- March 2, 2021
-- Remember those cowboy towns in the movies? They really existed in the countryside surrounding Los Angeles. Some were privately owned; some were owned by the movie studios; almost all are gone now—lost to the ravages of wildfires and the construction of housing developments. But author John Dandola takes us on one last trip to one of the movie ranches in his latest mystery novel, Dead on Their Trail
. With the help of fellow film and local historians, he recreates what it was like to shoot a B-movie in Chatsworth, California. Only thirty miles outside of L.A., Chatsworth was a location of choice for Westerns and movie serials. A quick jaunt from the studios, the terrain had almost everything necessary to mimic a vast number of locales. So many of our screen memories were filmed there—from movie serials to Jungle Jim to Bomba the Jungle Boy to Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, and the Lone Ranger, whose famous rock in the opening titles is now nestled much too close to a housing development.
The story of Dead on Their Trail
is set during the late autumn of 1943 and presents a kaleidoscope of movie-making, studio politics, an actual 1880's Wild West incident which inspires a B-movie, life on the homefront during World War II, and Japanese internment camps. Having made movies, Dandola knows what goes into them behind-the-scenes and he presents that in his usual entertaining manner. The subject of the internment camps is handled deftly and with compassion even within the mindset of the time period.
As usual, the story begins in West Orange, New Jersey, the hometown of the protagonist. West Orange is where Thomas Edison built the world's first motion picture studio and where much of the outdoor action was shot for the world's first Western, The Great Train Robbery
. As established in this mystery series' first seven novels, protagonist Tony Del Plato does investigative work for the Hollywood Studios which in this story transports him to Chatsworth and the making of a B-movie. The story is at turns funny and tragic just as is real life and as always in Dandola's writing, each and every character gets his or her own character study. There's not a cardboard cutout in the bunch and his affinity for small towns and their populace is quite engaging.Dead on Their Trail
is 248 pages and priced at $15.95. The Quincannon Publishing Group is one of a long list of independent publishers which do not sell on Amazon (due to the deep discounts demanded) but the book can easily be ordered at http://www.quincannongroup.com/DelPlatoMysteries.html