Hammond Castle Connection
West Orange Connection
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West Orange, New Jersey;
John Hays Hammond, Jr.; and Hammond Castle Museum.
In an interview by mystery author Julia Buckley,
"John Dandola Chats About the Vikings, Scaramouche, and Beautiful, Beautiful Lindisfarne"
Read it by clicking on the image at the left...
John has just been asked to take on a new project:
a history of his favorite restaurant which began as a speakeasy in the 1920's where
New Jersey politicians and racketeers hobnobbed, toasted one another, and cut deals.
"It's a chance to fill a void in some colorful local history," he explains. "The added bonus is that the owners for the past thirty-seven years are like family. As a kid, it's where my Cub Scout pack had its annual awards dinners. As a teenager, it's where I had my very first dinner-dates.
As an adult, it's where I had my wedding reception. It's the very least I can do."
West Orange: A Concise and Accurate History 1863-2013
West Orange has always been a town unappreciative and insecure about its history and has almost compulsively fictionalized it. Finally, a book which gives the correct year of the town's founding by an author who makes the truth interesting and entertaining because he actually knows the subject matter backwards and forwards. There's tidbits galore yet a complete avoidance of the tangents and questionable reminiscences which often weigh down local histories.
This is not the usual collection of postcards with captions but a detailed and fully-researched history of more than 150 pages which dismantles the falsehoods with detailed examinations and explanations all accompanied by original illustrations, original maps, and vintage images. What's more, the second half is intentionally written so that it can be read by children grades four and up to give them a proper perspective and timeline of their town.
Dead by Happenstance
The Fifth Tony Del Plato Mystery
As the summer of 1943 begins, M.G.M. publicity chief Howard Dietz brokers a deal for Tony Del Plato to work again with Paramount Pictures. The job comes as a direct request from cinematographer Steve Hardin. Their assignment takes them to the Mayan ruins of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, where Hardin is to film second-unit footage for a B-movie. All goes smoothly enough until the actors' stunt-doubles arrive and an inexplicable murder takes place. Once again helping to unravel the motive is Paramount actress Marjorie Reynolds, who had hoped for a vacation simply relaxing and spending time with Tony.
In a parallel story, Patty Drury, the high school girl and history buff who is minding Tony's son back home, helps prove a local legend to be true and earns herself a brush with fameand crime.
The colonial treasure storyline is based on a rumored eighteenth-century incident in West Orange,
New Jersey, which, unlike so many hometown tales, is not farfetched and may actually be true.
"Dandola not only has a knack for relating the practical nuts-and-bolts methods once used in movie-making but he can also create a very real sense and flavor of any locale at any point in time. Add very real characters in plots which could quite possibly happen and its effortless for readers to be transported."
Dead in Small Doses
The Fourth Tony Del Plato Mystery
In the spring of 1943, through his Edison family connections, West Orange resident Tony Del Plato gets a surprising assignment when Paramount Pictures decides to make one of its Popular Science movie shorts about inventor John Hays Hammond, Jr. Filming will take place not only at Hammond's grandiose castle-home in Gloucester, Massachusetts, but also aboard his yacht on a trip to the Caribbean. Tony's job: bodyguard to actress Marjorie Reynolds, who suggested the movie and will be featured in it.
Nearly six months since they last saw one another during a radio broadcast which also involved Hammond, Tony and Marjorie find that their chemistry is undiminished. During their trek, Tony reveals some of his mysterious background in a trio stories about his tutoring by Thomas Edison, his solving of an actual
New Jersey cold case from the 1880's, and his association with notorious New Jersey gangster
Abner "Longy" Zwillman. But those stories aside, Tony and Marjorie also manage to become embroiled
in a Caribbean murder.
"With plenty of twists and turns, Dead in Small Doses is a choice read for mystery collections."
The Midwest Book Review
A Beckoning Wind
The Fourth Jeffrey Devereaux-Kirsten Eriksson Novel
As a teacher, Jeffrey Devereaux is finding his professional life increasingly burdened with tension, friction, and needless bureaucracy. When the incompetent female principal of his grammar school is replaced by an equally incompetent but much more cantankerous male principal, Jeffrey welcomes the chance for a winter-vacation escape to Florida.
