John Dandola's
West Orange Mysteries

• Dead at the Box Office
An Edie Koslow-Tony Del Plato Mystery

In 1940, Hollywood decided to pay homage to a small New Jersey town. It was where Thomas Alva Edison had lived and worked for nearly fifty years, ultimately making it the birthplace of motion pictures.

What better place to hold the World Premiere of Spencer Tracy's Edison, the Man? The idea seemed not only flawless but guaranteed to generate terrific press—until a series of sexual murders breaks out a week before the festivities are scheduled to begin.

Already straddled with the ever-reticent Spencer Tracy and overly exuberant starlet Ann Rutherford, M.G.M. publicity girl Edie Koslow is forced to reluctantly hush the crimes and then just as reluctantly solve them in the midst of studio manipulations and small town politics with only the help and protection of a local mystery man.

"An ironically funny picture of the differences between west coast film executives and [an] east coast residential community...It is these ironic ideas, the reality of the period, and the discrepancies in fact that create humor in the retelling."
The Essex Journal

"Dandola infuses a sense of humor about movie-making and the glamour and glitz associated with Hollywood."
The Star-Ledger

• Dead in Their Sights
An Edie Koslow-Tony Del Plato Mystery

Set in 1942, two years after the Edison, the Man debacle which first introduced her to readers, M.G.M. publicity girl Edie Koslow is reassigned to the studio's Manhattan offices. Thanks to her mentor, M.G.M. East Coast Publicity Chief Howard Dietz, a simple favor to help promote a new Broadway ingenue once again lands Edie in the middle of small town New Jersey politics and murder.

With circumstances set in motion by legendary producer George Abbott and actress Joan Caulfield, Edie's run-of-the-mill assignment eventually becomes complicated by Thomas Edison's sons, Nazi saboteurs, British Military Intelligence, the I.R.A., the F.B.I., and entertainment columnist Ed Sullivan.

In the ensuing mayhem, Edie's disquieting relationship with Tony Del Plato is also put to the test.

"Edie Koslow and Tony Del Plato reteam in this sequel to Dead at the Box Office. Although darker than their first outing, Dandola's affable writing style and his extraordinary grasp of time, place, and subject matter still gives the reader a wonderfully perceptive inside-out view of movie studios and small town politics."
International Titles

"[With] a great deal of research to ensure historical accuracy...Dandola has certainly carved out a place for himself as a regionalist writer; perhaps [West Orange's] first."
Suburban Essex Magazine

"[Dandola's] roots in the area enable him to fill his mysteries with so much local color and detail that even readers unfamiliar with the town can create vivid pictures of it in their minds....One can almost hear the Irish, English, and Norwegian accents as the characters come to life."
South Orange Book Review


• Dead by All Appearances
An Edie Koslow-Tony Del Plato Mystery

When Teddy Edison, youngest son of the late Thomas Alva Edison, asks Tony Del Plato to investigate some odd occurrences at the castle laboratory of millionaire inventor John Hays Hammond, Jr., it is a request more for Tony's much needed change of scenery than out of any real necessity. While leaving West Orange, New Jersey, might prove to be therapeutic following the recent events in Tony's life, little could anyone foresee that this forced vacation on the restful and beautifully rocky coastline of Massachusetts would ultimately involve local gangsters, murder, and espionage.

Adding to the confusion is a scheduled remote radio broadcast from the castle not to mention an unexpected rivalry between M.G.M. publicity girl Edie Koslow and Paramount actress Marjorie Reynolds, who is visiting after a War Bond tour in Boston to promote her new film, Holiday Inn.

