On Sept. 2, we lost our friend Dorothea Benton "Dottie" Frank to cancer.
Dottie grew up on the Irish-Catholic enclave of Sullivan's Island, but she raised her family in Montclair, New Jersey. It's a really nice bedroom community of New York, and it happens to be where Tony Soprano lived.
Dottie may have been a Southern girl who wrote about the Lowcountry, but she was also a straight-up gangster. She arrived on the scene guns blazing, with her semi-autobiographical, direct-to-paperback debut Sullivan's Island.
After her mother died, her siblings wanted to sell the family house on Sullivan's, so Dottie told them she'd just write a book and buy it herself. When you want to sell enough mass market paperbacks to buy into one of the most expensive zip codes in the country, you don't shoot to wound, you shoot to kill. She called up Pat Conroy for a blurb and made him an offer he couldn't refuse. (His account of this call is the stuff of intended-for-mature-audiences premium cable.)
- Jonathan Sanchez
Of course I can't say anything about Dottie better than what Adriana Trigiani said in her eulogy. But I will point out that Adriana Trigiani could have easily played one of Carmelo Soprano's friends.
We did our first event with Dottie in 2012, for Porch Lights. It was the first of many big lunches every spring. She'd work the room like a Don hosting a wedding — talking smack, giving hugs.
The book world can be a bit passive-aggressive (myself very much included). Not Dottie. She told you right away what she wanted, and if you didn't come through, she'd bust your balls.
"That place was big enough, but the food was terrible."
"It's too hot, I'm dying, they got to get the A/C lower next time."
"Only 125? Okay. Spartanburg we did 250."
By 2019 I think we'd finally gotten everything right, and there was a palpable feeling that we were at last in her circle of trust. She started to talk about other jobs she wanted to get us in on. It was like being made a capo. I like to think she talked about us like we were Ralphie Cifaretto — "Blue Bike? Those guys are one of my best earners."
Dottie was driven. She was loyal. She was all about family. It's absolutely tragic that she won't be there next spring to sign Teddy Spaghetti, the picture book she wrote with her daughter Victoria Peluso, but how wonderful to have left that legacy.
She was renovating her home on Sullivan's, so she and her husband could move back full-time. I was really looking forward to seeing her around town more often. We'll miss her something awful. It's just not going to be the same beach next year.
Jonathan Sanchez is the owner of Blue Bicycle Books at 420 King St.