What should be a peaceful week of sunshine and relaxation shared with Kirsten Eriksson at her aunt's retreat on the Gulf Coast turns out to be anything but when they become involved with solving a murder which is somehow connected to newly-discovered artifacts dating from contact between local Indians and Conquistadores in the sixteenth century.
Also included is an additional bonus: a never-before-published short story, Whispers Upon the Wind, in which Jeffrey and Kirsten are asked to investigate the mysterious origin of a fresco hidden within Hammond Castle Museum. How and where did the castle's builder obtain it? And was it legal or illegal to import such European artwork to Gloucester, Massachusetts, even during the freewheeling Roaring Twenties?
"This well-researched novel shows off Dandola's storytelling gift. He entertains us with quirky, eccentric local residents. fun, believable people who have personalities that really tick As in past Wind novels, Kirsten has the sight,' which are dreams that relive the past or foresee the future. Dandola has perfected this dream technique and uses it like a movie camera for the reader "
The Unbound Wind
The Third Jeffrey Devereaux-Kirsten Eriksson Novel
When a member of the Board of Directors turns up dead on the grounds of Hammond Castle Museum after a Renaissance Faire and another death occurs during a toy show in the castle's Great Hall, Jeffrey and Kirsten can't help but wonder if the misfortunes are somehow connected with a medieval artifact they have been studying. Things only worsen when the museum curator allows his usual indecisiveness to jeopardize not only their long-standing personal friendship but their future working relationship as well.
"Several plot layers create this whodunit at Hammond Castle Museum and Jeffrey and Kirsten's souring relationship with the curator of the castle weaves throughout the story. Dandola also injects some poignant social statements dealing with the treatment and care of the mentally impaired It is a book to be devoured."
In a twist of life imitating art, one of the contentions between this novel's protagonists and the powers at the museum is over the demolition of Hammond's tomb and the removal of his body. That actually occurred on November 24, 2008 (CLICK HERE). Even outside the paranormal setting of the novel, Hammond would not be pleased with his removal from the tomb which he designed and stipulated as his final resting place.
Dead by All Appearances
The Third Edie Koslow-Tony Del Plato Mystery
Film rights to all three novels in this series have been acquired by the
Los Angeles-based production company, White Bread, Ltd. CLICK HERE
When Teddy Edison, youngest son of the late Thomas Alva Edison, asks Tony Del Plato to investigate some odd occurrences at the castle laboratory of millionaire inventor John Hays Hammond, Jr., it is a request more for Tony's much needed change of scenery than out of any real necessity. While leaving West Orange, New Jersey, might prove to be therapeutic following the recent events in Tony's life, little could anyone foresee that this forced vacation on the restful and beautifully rocky coastline of Massachusetts would ultimately involve local gangsters, murder, and espionage.
Adding to the confusion is a scheduled remote radio broadcast from the castle not to mention an unexpected rivalry between M.G.M. publicity girl Edie Koslow and Paramount actress Marjorie Reynolds, who is visiting after a War Bond tour in Boston to promote her new film, Holiday Inn.
"A unique blend of history, mystery, and nostalgia with the mood of a 1940's film. Clever casting, sharp period dialogue, and memorable scenic descriptions set a backdrop for an unexpected series of events. Great fun, and blessedly different, this is a book to take into your comfiest chair and enjoy as you would an exciting journey."
Julia Buckley, author of The Dark Backward and Madeline Mann
"Well-written by American author John Dandola, these thrillers unveil an odd and novel pair of amateur detectives: a movie publicity girl and a barber, who is one authentic and intriguing Italian-American."
Giornale di Sicilia
"Through movie publicist Edie Koslow and local barber Tony Del Plato, whose mysterious skills go well beyond hairstyling, Dandola presents Edison family history, small-town politics, and Tinsel Town gossip of the period and melds them seamlessly."
Mystery Scene Magazine
The Play's the Thing...
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Copyright © 20002015 John Dandola, Ltd. All rights reserved.
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Dead in Small Doses
actually solves a cold case murder
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West Orange has not acknowledged it
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West Orange Library
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Living in the Past, Looking to the Future:
The Biography of John Hays Hammond, Jr.
As an inventor, Hammond is considered "The Father of Radio Control." He was a protιgι of both Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Alva EdisonHammond visited the West Orange lab and became lifelong friends with his contemporary, the youngest Edison son, Theodore.
