The Quincannon Publishing Group

Buyers of these books always wonder why they are not being sold in the Hammond Castle gift shop.

Until now, we've refrained from discussing the reason  publicly but 2020 created so many Hammond Castle incidents for us that our attorneys and our author's attorneys had to be alerted. Now, it's about time to tell the full story.

Back circa 1980, our author, John Dandola, was asked by a movie producer to scout a location in Massachusetts. Dandola is also a screenwriter who has degrees in film, television, and theatre along with a working background as a filmmaker. He detailed the pros and cons of the location but, in the end, financing fell through and the movie producer moved on to other projects. The location in question was Hammond Castle. Not only did the building itself leave Dandola with an indelible impression but so did the man who had built it. For years afterward, whenever he was in New England, Dandola made sure to stop by the castle for a visit.

When Dandola began writing mystery novels, he called up his recollections of Hammond Castle and included it as a location. In one series, his protagonists work as museum volunteers during the present day. In two of his much acclaimed 1940's mysteries, John Hays Hammond, Jr., is prominently featured as a character.

In the late 1990's, Dandola got to know the then director of Hammond Castle and listened to the lament that not only was the museum's income in short supply but there was no in-depth research into Hammond's life and no books about him were available to stir the public's interest. Dandola took the matter to heart and in his own time and at his own expense, he began donating his work to the museum. He created a new guidebook, wrote a children's book, edited a collection of Hammond's short stories, and chronicled the ghost stories associated with the castle. He also designed mugs and T-shirts for sale in the gift shop. He and his wife had become close friends with Hammond's former cook and Dandola asked her to write a cookbook of actual recipes served to Hammond during his lifetime. Mrs. Dandola, a cook in her own right, updated each and every recipe so that it could be prepared on modern conveniences.

All of these projects were done free-of-charge by Dandola and, since we have been publishers of museum books, we supplied the layouts and printing at cost. Dandola believed so strongly in assisting Hammond Castle that we got caught up in trying to help the museum stay afloat. As the years went on, we began to hear about and be warned about the long trail of local artists the castle had used and unceremoniously discarded. Fortunately, as a professional, John Dandola always made sure to own all of the copyrights associated with his work. If a parting of the ways occurred, nothing could be used without his written permission. Copyrights force everyone to be honest.

Then in 2000, the museum director asked Dandola if he would consider writing Hammond's biography. This was no small request as Dandola cautioned him. Preliminary research revealed that Hammond had spent time in Dandola's hometown where Thomas Edison had lived and built a lab. Further, some of Hammond's visits coincided with the years Dandola's grandfather had served as one of Edison's personal messenger boys. It also turned out that both Hammond and Dandola's grandfather each had a lifelong friendship with Edison's youngest son. This caused Dandola to give the biography careful thorough thought and he finally acquiesced. Thankfully, he did so at a time in which he was able to be the last person to interview the few remaining people still alive who had known Hammond. Those people were eager to share stories with Dandola but not with the castle because they were offended that the vast majority of what was being doled out to visitors about Hammond was untrue. The castle had treated Hammond's former friends with disrespect and museum guides were spreading hearsay embroidered with each retelling so that it had little in common with the truth. It all caused Dandola to dig more deeply for that truth.

The biography project took two years to complete. What was left of the records at the museum were in utter shambles. Dandola wound up amassing his own records from local, national, and international sources. His files are far more extensive than what the museum has in its possession. Outsiders gave him vintage photos which they had previously refused to share with the museum. By the time the project was finished, Dandola had become known as the authority on Hammond and he has been sought out in that regard ever since. The then museum director was delighted with Dandola's resulting manuscript, approved it, and the book moved to the printer. That's when problems arose.

