Copyright © 2016 by John Dandola, Ltd. All rights reserved.
A Brief Pre-Publication Interview About
Dead in Left Field
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 and common sense. But the powers-that-be have always been lazy and uncaring.
The sad fact is that history in West Orange is just something to create momentary headlines. The latest such headline is that yet another committee is seeking to preserve the town's "historic character." The joke is that West Orange has spend the last fifty years eradicating most of its historic structures and landmarks including the bulldozing of a colonial-federal era house in the center of town. Since those things can never be replaced and since the town seeks, allows, and condones construction on every square foot of vacant land in the pursuit of tax revenues, exactly what is left to preserve? There's simply no "historic character" left due to their own municipal actions.
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.
And yet 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.