Copyright © 2016–2017 by John Dandola, Ltd. All rights reserved.
A Brief Pre-Publication Interview About
Dead in Left Field
We notice that the dates have been pushed back to 2017 for the next two novels meaning that all four will debut next year. What was behind that decision?
My schedule. All four are completed. All four are designed. All four are typeset. That was to meet requirements for the sales of overseas rights. But here in America, I got tied to two local projects: the donation of framed photographs of all the police and fire chiefs here in West Orange (for which my personal archives were the only source) and an off-shoot of that donation which was writing the history of how the West Orange Police Department was founded. Since I wrote the history of the West Orange Fire Department twenty-odd years ago, it was an obvious project to undertake and the time was right to do so now. Since I take a break from Thanksgiving until after New Year's to recharge my batteries and relax, it meant that any of my new titles debuting during that time period wouldn't benefit from my immediate participation, hence the delay.
The cover of your next West Orange mystery novel clearly bears an image of the outfield at West Orange's Colgate Field. How much input did you have in that choice?
Well, the artist came up with an idea for a body in a baseball outfield but the background was very generic. When I saw the concept sketches, I offered some photos from my archives as to how the Colgate outfield really looked since that is the locale I used in my novel. The painted scoreboard was both a trademark and a landmark. The only change the artist made was to alter "W. Orange" to "Home" for broader appeal at first glance.
Is the scoreboard still in place?
Sadly, no. It was in place for generations but West Orange is not known for historic preservation. In this case, the scoreboard was simply painted on a cement wall—which is still there. It couldn't have been easier to keep the scoreboard intact and have it repainted as needed. Instead, it was just painted over in a solid color in ridiculous expediency.
Would this be one of your usual clashes over poor historical choices by West Orange?
Those are ongoing and probably always will be because what is correct is rarely something that would carry much expense. It usually just takes time and expertise. But the powers-that-be are just lazy and uncaring.
You place a great deal of value on history and historical identity.
I do. It's important because it defines people and places. This time out, my sheer nostalgia almost got the better of me. But West Orange didn't fail to give me a wake-up call that wound up saving me a great deal of money.
Can you explain how that came about? The "saving a great deal of money" is intriguing.
During the course of writing Dead in Left Field, I got nostalgic and I began steps to create a fund that would help should any expensive or emergency upkeep be needed at the Olympic-sized pool attached to Colgate Field. For ten summers throughout high school, college, and postgraduate studies, I worked there as a lifeguard and, later, assistant manager. I took a lot of pride in how I maintained the place.
I'd even gone so far as to have my book contract steer my profits from Dead in Left Field into such a fund. Then, while writing the manuscript, the town decided to name a portion of the pool after a political crony whose incompetence had nearly destroyed the place twenty-odd years ago. At the time of that destruction, I was having my initial success as a writer and the former recreation director asked me to come back and restore the pool because he couldn't break the political crony's contract. Part of my job was to also combat the crony's other liabilities.
When the political crony died, someone farther up the political food-chain, who either had no clue as to how inept the crony was or didn't care, dictated that the crony's name be memorialized at the pool. I take my ten summers at that pool very seriously and I wasn't about to put up with the insult of that clown's name on anything so I undid the funding I had set up. Withholding one's generosity sometimes becomes the only option.
The pool is now approaching its half-century mark and I have been writing its history. I am the only one qualified to write that history because I was there from the beginning and I know all the behind-the-scenes stories. That history was initially put on hold when I undid my gift of pool funding but then I realized how my not continuing with the book would allow the recreation director and the politicians to keep making up facts and giving the wrong people credit. I didn't like that thought one bit so the book is still very much in the works.
This seems to be quite a personal matter and you mention the "crony's other liabilities". Could you expand on that?
I'll save those details until I'm forced to use them. But this much I will offer: only one council member had the class and the courtesy to respond to my complaint. The mayor didn't nor did the recreation director. It's been my experience that when politicians pull that stunt, they know they're guilty of something and misconstrue that their silence will make things go away. In this case, it won't. 2017 is the fiftieth anniversary of the municipal pool of which I am a high-profile component whether they like that fact or not. This situation will not go away until all that memorializing is removed and, if not, the very dirty details of why it should never have been put up in the first place will become public. The problem local politicians have always had with me is that they know I don't lie and I can always back up what I say so they're all headed for severe embarrassment.
Yet, after all this, your stories are still set in West Orange.
Just like ex-pat authors who flee the U.K. because of the tax burden but who still write fondly about their birthplaces, I have an underlying love for West Orange that the politicos will never understand and, to be honest, their actions often make it quite difficult to sustain that love. My fallback position has always been that my world is in a different universe than their world and the reading public likes my world best.
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