The Board of Directors, who knew of the biography project and never uttered a word, became hesitant. This is the same Board which never once uttered a word of thanks or appreciation for the income Dandola had generated for the museum. Suddenly, they wanted their own approval over what the director had already approved. Something smelled funny. The first excuse which drifted back was that they were suspicious of anyone being so generous. Of course, they never before questioned that generosity after years of Dandola's asking for nothing in return and this company only breaking even all for the museum's benefit. That certainly began rubbing us the wrong way. Dandola is the ultimate professional and he had nothing to hide about his straightforward evenhanded Hammond biography so he played along and his manuscript was sent to the Board. With it was the proviso that once the biography was published the museum would adhere to it and stop making up their own wildly untrue stories. He even offered to field any questions from the media about Hammond (something he was already doing on the museum's behalf).

Things dragged on endlessly with no explanation. The book lost its queue at the printer. The six-month tourist season was coming to a close. Stories about the long trail of local artists the castle had used and unceremoniously discarded came to mind. Finally, Dandola asked why there was such a delay. The response: "We're too busy to even look at this now."

After two years of Dandola's research and writing for their benefit and our cost to typeset, design, and layout, the Board felt no responsibility or courtesy towards us so that the project could move forward. Now things didn't just smell funny, they were beginning to stink. Dandola pressed the issue. The lead Board member became so rude, condescending, and unpleasant that we not only pulled the biography from them, we also pulled all the other books, mugs, and T-shirts. Up until that point, we had acted generously and in good faith. We had bent over backwards for their every whim. Enough was finally enough. But unlike the long trail of local artists the castle had used and unceremoniously discarded, Dandola had protected himself by owning his copyrights and it caught everyone completely off-guard.

The museum director was shocked. He tried to make nice but the Board continued to be abusive. Word finally came back, "Who does [Dandola] think he is to tell us how to represent Hammond?" the lead Board member concluded in that way which only blustery types use when they don't know what they are talking about after being out-maneuvered. In the lead Board member's eyes, Dandola's retaining his copyrights along with his requirement for the museum to finally stop inventing untruths about Hammond somehow empowered Dandola and diminished the Board. Here, Dandola had done the museum a huge favor and instead of gratitude, the Board was spitting in his eye. They absurdly accused him of demanding some sort of exclusivity on the subject of Hammond when it was abundantly clear and clearly stated that, as Hammond's biographer, Dandola felt responsible for ensuring that Hammond received proper and honest remembrance not wild tall tales. Dandola's concerns should have been paramount to the museum Board. Instead, Dandola became their focus.

Ever since, the lead Board member has gone out of his way to portray John Dandola as the ultimate evil. From what has drifted back to us, the lead Board member's version of the story has been so twisted that, much like the museum's fictionalized portrait of Hammond, it bears no resemblance to the truth which has just been given here. Thankfully, historians, researchers, and reporters have seen through the lead Board member's gibberish and consider Dandola's position in this situation as the proper and correct one.

Years later, we finally found out that the real reason for such nasty bluster was that the Board didn't want anything about Hammond's private life to be revealed. Of course, since they hadn't read Dandola's manuscript; they had no idea how that subject was handled. Still, they jumped to some crazy conclusion that their reputations and that of the museum would be defiled. Dandola had hardly written an exposé but as a formal biography, Hammond's private life and its influence on him had to be explored. Unfortunately, the Board childishly believed that Hammond's private life would hurt tourism. Instead of reading what had been written and having an intelligent polite civil discussion, they chose to strike out with rudeness and abuse to show that they were "in charge" even though they were picking a fight over something they had no clue about and picking that fight with someone who wouldn't be bullied.

The friendship between the museum director and Dandola was over. The Board actually did us a favor because we simply shifted sales of our Hammond Castle titles online and finally reaped some profits. The biography was published. A second volume was also published. Both the ghost stories and the cookbook have gone through multiple editions. Dandola's novels have given Hammond Castle national and international exposure. Yet whenever visitors have asked the museum gift shop why there are no books about Hammond for sale there, they are informed that none have ever been written. Those visitors who know of our books and hope to find them at the gift shop are told that the books are out-of-print. Blatant lies on both counts and orchestrated by the rude lead Board member who is still in power.

