Even Though the Novel Solves an Actual 129-Year-Old Cold Case
Everything Always Boils Down to Local Politics


PRLog (Press Release)—June 14, 2012—The prestigious Midwest Book
lauds, "With plenty of twists and turns, Dead in Small Doses
is a choice read for mystery collections."

But as author John Dandola's mystery novel, Dead in Small Doses,
goes into a second printing, there has still been no mention of it in
his hometown of West Orange, New Jersey, where much of the
story's action is set. In the novel, Dandola solves the town's only
actual cold case (which dates back to 1883). That, in and of itself,
would be newsworthy in any town anywhere in the world. What's
more, the method used by Dandola's detective to arrive at the
solution is a lesson plan in how to accurately research and interpret
local history. West Orange's intentional lack of attention for these
accomplishments is something which amuses both the publishing
and entertainment industries (the novel has been optioned for a
possible film) because it illustrates so much about the politics and
politicians of New Jersey and how the local media is controlled.

Dandola, whose family roots in West Orange pre-date the Revolutionary War, has written extensively about the town's history in both fiction and non-fiction. He is also well-known for being completely apolitical and highly protective of his creative and intellectual properties. So protective that he successfully sued a local politician for copyright infringement nearly twenty years ago. The politician had made unauthorized and uncredited use of Dandola's West Orange history material in campaign literature. The lawsuit cost that politician the election.

"What people refuse to understand is that copyright infringement is a very serious issue. It is theft plain and simple," Dandola explains. "Just as egregious is when that copyrighted material is used in campaign literature because it creates an impression of endorsement. I never endorse any political candidate. This particular politician was not in the least bit contrite for what he did. In fact, he gave the distinct impression that he was entitled to use my work or anyone else's work in order to get ahead. It was therefore a situation addressable only through a lawsuit."

When the politician in question finally did manage to get elected, so began an ongoing boycott of any public mention of Dandola. Although that politician has now moved up to the state level, local allegiances are still a mainstay of politics and Dandola continues to be deprived mentions in the local weekly newspaper, the West Orange Chronicle. Now it has spread to a new local online "paper" called the West Orange Patch.

The pettiness of this game is played behind-closed-doors as the local politicians threaten local editors with a denial of "access" if certain people or events get coverage. It's a predicament the author knows well because not only has he investigated it in depth but former West Orange politicians have confessed to and confirmed such goings-on.

Of Dandola's eight mystery novels (he writes two different series), the last seven—those published after he sued that West Orange politician for copyright infringement—have been shunned and denied any West Orange mention. Likewise, his eleven locally-staged plays have never received any publicity within the town yet they have elsewhere in the county and throughout the state.

Another complication is that the West Orange Chronicle publishes a weekly local history column. It has done so on and off for decades with a variety of different columnists but the current column is not only poorly written but poorly researched and embarrassingly saccharine. Dandola, a stickler for historical accuracy, is the constant local reminder of a writer who knows how to go about historical subjects correctly.

"The Chronicle has created its own conflict of interest and lacks both the imagination and the editorial talent to overcome that. In West Orange, there's always some hidden political agenda attached to absolutely everything. Nothing can be done for the good of the town or in the interest of the citizens; there's always some political motivation or underlying payback involved. It's rather pathetic," Dandola says philosophically. "At times, it's like watching a bad old-time movie that doesn't have the benefit of sympathetic actors playing the politicians. This is the year that the politicians are celebrating the 150th Anniversary of West Orange—which is actually next year but they can never be bothered with details or doing their homework or explaining why they didn't celebrate the 125th Anniversary. For this rather lack-luster 150th celebration, they've embraced the Chronicle newspaper columnist because he's someone they can keep under their thumbs. The control factor stems from some bizarre concept that any mention of the sometimes ugly but certainly much more interesting historical truths of the town's history must be suppressed, covered-up, and whitewashed because no one has a clue that such facts can actually be presented winningly. On top of it all, they don't even know the correct derivation of 'Orange' in the town's name and the town web site gives the wrong year for the founding of the Police Department."

In the end, Dandola is the one having the last laugh. Just like his three previous West Orange mystery novels, Dead in Small Doses will go international later this year but the local politicians and the local media have created a situation for themselves in which they can't even enjoy that ride. In a delicious twist, it's something Dandola gets to discuss in great detail when interviewed in other parts of the country and it's been suggested that it should even become the basis for a new novel.

"Who knows?" he says. "Since I know where all the political skeletons are hidden and where all the political bodies are buried throughout West Orange's history right down to the present, it might not be a bad idea."

Undeterred, he's at work on his fifth West Orange-based mystery which will feature a legend from the town's colonial past. "The only way I can explain it is that inspirations and familial ties are very strong things. With my readership, if West Orange chooses to snub me along with my historical knowledge of the town and the celebration I give it, then the loss is clearly theirs—certainly not mine."

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.

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

# # #

to read the original Dead in Small Doses press release
sent to all local media outlets

to read about
The Great West Orange History Flub

Copyright © 2012 by The Quincannon Publishing Group. All rights reserved.
Mystery Novel Set in West Orange, New Jersey, Still Gets No Mention in That Town
The author's seventh mystery novel
to be shunned
in West Orange
along with any mention of his
eleven locally-staged plays.