LAKE PLACID — John Dandola is the author of 10 mystery novels with another three completed and awaiting publication. In the non-fiction field, he is a biographer and historian with seven such titles to his credit.
His stage plays have all been produced. Of his 12 screenplays, six have been optioned. As his series of 1940’s mystery novels attest, he is an expert on how movies were made during Hollywood’s Golden Age. Always eager to pass on his knowledge, he has even put in several years as an adjunct professor. Something he hopes he can continue to do so here in central Florida.
Two years ago, Dandola and his wife sought to finally escape the political and tax insanity of the Northeast. At first, they seriously considered Naples and Marco Island but that area has become so busy and overpopulated that it’s transformed itself into the Northeast with palm trees. After a little more than a year there, it was time for them to move on.
What was the lure of Lake Placid?
The Dandolas had close friends with a home here in Lake Placid and they’d visited often. Probably more than anyone, creative types are affected by their surroundings. “I know it may sound crazy,” Dandola acknowledges, “but when you are hard at work on something so cerebral as writing a book and you first have to begin your day with blaring noise, neighborhood unsightliness, rudeness, or thoughtlessness, it’s too impacting. You just can’t brush that aside, sit down at your desk, and create. We wanted simple peace and quiet with no stress and no strain.”
Simply put, Lake Placid’s appeal was its smallness.
“The quality of its murals and the charm of its small local museum cinched things for us,” says Dandola. “It didn’t hurt that it also has a mechanic for my classic car, an old-fashioned stationery store, and a real New York style pizzeria. It’s very reminiscent of my childhood.”
He also admits that, as an author, he couldn’t resist the fact that the town’s name came by way of the librarian who invented the Dewey Decimal System.
Both Dandola and his wife were both brought up in an exclusive area of New Jersey. It is the same town where Thomas Edison lived and worked for the last 50 years of his life. Dandola’s grandfather had been a personal messenger boy to Edison. The inventor was so profoundly deaf that he preferred sending and receiving notes rather than trying to hear over the telephone. (Yes, in this age where selfies are required proof of everything, there is a photo of his grandfather with Edison.)
But by the time Edison came along, Dandola’s ancestors had been ensconced in that town since prior to the Revolutionary War. His wife’s family were relative newcomers. They had only been in place since the 1880’s. Her grandmother and great-grandmother had both been cooks in the households of Edison’s equally wealthy neighbors. Unfortunately, New Jersey state and municipal taxes are escalating so ridiculously that they are forcing people to flee the state in droves.
Nowadays, Dandola concentrates on his mystery novels. His 1940’s murder mysteries tie New Jersey small town life to Hollywood in that his protagonist is a part-time trouble-shooter for the movie studios. Could the premise have actually happened? Well, the author’s hometown is where Thomas Edison built the world’s first motion picture studio and where, unbelievably, the very first Western — “The Great Train Robbery” — was filmed. What’s more, that same town is where M.G.M. held the World Premiere of Spencer Tracy’s “Edison, the Man.”
Dandola’s other mystery series concentrates on a modern-day New England couple who are teachers and whose murder mysteries concentrate on local history and archaeology. In their fourth outing, the couple became snowbirds, spending part of their time here in Florida. As the author himself explains, “You get inspiration wherever you find it.” Over the past 10 months, Dandola and his wife have personally undertaken a slow thoughtful renovation of their new home. Next on their agenda is adding built-in bookcases to the room which is his office.
“I just never realized how many books I had accumulated on the shelves of our 100 year-old New Jersey house.” That house had been a home to his family since it was built.
How is he settling in to life in Florida?
“I miss not having an attic and a basement and I do miss the seasons — autumn being my favorite time of year with crispness in the air and colorful foliage — but here in Lake Placid, the constant niceness of people in stores and on the street reminds me of where I lived in England while doing work on a screenplay there. It’s all very calming. Now, if I can just find a good barber...”
Dandola’s next 1940’s mystery novel, Dead in the Shadows, is set to debut by year’s end. His biography of the inventor (an Edison protégé) who pioneered remote control is due for publication in the spring.