For the past ten years, we haven't given the museum much thought. Our books were undertaken to preserve the legacy of John Hays Hammond, Jr., and have done so nicely. Hammond Castle has chosen to invent its own fantasy history of the man and concentrate on using his home more as a wedding venue than as a museum. Our not dealing with them has been a saving grace. But things began to kick up once again throughout 2020.

When the gift shop discovered some copies of our books in a dusty closet, they conspired to simply go ahead and reprint them surmising that since the copyrights were owned by Hammond Castle Productions the books must surely belong to them. Thankfully, someone had the common sense to find out that Hammond Castle Productions is a subsidiary of John Dandola's corporation. That person wisely warned the gift shop to keep hands off. Had the gift shop proceeded with the foolish notion of reprinting without written permission, attorneys would have pounced.

The gift shop then proceeded to contact us to purchase copies of the cookbook. But with no apologies offered for all the prior years of what we had been through, we refused the order.

When the 2020 summer issue of Cape Ann magazine contained a feature about our Recipes from Hammond Castle, the museum rushed into print an old cookbook by the very first museum director with the further lie that it contained recipes from Mr. Hammond's cooks. The author of our cookbook, Nellie Nally Connors, was Hammond's last cook. In her recorded interviews with Dandola, she recalled about the very first museum director, "Oh, that one. She lorded over us never asking and always ordering. She wanted my recipes for that cookbook of hers and I wouldn't give them to her and none of the previous cooks left any of their recipes behind so she used her own recipes from home."

Also that summer, a candidate for the Board sought to purchase copies of our Hammond biographies "for research". A candidate to the very Board which caused all the problems about Dandola's biography in the first place and had chosen to go out of its way to snub him now wanted to use Dandola's work for the Board's own ends. The candidate was surprised that we would not sell to him. In fact, he tried purchasing copies through various other people. We stopped him at every turn. Apparently, he didn't grasp the severity of how the Board had mistreated both John Dandola and ourselves.

By December, a museum tour guide was seeking to buy both volumes of our Hammond biography so that he, too, could use all of John Dandola's research—research which took years to accumulate and which is not available in the meager museum files. Of course, that research would then be passed off without one iota of credit or recompense given to the only authority about Hammond who had done all the work. When the sale was denied, the museum tour guide also seemed surprised that we considered him overstepping all bounds. His reasoning was that he was paying for the books with his own money but completely missing the point that he intended to use the books to benefit the museum which had shown no respect for the author. Obviously, no one ever explained to him about consequences and repercussions.

What is becoming abundantly clear is that after decades of neglect, the castle is now in a serious state of disrepair and they are finally and desperately trying to salvage it. In pursuit of that, they've finally realized  they have to create much more visibility about Hammond with the public in order to keep a constant flow of visitors and admission fees. Books are the way to create such interest, attract visitors, and properly school the tour guides but there is nothing of the sort in the gift shop. There is also a constant turnover in personnel and since ex-staffers talk, we know that all research dead-ends because the museum archives are incomplete—much has been spirited away and much has been lost due to poor storage and leaking roofs. After making up the history for so long about Hammond, his life, and his castle, they now realize they only have pieces to several different jigsaw puzzles focusing on the truth. Only Dandola can complete all the puzzles because he is the Hammond expert. Since the museum board treated him so badly, he has no inclination to help. It's that parable about reaping and sowing. What it would take to win Dandola back, the egos of the board would never allow and so inaccuracies and fallacies continue to be doled out as the building itself falls apart. It's quite sad but it's a direct result of how the board has always conducted itself.

Dealing with supposed professional entities which have no comprehension of courtesy or the black-and-white of legalities is exhausting. In this case, the madness never seems to end in a situation of Hammond Castle's own making because they never seem to learn. But they are well-advised to leave us and our books alone.

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The Quincannon Publishing Group
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The Ticklishness of Our
Hammond Castle Situation