Sunday, September 27, 2020

Marco Island’s Calusa Heritage is Pivotal to the Plot of a New Mystery Novel

 

 

By Holly Benedict

Author Inspired to Feature His Home-Away-From-Home in His Newest Work of Fiction

In John Dandola’s A Beckoning Wind, the fourth of his Jeffrey Devereaux-Kirsten Eriksson mystery novels, the action shifts from the series’ usual New England locale to the Gulf Coast of southwest Florida—specifically Marco Island. Like Dandola’s previous three Wind mystery novels, Wind of TimeWicked is the Wind, and The Unbound Wind, this newest entry makes the very early exploration of America a part of the plot.

The synopsis:

As a teacher, Jeffrey Devereaux is finding his professional life increasingly burdened with tension, friction, and needless bureaucracy. When the incompetent female principal of his grammar school is replaced by an equally incompetent but much more cantankerous male principal, Jeffrey welcomes the chance for a winter-vacation escape to Florida.

What should be a peaceful week of sunshine and relaxation shared with Kirsten Eriksson at her aunt’s retreat on the Gulf Coast turns out to be anything but when they become involved with solving a murder which is somehow connected to newly-discovered artifacts dating from contact between local Indians and Conquistadores in the sixteenth century.

Also included is an additional bonus: a never-before-published short story, Whispers Upon the Wind, in which Jeffrey and Kirsten are asked to investigate the mysterious origin of a fresco hidden within Hammond Castle Museum. How and where did the castle’s builder obtain it? And was it legal or illegal to import such European artwork to Gloucester, Massachusetts, even during the freewheeling Roaring Twenties?

For fans of the series, that short story ties his protagonists back to their unofficial home base at Hammond Castle Museum in Gloucester, Massachusetts. But the author plans to place future stories on Marco Island and its vicinity, as well.

“I need to like the local history of a place in order to feel completely comfortable in my surroundings,” Dandola says. “My wife discovered Marco in her youth when the family of one of her classmates moved here. We visit several times a year. Her love of the island is certainly not misplaced and I always hate having to leave. I wanted to set a story here—sort of a way of showing my appreciation.”

So how does an author justify getting his characters from the Northeast to Marco Island? “I was once told by a very wise man that when trying to plot a career, life invariably will get in the way.

That’s exactly how the novels in a series evolve,” Dandola explains. “My two lead characters are teachers who also work with a small museum since they are amateur historians. During my writing career, I’ve worked with museums so I know the behind-the-scenes politics which go on there. I’ve taught specialized courses in grammar schools, where I’ve been appalled at the present-day goings-on which were absolutely never part of education when I was a student—in the exact same school system, I might add. I kept a journal and the incidents I personally experienced gave me a rationale to send my couple on a much-needed vacation. To where? To the place where I have finally learned to relax—Marco Island. From there, the pieces fell into place and since Marco now has its own museum, my characters have a reason to return and explore more history-based mysteries here.”

Debuting on December 7, 2010, The Unbound Wind is published by Compass Point Mysteries (240 pages, $14.95) and will be available online exclusively at www.Biblio.com. John Dandola is a member of the Mystery Writers of America for his novels; the Writers Guild of America for his screenplays; and the Dramatists Guild of America for his plays. His web site is http://www.JohnDandola.com.

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