"Well-written by American author John Dandola, these thrillers unveil an odd and novel pair of amateur detectives: a movie publicity girl and a barber, who is one authentic and intriguing Italian-American."
Giornale di Sicilia

"Through movie publicist Edie Koslow and local barber Tony Del Plato, whose mysterious skills go well beyond hairstyling, Dandola presents Edison family history, small-town politics, and Tinsel Town gossip of the period and melds them seamlessly."
Mystery Scene Magazine

"These entertaining novels contain both history and gossip about the old M.G.M. Studio System. They impressed me and I'd recommend them to any fan of Stuart M. Kaminsky's Toby Peters series."
—Linda M. Esler, Bloomfield Life

• Dead in Small Doses
A Tony Del Plato Mystery

In the spring of 1943, through his Edison family connections, West Orange resident Tony Del Plato gets a surprising assignment when Paramount Pictures decides to make one of its Popular Science movie shorts about inventor John Hays Hammond, Jr. Filming will take place not only at Hammond's grandiose castle-home in Gloucester, Massachusetts, but also aboard his yacht on a trip to the Caribbean. Tony's job: bodyguard to actress Marjorie Reynolds, who suggested the movie and will be featured in it.

Throughout the course of the novel, Tony reveals some of his mysterious background through a trio of stories about his tutoring by Thomas Edison, his solving of an actual New Jersey cold case from the 1880's, and his association with notorious New Jersey gangster Abner "Longy" Zwillman. But those stories aside, filming on location also manages to embroil Tony and Marjorie in a Caribbean murder.

"A unique blend of history, mystery, and nostalgia with the mood of a 1940's film. Clever casting, sharp period dialogue, and memorable scenic descriptions set a backdrop for an unexpected series of events. Great fun, and blessedly different, this is a book to take into your comfiest chair and enjoy as you would an exciting journey."
—Julia Buckley, author of The Dark Backward and Madeline Mann

• Dead by Happenstance
A Tony Del Plato Mystery

As the summer of 1943 begins, M.G.M. publicity chief Howard Dietz brokers a deal for
Tony Del Plato to work again with Paramount Pictures. The job comes as a direct request from cinematographer Steve Hardin. Their assignment takes them to the Mayan ruins of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, where Hardin is to film second-unit footage for a B-movie. All goes smoothly enough until the actors' stunt-doubles arrive and an inexplicable murder takes place. Once again helping to unravel the motive is Paramount actress Marjorie Reynolds, who had hoped for a vacation simply relaxing and spending time with Tony.

In a parallel story, Patty Drury, the high school girl and history buff who is minding Tony's son back home, helps prove a local legend to be true and earns herself a brush with fame—and crime.

"Dandola not only has a knack for relating the practical nuts-and-bolts methods once used in movie-making but he can also create a very real sense and flavor of any locale at any point in time. Add very real characters in plots which could quite possibly happen and it’s effortless for readers to be transported."
International Titles

• Dead in Left Field
A Tony Del Plato Mystery

Although World War II is raging across most of the globe, the only conflicts arising in West Orange, New Jersey, during the summer of 1943 are those between Little League baseball teams. All of that changes after spiteful political machinations cause Tony Del Plat to be harassed by a new member of the police department and the harassing officer is found dead on the local baseball field. The case quickly takes on labyrinthian twists which include prostitutes, potential turf wars, convoluted vendettas, New Jersey gangster "Longy" Zwillman, and several members of "Lucky" Luciano's crime family.

Meanwhile in Hollywood, actress Marjorie Reynolds places to turn producer and she enlists fellow actress Jeff Donnell to play Tony's surrogate daughter, Patty Drury, in a potential movie—providing, of course, that Tony approves of the project and the casting choice.

"Dandola's descriptions are so succinct and evocative that readers can't help but visualize how the town of West Orange once looked. Quite appropriately, it is just like watching an old movie."
—Dr. Herman Estrin, Founder of the New Jersey Literary Hall of Fame


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Copyright © 2004–2017 John Dandola, Ltd.
All rights reserved.

"Fact and fiction mingle in [Dandola's] third mystery that uses West Orange as a setting during World War II....
New Jersey readers don't realize how much history is in their backyards."

"Jersey Ink"
The Star-Ledger
February 1, 2008.
National and international sales gave rise to a series, but Dead at the Box Office
is still known locally as
West of Orange.*
*West of Orange
is a trademark held by
John Dandola, Ltd.