thief himself, to see so clearly the thief’s mind.
   To Catch a Thief, Chapter 5

   The novel was extremely successful. As Dodge wrote in The Rich Man’s Guide to the Riviera, “... Le Chat caught on. A number of other people saw in the yarn potentialities for revision, reshaping and improvement. It was condensed, boiled down, digested, redigested, reprinted, book-clubbed, synopsized, subjected to scenario treatment and ultimately blown up into a movie by Alfred Hitchcock. All that survived in the end were the title, the names of some of the characters and the copyright, which was mine.” [The copyright later became Kendal’s, but that is another story]


 
To Catch a Thief, Dell 658
Michael Joseph, 1953 Penguin Books, 1955 Bruin Books, 2010

Cast of Characters

Henri Bellini
Jack “Lucky” Burns
Claude
Coco
Danielle
Lisa Du Pré
Paul Du Pré
Germaine
Jean-Pierre
Lady Kerry
Le Borgne
Leon
Lepic
Princess Lila
Madame Lisieux
Michel
Oriol
Paige
John Robie
George Sanford
Mimi Sanford
Souza
Francie Stevens
Maude Stevens

Book Reviews

Previous novel The Red Tassel (1950)
 
The Lights of Skaro (1954) Next novel
 

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