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ESCAPE ARTIST: Scituate native draws from real-life experiences in latest book

Many of us dream of quitting our jobs and selling our houses on a whim, maybe taking off to an exotic country in hopes of escaping the real world with its endless mortgage payments, work hassles and winter doldrums.

Few of us, however, follow through on that dream.

But author Cindy Ellis Cody, a native of Scituate, did just that when she and her husband Paul sold their Whitman home in 1980, bought one-way tickets to Paris and lived for the next 15 years in Spain.

photo by Gary Higgins

"Staying here and working and paying the mortgage and doing the same thing year after year, we could see how that was playing itself out," said Cody, now 56, during an interview with The Patriot Ledger while visiting her mother in Marshfield recently. "We wanted to travel. That was the big thing for us."

In Cody's third book, "Hubba Hubba," she invents a character named Richard Darlington, a wealthy but unhappy New York venture capitalist who attempts to escape his old life. Darlington, whose wife is fooling around and whose business partner is sucking him dry, ends up on the island of Hubba Hubba and soon finds himself living aboard a "Boatel" while getting embroiled in Caribbean politics and a risky romance.

His dreams of escaping his old life are thwarted when people he knew on Long Island end up following him to Hubba Hubba, believing he's on to a secret investment strategy they should be included in.

"You really can't leave your old life, nor your problems," Cody said. "These things follow you."

Cody learned that paradise is not always what it appears after she and her husband moved to an island in the Bocas del Toro archipelago on the Caribbean coast, near Costa Rica in the mid-1990s. The couple loved the place when they vacationed there.

"Everyone greeted you when you walked in the street," she said. "It had an old-fashioned quality that we loved."

But making a living proved to be difficult. The couple set up a reforestation company, but hit many legal and cultural obstacles while trying to do business.

"Paradise on the surface always looks so perfect," she said. "You think you're going to have this beautiful simple life. But when you're living and working there, you see the dark underside of the whole experience. We went to Costa Rica and thought it would be a much less stressful life, but it turned out not to be less stressful at all."

Some of the characters in "Hubba Hubba" resemble real-life people Cody encountered in Bocas. The mayor in the novel, for example, tries to shake down Richard Darlington for building permits, electricity expenses - and also fines him for not having a seatbelt.

"The mayor (in the book) actually exists and did go to jail," Cody said. "There are all these byzantine laws (in Bocas), or they make them up as they go along."

Cody's main character Darlington has an epiphany, realizing that his unhappiness has a lot to do with his attitude and his desire to control the place and make it fit his view.

"Hubba Hubba" can be ordered on Amazon.com. It follows the release of Cody's first book published in 2004, "Banana Bay," a tropical mystery about an insurance investigator who lives in Hull, as well as a book about her mother called "I Could Have Danced All Night."

In her latest novel, Cody writes in a light-hearted tone.

"I just love to read comedy," Cody said. "I love Carl Hiaasen's books, but I don't think I could write a straight Carl Hiaasen kind of farce. Mine is more adventure, comedy and drama all mixed together."

The farm in Bocas where Cody wrote "Hubba Hubba" had no electricity, so she had to hook up a laptop to her car battery to write. But for inspiration, she didn't have to look far.

"I never had to do so little research for a book," said Cody, who now lives with her husband in the highlands of Panama. "I had all that material in my face every day."

For more information about Cindy Ellis Cody and her novels, go to cindycody.com.

"Staying here and working and paying the mortgage and doing the same thing year after year, we could see how that was playing itself out."

By Dina Gerdeman

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