Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Author Mark Bacon: Death in Nostalgic City

Death in Nostalgia City coverI’m delighted to welcome author Mark Bacon here today to talk about his newest novel, DEATH IN NOSTALGIA CITY, the first in a new series and bound to become a popular favorite with Baby Boomers everywhere.

Mark lives and breathes the good old days in the Las Vegas area and has years of journalistic experience that helps his writing come alive.

Here’s a brief descriptions of DEATH IN NOSTALGIA CITY:

      He thinks he’s on edge now…then people start getting killed…
      “Stressed-out” has been ex-cop Lyle Deming’s default setting for years, but his new job, driving a cab in a theme park, promises to cure his chronic anxieties. Nostalgia City is the ultimate resort for anyone who wants to visit the past. A meticulous recreation of an entire small town from the early 1970s, it’s complete with period cars, music, clothes, shops, restaurants, hotels—the works.
      The relaxed, theme-park atmosphere is just what Lyle needs—until rides are sabotaged and tourists killed. Then park founder, billionaire “Max” Maxwell, drafts Lyle into investigating—unofficially. As the violence escalates and employees get rattled, Lyle gets help. Kate Sorensen, the park’s PR director—and former college basketball player—becomes another incognito investigator. Except that she’s six-foot-two-and-a-half-inches tall and drop-dead gorgeous. So much for incognito.
      Together, Lyle and Kate unravel a conspiracy of corporate greed and murder.

Death in Nostalgia City is a fascinating mystery set in a highly authentic world of 60s & 70s nostalgia - and the story works compellingly on both levels.  It’s an excellent read that’s loaded with iconic touchstones of ‘60s-‘70s pop culture - music, fashion, TV, movies.  Death in Nostalgia City is a blast!” -- Dick Bartley - host of radio’s "The Classic Countdown" and "Rock & Roll’s Greatest Hits" - member of the Radio Hall of Fame.

Please join me in giving Mark a warm welcome as he has graciously answered some questions for me. Welcome, Mark.

Mason - What type of research did you do for this book and the series that will follow?

The book (and series) bring together several different areas of interest and some of the research actually began with my own experiences. For example, much of the book takes place at a massive new theme park: Nostalgia City.  

Early in my career I was a copywriter in the advertising department at Knott’s Berry Farm, a large theme park just down the road from Disneyland in Orange County, Calif. I was fascinated to work behind the scenes at a theme park that I had gone to as a child. I got to know people who worked on the public side of the park, saw how and why decisions were made about rides attractions and, on occasion, I worked on special events where I helped to entertain guests. For the book, I supplemented my experiences at a theme park with research on regulations, on the entire industry in general and on another subject that I don’t want to talk about because it would spoil a surprise.
The book is filled with references to the music, entertainment, cars and styles of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Many facts and bits of trivia came from my memory—and were easy to confirm, or change as necessary, with the latter often being the case. Funny think about memory….

My early experience also includes covering a daily police beat for a southern California newspaper so I got to know a little about how cops think and work. And again, I supplemented my experience by quizzing a friend who is a cop.
Mason - Is research something you enjoy doing or is it just a part of the process that has to be done?

I love it, almost as much as writing. I admire books that are thoroughly researched—and have the ring of authenticity. It takes work.  

For this book, I also researched two main locales: northern Arizona and the Boston area. My wife and I have traveled extensively around Arizona—including cracked and uneven sections of old Route 66 that figure in the story. For Boston, I traveled there twice. When we vacationed there a few years ago, I thought it would be a good contrast to the Arizona desert for my story. The second time I visited, I walked the same streets that my characters would walk in the novel.

Mason - Tell us something about your main characters, Lyle Deming and Kate Sorensen, that we won’t find out in the book. Maybe something you decided at the last minute to cut out.

Lyle was a good cop, but ultimately he discovered he was not suited to police work. He sympathized with the crime victims to the point he dreaded every new case.  Anxiety is a frequent visitor, one reason he sought a low-stress job driving a cab in a theme park. Adding to his malaise is his personal history. He was brought up in a strict household with an overbearing father. His only sibling is a brother, much older than he is. I don’t mention it in the book—maybe in installment 2—but Lyle felt he was conceived by accident since his brother is so much older. His father dominates his life, even now.

Kate Sorensen learned many of her lasting life lessons on the college basketball court. She’s 6 feet, 2-1/2 inches tall, something that was an asset on the court at USC, but not necessarily an advantage in business or social situations. Unlike her counterpart, Kate can handle stress and make quick, odds-on decisions. After four years of buzzer-beating shots, she learned to think quickly. She’s attractive—in the extreme Lyle would say—and can use that to advantage when necessary.
Mason - When writing do you have any rituals/habits that you follow such as a favorite place to write, a certain time to write, a must-have beverage by your side and music or silence in the background?

The earlier the better. I do my best work in the morning and the earlier I get up and get to it, the sooner I can be productive.  I often work for an hour or two before I feed my dog or wake up my wife with coffee. By noon I should have the majority of that day’s work finished.

My education and experience as a reporter is partially responsible for my work habits. When you’re on deadline, you have to write. 
I start each day by editing the work I’ve written the day before, and carry on. When I worked in a newsroom I could block out everything going on around me and just pound away at the keyboard. But that was years ago and now I really like quiet. Another reason for working early in the a.m.

