Mystery Author's Local Lifeguard Memoir Goes National Thanks to a Reviewer

A memoir that reveals much about a mystery novelist.
A memoir that reveals much about a mystery novelist.
WEST ORANGE, N.J. - June 21, 2018 - PRLog -- This past winter was especially harsh in the Midwest leaving a Chicago-area book reviewer with too much snow, too much time, and too few books to read. The reviewer had become a fan of John Dandola's mystery novels set in 1940's West Orange, New Jersey, with overtones of Hollywood's Golden Age. Snowed in, he contacted Dandola's publisher to inquire whether galley proofs were available for any of the author's forthcoming titles. Dead in Left Field had been published in 2017 and from the author's web site, the reviewer knew that three more novels in the series had been completed. With no galleys yet available for those three new novels, the publisher mentioned that Dandola had written a memoir to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the municipal pool which he lifeguarded and then managed for ten summers. The memoir had been published in a short run exclusively for reference libraries seeking local New Jersey history. The reviewer read it.

The resulting review called national attention to this otherwise local memoir because it revealed a great deal about the author and readers are always curious about what makes a favorite author tick.

As that review describes the book: "Just what a memoir should be: candid, self-deprecating, insightful, and entertaining. While the author seeks to praise co-workers from his youth, he also reveals how he cultivated his own very well-defined sense of right and wrong and describes the origins of his very personal disdain for politicians which often carries over into his novels."

Due to that review, Sun, Fun, and Political Pervasiveness: A History and Memoir of Ginny Duenkel Municipal Pool, is now entering its second printing. Already with a great many preorders, the second print-run of the book will officially be  released today, the first day of summer.

Although the author's memoir accomplishes what he set out to do in making sure that the proper people responsible for the success of his hometown pool were credited on its fiftieth anniversary, he also tells us a great deal about himself and his bio becomes more and more interesting. This is an author who has received awards from around the country and overseas yet the very town which he celebrates in both fiction and non-fiction makes believe his work doesn't exist even though this native son writes so insightfully and lovingly about the town itself. While authors tend to be associated with the locales they use as backdrops, West Orange is so glaringly unappreciative that it has left an impression on both readers and reviewers over the years.

Two national reviews have gone so far as to state:

"[Dandola's] roots in the area enable him to fill his [books] with so much local color and detail that even readers unfamiliar with the town can create vivid pictures of it in their minds."

"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."

Part of the problem is that New Jersey as a whole is not a creatively nurturing environment while New England, the Midwest, the South, and the Southwest highly value their local authors and artists. West Orange follows the path tread by the state. Besides his fiction based in West Orange, Dandola has written histories of the town itself, the police department, the fire department, and now the recreation department. The police are the only ones who have ever thanked him by giving him an award. The last West Orange Public Library director who valued and relied upon having such an accomplished local author as Dandola at her beck and call retired more than twenty years ago. Even more baffling is that although West Orange boasts deep Irish roots (celebrated by its long-established St. Patrick's Day Parade) that aspect of Irish culture in which authors are held in the highest esteeem doesn't seem to have emigrated to West Orange along with the bagpipes and marching bands.

Dandola's longtime publisher, Alan Quincannon, explains it even more specifically. "The political tentacles in West Orange reach into everything. Nothing gets attention unless there are political benefits for office-holders. The politicians simply don't know what to do with someone like John Dandola because he has made a career for himself based on talent and not political connections. They can't control him so they don't embrace him which is quite short-sighted on their parts because, on a national and international level, he is the face of West Orange. Thankfully, John's work has a much longer legacy than any office-holder because his writings about the town and its history will survive into future generations."

Dandola's personal history is that his ancestors settled in the area before the Revolutioary War so his family pre-dates what eventually became the town of West Orange around them. As a result, Dandola places a special value on place rather than politics. His research in that regard is always meticulous and he is obsessed with accuracy and truthfulness while West Orange politicians notoriously make up the town's history as it suits their needs.

Culled from journals Dandola kept about his personal experiences, Sun, Fun, and Pervasive Politics is 216 pages of countless vignettes about what it was like to work at Ginny Duenkel Municipal Pool along with vintage photographs from the author's private collection. It also supplies a complete history, photographs, and maps of century-old Colgate Playground where the pool is located.

For those interested in owning a copy of Sun, Fun, and Pervasive Politics, inquiries can be made through the publisher by contacting To read more about author John Dandola, visit his web site at
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Tags:West Orange Nj, Arts and Recreation, Local Author
Location:West Orange - New Jersey - United States
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Page Updated Last on: Aug 08, 2018
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