fall for years, he and his wife, Patricia, would pay Magnolia a visit, staying at The White House, a local bed and breakfast owned by Charlene Steele.
Dandola was fascinated by the builder of Hammond Castle, John Hays Hammond Jr., the "Father of Radio Control" and a protégé of the great inventor Thomas Alva Edison.
Dandola's grandfather was a messenger boy to Edison, and Edison's youngest son, Teddy, taught the author how to play chess when Dandola was a schoolboy and Edison's son was an old man.
Along the way, Dandola wrote a biography of Hammond, released in 2004.
When he wasn't visiting Gloucester, Dandola, a graduate of Seton Hall, was busy cranking out mystery novels—including two starring fictional private detective Tony Del Plato set in the 1940's.
Then one day, inspiration paid Dandola a visit; he decided to combine his love for Gloucester and fascination with Hammond and his castle with his work at a mystery writer.
Thus he produced Dead by All Appearances, set in 1942 at the castle as Del Plato meets up with John Hays Hammond Jr.
The book, written this past spring and summer, was released
last month. It's all about Hammond, local gangsters, murder and
espionage. Dandola said he was greatly assisted in writing the story
by the folks at the Gloucester Archives, specifically Sarah Dunlap,
Jane Walsh and Stephanie Buck.
"I had them send me maps and postcards so I could see what
places looked like back in the 1940s," he said. "Even if I'm the only
one who'll know the difference, I want to be accurate.
"For example, I used the old Coast Guard station on Dolliver's
Neck, which is no longer there. I touched on Magnolia Center and
saw the old calendars of the way it used to look—a Spanish motif
in New England."
Besides the castle, he also used lots of other local places for his story: "I had Tony sitting in front of Gloucester City Hall just so I could describe that wonderful old building and its architecture.
"I also had two of the main characters meet in front of the Fishermen's statue," Dandola said. "That's so people living in California who read the book will say, 'Hey, there really is a statue of the Man at the Wheel. It's not just a picture on the Gorton's box.'"
Oh, yes, about the ghost: "My wife was up in Mrs. Hammond's bedroom in the castle where they keep the records," Dandola said. "The place is supposed to be haunted and she told me, 'I swear someone was looking over my shoulder to make sure I did the right thing.'"
Dandola would know about the castle's reputation as haunted—The Ghosts of Hammond Castle, released in 2005, is among his other works.
Does Dandola think his latest book could be made into a movie some day and shot in Gloucester as The Perfect Storm was?
Dandola said it would have to be filmed here.
"You can't duplicate the Hammond Castle. If they used something else for the castle and later people came to Magnolia to see it, it wouldn't look the same," he said.
But Dandola said don't hold your breath waiting for the movie.
"One of my other books has been optioned six times for a movie, and now I know it's not going to happen."
Speaking of The Perfect Storm, Dandola said he naturally had to visit The Crow's Nest, the bar that figured so prominently in the book and movie.
"I went there just once," Dandola said. "I wasn't disappointed, but I don't feel I have to go back."
He also said he saw the movie and added, "I understand they (the movie makers) upset a lot of people here. I don't want to do that because I want to come back here."
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November 26, 2007.
Hammond Castle serves as
setting for mystery novel
Paul Sullivan , Correspondent
Gloucester Daily Times
John Dandola is a mystery writer from New Jersey who so fell in love with Gloucester and its quirky Hammond Castle that he decided to set his latest story here—even if a ghost was looking over his wife's shoulder.
"Gloucester is one of those places where you just feel at home," Dandola said. "It's blue-collar, middle-class and comfortable, and that's a good thing."
Dandola, who grew up in West Orange, New Jersey, and still lives there, first visited the city years ago when a friend of his moved here to be a disc jockey in Boston. One autumn day while exploring the North Shore, he came across Hammond Castle in Magnolia.
It was love at first sight.
"I'm fascinated with anything medieval," Dandola said. So every