Author John Dandola's Stays on Marco Island Contributed to the Writing of His Newwest Mystery Novel, Dead in Small Doses

Holly Benedict

Each year, author-screenwriter-playwright John Dandola makes several trips to Marco Island, Florida, spending in total at least two months here. He not only relaxes but he finds the quiet easy atmosphere conducive to writing. His newest mystery novel, Dead in Small Doses, is one in his 1940's Hollywood series which will surely generate reminiscences among readers.

Dandola's protagonist is based upon and named for his grandfather.
Since that grandfather had also worked as a personal messenger boy
to Thomas Edison, those connections to the famous inventor run
throughout the novels. The very first one, Dead at the Box Office,
was set against the backdrop of the actual 1940 Edison, the Man
World Premiere which featured Spencer Tracy as the title character.

The third novel in the series, Dead by All Appearances, introduced
Paramount actress Marjorie Reynolds into the murder mix as she does
a remote radio broadcast during a War Bond Tour connected with her
breakout role in Holiday Inn.

In this newest and fourth novel, Dead in Small Doses, Miss Reynolds
becomes the female sidekick.

"From everything I've learned about her through research and
interviews, the late Miss Reynolds wasn't just pretty and charming
on-screen; she seems to have been a breath of fresh air off-screen.
I thoroughly enjoy writing about her. She has become absolutely
real on every page she occupies and she just clicked with the lead
character. What's more, the trajectory of her career can easily be
understood by anyone in the outside world who has suffered from
indifferent bosses and bureaucratic mindsets. That is a tremendously
humanizing element in her appeal—even beyond her 1940's movie
star looks."

So how have his extended visits to Marco Island contributed to all of this?

"I live in the Northeast where about two-thirds of this novel's action takes place but when the storyline moved to the Caribbean—where I've spent a lot of time and have many personal photographs which were used as reference—I still wanted and needed to feel the ambience of tropical weather, sun, sea, and air since it's the everyday nuances which make fictional settings ring true. Marco Island supplied that ambience very nicely. It's why I love it here."

Dead in Small Doses is published by Compass Point Mysteries (435 pages, $16.95) is available online at

And yes, with the Edison connection so ever-present in the novels, a future story will take place an hour north of Marco Island in Fort Myers, where Edison had his winter home right next door to Henry Ford. One of
Dandola's previous mystery novels, A Beckoning Wind, was based on Marco Island and he hopes to continue using the island as a locale for more of his fiction.

John Dandola is a member of the Mystery Writers of America for his novels; the Writers Guild of America for his screenplays; and the Dramatists Guild of America for his plays.

On the cover is the
Caribbean Great House which serves as one of the novel's locales but Marco Island supplied the ambience.
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February 10, 2012.
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