The Quincannon Publishing Group
Tony Del Plato Mysteries
the Hollywood Studio System
didn't always make things easy!
• Dead at the Box Office
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."
• Dead in Their Sights
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."
"[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
"History and mystery merge in West Orange and many are the familiar figures in this story set in 1942 about World War II rumors centering on the Edison factory..."
— 'Jersey Ink,' The Star-Ledger
• Dead by All Appearances
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
• Dead in Small Doses
In the spring of 1943, through his Edison family connections, 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.
Nearly six months since they last saw one another during a radio broadcast which also involved Hammond, Tony and Marjorie find that their chemistry is undiminished. During their trek, Tony reveals some of his mysterious background in a trio 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, Tony and Marjorie also manage to become embroiled 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
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."
• Dead in Left Field
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 plans 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
• Dead in the Shadows
As Labor Day of 1943 draws near, actress Marjorie Reynolds finally gets the chance to become a film producer when Paramount Pictures green-lights her idea for a B-movie mystery.
With cinematogapher Steve Hardin also taking the helm as director and actress Jeff Donnell signed as the lead, all that is necessary is Tony Del Plato’s participation not only as Majorie’s co-producer but as her companion all alone and by themselves while scouting film locations in a small California town.
Considering Tony’s usual magnetism for trouble, what could possibly go wrong?
“A mystery reminding me of a 1940’s tabloid...I doubt I'll ever see this
kind of humility in modern tabloids.”
—Kelly B. Sagert, Lansdale Eclectic
“Dandola imbues his Hollywood characters with a humanity that makes
them much more real than their glamorized images.”
• Dead on Their Trail
When production begins on the second Patty Drury movie, Tony Del Plato arranges for the real Patty to travel to California so that she can meet both her screen counterpart, actress Jeff Donnell, and actress Marjorie Reynolds, who is the producer of the series. Although part of the script's storyline is set in the Wild West of the 1880’s, mysterious occurrences during shooting at the movie ranch location bring attention back to the present and the effect that World War II is having on the homefront.
“[Dandola's] books are like a journey back to a glamorous Hollywood of yesteryear, but with the gritty reality of today's crime world.”
—Julia Buckley, author of The Dark Backwar and Madeline Mann
• Dead in the Embers
After a landmark stone church is gutted by fire, Tony Del Plato is asked to help investigate. The case is almost immediately complicated by squabbling politicians, a screwy local historian, prying reporters, New Jersey mobsters, and Tony's favorite females: Patty Drury, Marjorie Reynolds, and Jeff Donnell. The latter's Hollywood photo shoot causes quite a long-distance distraction in the midst of everything.
"[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."
—South Orange Book Review
• Dead During Intermission
Amid preparations for Patty Drury's movie premiere and her 1944 high school graduation, the F.B.I. zeroes in on a Nazi counterfeiting operation then asks Tony Del Plato for assistance. It all becomes layer upon conflicting layer of wartime intrigue played out on the streets of a small American town with help from New Jersey gangsters and topped off by a substantial touch of Hollywood gloss.
"This series is wonderfully well-written...Dandola's development of character is very rich within plausible mysteries involving Golden Age Hollywood movie-making and movie actresses, New Jersey gangsters, and World War II homefront intrigue..."
—Mark Owen, cinephile
"When it comes to the West Orange of the past, John Dandola captures not only the physical look and feel of the town but he creates an accurate portrait of the people and their everyday lives. It's the perfect time capsule!"
—Lois M Reichert
West Orange Past & Present
Each title is in trade paperback format.
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