Copyright © 2022  by the John Dandola, Ltd. All rights reserved.
Watch Yourself; Somebody's Watching You

Regardless, Dandola's 1940's mystery novels are filled with real people. There's movie actor Spencer Tracy and a slew of movie studio executives. There's movie actresses Marjorie Reynolds, Jeff Donnell, and Ann Rutherford. There's the Edison family from Thomas Alva to his wife, Mina, to his sons, Teddy and Charles. There's a real life mayor of West Orange, Bernard M. Degnan, along with background characters modeled on and named for actual West Orange policemen and firemen from the 1940's. There's even real life New Jersey gangsters. It all goes towards creating a very real sense of what life was like in that time period.

Since writers draw from experience and people are a part of experience, Dandola has sent people from his own life back in time and into the mix. He's included some college friends and even some neighbors but mostly his West Orange Mountain High School connections tend to show up.

The late Mr. William Shapiro, who was Dandola's high school history teacher, is onboard as, of course, a high school history teacher—but back in 1944. Mr. Robert Whelan went from being Dandola's high school English teacher to a screenwriter. Childhood friend Mike Matta, a pilot in real life, has been portrayed in a previous novel as filming aerial footage for Paramount Pictures. He'll return in a future novel. The late Brad Marr, a train enthusiast, showed up as a telegraph operator in a small town train depot. The late Ralph Cicchelli is in several stories as a high school kid who's a neighbor, which he was to John's wife.

More in keeping with themselves are John Fallon and Donnie Paradiso as troublesome high school students back in 1944. Both of them not only appear in the latest novel, Dead in the Embers, but they'll return in the next novel, Dead During Intermission (set to debut towards the end of this year), along with Patty Stieve. That's the novel in which Mike Matta returns as a movie studio pilot. It's also the novel in which the manager of West Orange's local 1940's movie theatre on Main Street is someone Dandola knew as far back as grade school and who lived four blocks from that theatre. Is he a movie buff?

"I have no idea," Dandola admits. "In fact, I doubt it. He was always involved in sports but when I introduced the character, for some reason, I saw him and his personality handling the conversations. He lives in California now and the whole thing is going to come as a huge surprise to him. But then again, he'll probably never know because he's never figured out how to do much in the way of communicating via computer so he'll probably never see this posting or know when the book becomes available. Still, he's in it."

Watch yourselves, folks, because you never know if you'll get honored for inclusion in Dandola's next literary work.
Dead in the Embers will debut in April 2022.
Author John Dandola is an observer.

Being an observer doesn't necessarily mean that one sits on the sidelines silently staring at and scrutinizing people. It's a perception which artists and writers have and it happens naturally to sink in on its own then be tapped for inspiration whenever needed.

"My mother and her sister, my aunt, used to take offense if I'd include someone they knew in a story," Dandola explains. "‘You shouldn't have put so-and-so in,' they'd chide. When I'd ask why, they'd say, ‘Because it's exactly like him or her.' When I'd ask either of them to elaborate, they'd twist things by saying that portraying someone exactly how they are was making fun of them—even if it wasn't used humorously or disparagingly. I could never get them to understand that it wasn't criticizing, it was honoring. It was something most authors do. People become part of your life. If you value those people, you want to let them know. It's a writer thing. Sort've like sending a permanent Christmas card. But I guess some people misunderstand and view it as bestowing some kind of medieval curse."