Theodore and his wife often visited Hammond's castle home in Massachusetts while driving to their summer house in Maine.
Whereas Edison's "Invention Factory" amassed nearly 1,100 patents, Hammond almost single-handedly accumulated 800 patents and his hob-nobbing lifestyle was much more fun.
After more than four years of intense work and research on this biography, Hammond's fleeting connection to the author and to West Orange, New Jersey, has come full-circle:
John Dandola's grandfather worked as a messenger boy for Thomas Edison in the 1910's and Theodore Edison taught John Dandola how to play chessthe author was in grammar school at the time and Theodore was by then an old man.
Continually doing research into Hammond's life, John is currently working on
the second volume of this biography.
The Ghosts of Hammond Castle is now in its expanded second edition.
An old-fashioned collection of ghost stories recounting years of eerie happenings at the former home of inventor John Hays Hammond, Jr., in Gloucester, Massachusettsan actual castle replete with drawbridge now a museum housing the inventor's medieval art and artifact collection. Approached as simple storytelling, these are sightings and spooky incidents which have been experienced not only by those who have lived and worked at the castle but also by those who have visited itincluding the author himself.
This second edition includes several new ghostly encounters which have occurred to visitors since the book's initial publication.
In the summer of 2008, Hammond Castle finally implemented John's decade-old idea to restore the kitchen of the castle in true vintage style and dedicate it to Hammond's cook, the late Nellie Nally Connors.
Nellie became a dear friend to both John and his wife. Her insights and anecdotes about Hammond greatly aided in the writing his biography. A nod of gratitude was given by making Nellie a pivotal character in John's mystery novel, Dead by All Appearances, which is set at the castle during World War II. Nellie was aware of that homage at the time of her death and she took great amusement in it.
The museum has also followed John's suggestion to publicly open Hammond's private lower-level dining room which was referred to as The War Room because of its mural depicting Gloucester Harbor under a fictitious air/sea attack and defended by Hammond's inventions.
The sales of John's works have generated more than $50,000 towards the preservation of
Hammond Castle Museum.
John's mystery novels, Dead at the Box Office and Dead in Their Sights, are both set in West Orange, New Jersey, during the 1940's and follow the unlikely pairing of a local barber and an M.G.M. publicity girl as amateur sleuths. The novels also incorporate real people from both Hollywood and West Orange history. Dead by All Appearances begins and ends with several key scenes in West Orange. The fourth novel in the series, Dead in Small Doses not only begins and ends in West Orange but it also contains three complete West Orange-based mysteries used as flashbacks. The fifth novel in the series, Dead by Happenstance has a parallel mystery which takes place entirely in West Orange, as the protagonist is out-of-the-country on a movie-shoot.
During his film school days, John had several meetings with the late Orson Welles and it was Welles who strongly urged that the stories about John's West Orange roots should be told in some form or another.
Written during a screenwriters strike, the result appeared in 1990 as the mystery novel,
Dead at the Box Office.
Even though as a local historian, John's nonfiction West Orange works are frequently used and almost always uncredited, International Titles does credit that "his West Orange novels paint a very real and ingratiating portrait of 1940's small town America which even appeals to readers overseas. That is probably the best kind of ambassadorship."
"These entertaining novels contain both history and gossip about the old M.G.M. Studio System. They impressed me and I'd recommend them to any fan of Stuart M. Kaminsky's Toby Peters series."
Linda M. Esler, Bloomfield Life
John is also the author of the distinctly different Wind series (Wind of Time, Wicked is the Wind, The Unbound Wind, and A Beckoning Wind) set in his adopted New England. All four novels use Hammond Castle Museum as a centerpiece.
What all of his works share is a focus on personalizing history in an accurate fashion.
John still keeps an office and a home in West Orange, although he spends as much time as possible on the pristine beaches of Marco Island* where his fourth Wind novel is set. Contact him via E-mail
* Marco Island is on Florida's Gulf Coast about an hour south of the Thomas Edison-Henry Ford Winter Estates museum in Fort Myers.
The Edison-Ford Museum is extraordinarily well-maintained, public-friendly, and community-conscious
unlike the usually adversarial Edison National Historic Site in West Orange.
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Our Lady of Lourdes Centennial