Do you remember Welcome Back Kotter, the late 1970s TV comedy starring Gabe Kaplan? He portrayed a dedicated high school teacher who returned to the classroom at the same inner-city school he attended to teach seemingly the same class of students of which he was once a part.
This show and John Sebastian’s theme song is the essence of synchronicity for today’s episode of Nostalgia City Mysteries. Due to recent, somewhat lengthy absence from the blogosphere you might have forgotten you used to receive these posts in your email (or read it regularly online). Explanations, exciting and otherwise, follow but the theme today is—wait for it—Welcome Back.
Thinking of this theme naturally reminded me of the show, but that’s simply coincidence or an obvious train of thought. The real synchronicity is the show’s setting: the late 1970s. It’s the same world represented at Nostalgia City, the present-day theme park that re-creates an entire small town from the 1970s—the setting for my themed mystery novels.
Let’s catch up
Every now and then you’re faced with a situation—a duty—for which you have no preparation or training. Such was the case last year when I became the sole trustee of a complicated estate, a similar job to an executor. It became a full-time job and now more than six months later I still have one task or another related to the trust every day.
While I will still be responsible for winding up the trust for more than a year, most of the work now belongs to the trust’s accountant and I have time for mysteries, hence welcome back.
Life imitates fiction
Two news events of the past year or so reflect story lines I created earlier in Dark Ride Deception, the latest Nostalgia City mystery. First, the tragic shooting on the New Mexico set of the Alec Baldwin film Rust is reminiscent of several scenes in the book. The use of guns on a movie set sparks accusations and creates turmoil for protagonist Kate Sorensen. Saying more would be a spoiler.
A much lighter note concerns developments at real-life theme parks. Virtual reality has been around for years, letting you into a 3-d world and, in come cases, letting you interact with that world. The problem is, you have reality strapped to your face in the form of giant goggles. Good, but not ideal for theme parks.
I wrote Dark Ride Deception with advanced theme park rides in mind. I thought it would be a leap forward to create virtual reality without goggles. And so an engineering genius at Nostalgia City invented the Perception Deception Effect. But before it could be implemented at the park, the PDE technology—along with its creator—disappeared. Was he murdered for his secrets? Thus the search for the engineer begins the mystery novel.
Disney engineers—aptly called imagineers—apparently had the same idea. Long after my book was released Disney announced the patenting of their Virtual World Simulator, a VR world—without goggles.
Writing mysteries with theme-park connections, requires keeping up with park trends and as I explain in the book, parks are always trying to have the latest, most inventive attractions. In Dark Ride Deception, ex-cop turned amateur detective Lyle Deming visits two other theme parks in his search for the engineer and his tech secrets.
On Feb. 17 a new type of theme park experience will debut at Universal Studios Hollywood. Super Nintendo World ushers visitors into The Mushroom Kingdom where they interact with three-dimensional characters and other park goers to play a game. Wrist bands track your scores. From initial press reports it’s difficult to determine what exactly is going on in the Mushroom Kingdom. Is it VR or a high tech, expensive fun house?
In addition to providing information on Nostalgia City happenings, this blog focuses on mysteries and detective stories with a noir bent, those on paper and in film.
In coming weeks I’ll have reviews of mysteries by a variety of authors including Cornell Woolrich, David Goodis, Dorothy B. Hughes and a contemporary writer, Todd Borg, who has recently published his 20th book. I’ll also talk about films based on mystery novels, offer a few mystery quizzes and post new flash fiction.
In case you missed it—I did—Baconsmysteries.com celebrated its tenth anniversary many months back. This year I hope to finish a project I started years ago: an index of this site. It will include dozens of reviews of noir novels and movies, stories about the genre itself, two columns on profanity, and other cool stuff.
By the way, Gabe Kaplan’s career took a few turns when Kotter ended in 1979. A fan of Groucho Marx, Kaplan was a stand-up comedian before Kotter. In 1982 he starred as Groucho in a TV movie. Always good at poker, Kaplan turned pro and became one of the top players in the country, later hosting TV poker broadcasts. This month, according to cardplayer.com, Kaplan retired as the commentator on the TV show High Stakes Poker after nine years on the series.
Welcome Back! Enjoyed your blog. Kinda crazy I suppose, never saw a single Welcome Back Kotter. Our Daughter and first-born arrived in 1978. Not sure if that was the primary indicator that caused the lapse in our TV viewing, but I’m fairly certain it contributed to it.
Thanks Norma. Good to hear from you!
Thanks for the info! Keep in touch–all looks good and interesting!