As to drinks, I always have a cup of tea next to my computer. My favorite is Lapsang Souchong. My wife says it has the aroma of a dirty ashtray. It’s an acquired taste.

Mason - Now that DEATH IN NOSTALGIA CITY has been published, what surprised you the most about the story coming together – the characters and the writing or the process of publishing it?

First off, publishing a book is such a protracted endeavor—not counting the writing—that it’s difficult to explain. Although this is my first novel, it’s my seventh book and each one was a challenge—rewarding and fulfilling certainly--but a life-bending challenge. (Part of that might be due to my sensibilities that are not much different from Lyle’s.) 

The characters that surprised me the most were not Lyle and Kate, but some of the supporting cast. There’s a radio DJ, an academic and a faded rock star that all did what I hoped they would do.

Mason - If you could pick any spot in the world to write from, where would it be and why and would the location have an effect on the type of book you wrote?

I’ve already mentioned I like quiet, and one of the most peaceful places I’ve seen is The Sea Ranch, a breathtaking village on an isolated stretch of the northern California coast. It’s beautiful, but I’ve found when I’m writing I could be anywhere. Beautiful scenery is lost on me because I’m living in my work. Perhaps I’m not a “method writer” because I don’t have to be in the place that I’m writing about. Having done my research, I can write about Boston when I’m sitting at home, 5,000 feet up in the Sierra Nevada foothills.  

Mason – DEATH IN NOSTALGIA CITY is the first in a series, what can readers look forward to from you next?

In the next installment, Kate is in Reno checking out an annual event: a pageant of classic cars and rock and roll called Hot August Nights—something of a mirror image of Nostalgia City. Death is right behind her. Lyle, still hoping for peace as he drives his cab, unwittingly gets involved in a conspiracy that might keep him from helping Kate battle the dangerous influence of big money.
Mark, thanks for joining us today and answering these questions. Nice to meet someone else who enjoys a cup of Lapsang Souchong. I had never really thought about what the aroma was like. 

Now for a bit of background on Mark.

Mark S. Bacon began his career as a newspaper reporter covering, among other beats, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and the Glendale (Calif.) Police Department. After writing news and features at two newspapers, he moved to ad copywriting when he joined the advertising department of Knott's Berry Farm in Buena Park, Calif.  Bacon wrote commercials and ads for the Orange County theme park and he directed special events. Later his career moved into other forms of communication but his early background covering a daily police beat and working for a theme park was part of the inspiration for his theme park mystery. 

Mark later wrote TV commercials for an advertising agency, was public relations manager for a financial trade association, marketing director for a southern California financial institution, and later managed his own marketing consulting firm. For nearly 20 years Mark had a parallel career as an adjunct college professor teaching business writing and journalism. He taught journalism at California State Polytechnic University - Pomona, UNLV, the University of Redlands and the University of Nevada - Reno. He taught business at Fullerton (Calif.) College and Truckee Meadows Community College, Reno, Nev. 

Write Like the Pros, published by John Wiley & Sons, was Mark’s first book. It applies the techniques of journalism and copywriting to written business communication. His next book for Wiley, Do-It-Yourself Direct Marketing: Secrets for Small Business, was named a best business book of the year by the Library Journal, was printed in three editions and four languages. His most recent book was Mysteries and Murder, a collection of crime flash fiction stories published by Ether Books.

He earned a BA in journalism from Fresno State University and an MA in mass communication/media criticism from UNLV. His articles have appeared in the Washington Post, Kansas City Star, Denver Post, USAir Magazine, Trailer Life, Cleveland Plain Dealer, San Antonio Express-News, The Orange County Register, Working Woman, and other publications. He is a former columnist for BusinessWeek Online and most recently was a regular correspondent for the San Francisco Chronicle where he wrote on travel, outdoors and entertainment.
Mark is a former president of the Orange County Chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators. He and his wife, Anne, and their golden retriever, Willow, live in Reno, Nevada. 

For more on Mark and his work, visit his website.

Thanks so much for stopping by today during Mark’s visit. Are you a Baby Boomer and/or a fan of theme parks? What about the good old days of Las Vegas, are you a fan?

*This post contains affiliate links.


  1. Mark, thanks again for joining us today. Your book sounds intriguing. Wishing you much success.

  2. Sounds like you'll be researching classic cars next. That will be fun.
    I was a kid at the time, so I'm sure my memory of the 60's and 70's would be a bit fuzzy.
    Congratulations, Mark!

  3. Mason - Thanks for hosting Mark.

    Mark - Thanks for sharing the background to Death in Nostalgia City. It sounds like a really interesting context for a murder! I wish you much success.

  4. congrats to Mark on his book!

  5. What a great sounding book. I wish it success.

    I remember both (some) of the 60s and all of the 70s with happiness.

  6. It really is fun to go back to a different time and place, even in fiction!

  7. There's an old expression: If you remember he 1960s, you weren't there.

    But it's fun to pretend. What kind of theme park would you create, if you could?

  8. The first time I visited the U.S. in the 1970s I visited Knotts Berry Farm and Disneyland and was amazed at the detail of the attractions. Las Vegas was another place we visited. This sounds like a great book to reminisce.


I'd love to hear your thoughts on today's post. Thanks for dropping by.