1. Best known as the author of the children’s classic Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Dahl’s work usually had a dark undercurrent to it and tended to avoid the sentimental in favor of the odd, the melancholy or the grotesque (as well as the humorous).
2. Although his fame today is primarily based on his children’s work, he wrote many pieces (novels, poems, short stories, memoirs, screenplays) for adult audiences. Among those screenplays is the James Bond flick, You Only Live Twice; his child-oriented screenplays include that for Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
3. Most adults are not to be trusted in Dahl’s children’s fiction, with many grown-ups represented as either willfully villainous or obliviously uncaring. (Hmmmmm….now why do my kids like his work so much?……)
4. Dahl’s marvelous book The Witches refuses to paint a happy ending for its protagonist, a boy who has been turned into a mouse. He indicates that, as a mouse, the boy will only live for perhaps eight or none more years, which provides a lovely moment when the boy-mouse says he wouldn’t want to outlive his protector (his dear grandmother) anyway. (This ending was changed for the otherwise enjoyable film version.)
5. Dahl was a fighter pilot for the Royal Air Force during World War II. He also worked as an intelligence officer during the war. (Somehow you just know that Dahl would be good at keeping secrets.)
6. Dahl married the beautiful and talented actress Patricia Neal in 1953. The 30-year marriage produced five children.
7. Dahl’s adult family life was marked by several traumatic events: In 1960, his 4-month-old son Theo was struck by a car, causing a severe case of water on the brain. In 1962, 7-year-old daughter Olivia died of measles. In 1965, wife Neal suffered a series of debilitating strokes, from which she had to re-learn the processes of walking and talking.
8. As a result of his son’s accident, Dahl helped to develop the Wade-Dahl-Till valve, which is used to drain excess fluid from the brain; his daughter’s death prompted Dahl to become very active in the cause of childhood immunization.
9. Dahl’s daughters Tessa and Lucy are also writers, and his granddaughter Sophie is an author (and a model). (So the ability to write is genetic?)
10. Dahl died on November 23, 1990, from myelodysplastic syndrome.