Nostalgia City Mysteries

By Mark S. Bacon

Category Archives: book review

Join Eddie Collins, actor-turned PI, on a back-lot tour with laughs, deaths and Hollywood tales

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Murder Unscripted
Clive Rosengren
Coffee Town Press, Oct. 2017
240 pages
$5.95Kindle  $13.41 Trade paper

Passing by the famous Hollywood sign in the hills above tinsel town, Eddie Collins drives his Olds Cutlass though an uncharacteristically rainy Southern California afternoon.  “As the wipers droned back and forth like two annoying metronomes, I began to feel an emptiness oozing into me.”

He’s just learned that his ex-wife, movie actress Elaine Weddington, died in her trailer at Americana Pictures, a bottle of medicine lying next to her.  Accident or murder?  Although it’s been more than eight years since they split, as her career started to take off and Collins’ acting opportunities flattened out, he harbors good memories.

Weddington was in the middle of filming Flames of Desire and her death puts the movie’s future in jeopardy.  Since Americana Pictures had taken out a completion bond to protect the studio’s investment, the bond company hires a private investigator: Eddie Collins.

As his acting jobs became more hit or miss, he opened Collins Investigations to keep him “sane and solvent.”  Since he had worked for the bond company before, he is hired to look into the murder at the Flames of Desire set, regardless of his connection to Weddington.

Mixing crime and the movie biz, author Clive Rosengren starts his Eddie Collins mystery series with the Weddington case in Murder Unscripted.  Two other novels are in print, another is due out later this year and the author is working on book #5.  A Hollywood actor himself for many years, Rosengren knows his way around a movie set and treats readers to insider tidbits that make the story all the more realistic. 

After the rain, Rosengren says, “patches of water on the street…reflected the light like movie streets invariably do.  One never sees a dry street at night in the movies, even during the sweltering heat of the summer.”

A second murder complicates the case.  Collins is led all over the movie lot and outside to dingy bars as he questions, Sam Goldman, the studio head, along with movie stars, assistant directors and various hangers on, most with secrets that aren’t in the PI’s script.

The story progresses in a relaxed, comfortable style with Collins sharing reminiscences of films and actors of the past as he tries to establish the whereabouts of various suspects at the times the murders were committed.  Rosengren fills the book with Collins’ light-hearted observations that kept me smiling. 

“A lot of people stand around at a movie set.  The most popular place is the craft [catering] services tables.  Munchies abound, the bill of fare running the gamut from squeaky-clean to double-bypass.”

Collins is occasionally reminded of scenes from old movies.

“…I saw a bearded old man who looked like Walter Huston peering at me through the window.  His beady little eyes followed every move I made.  The spines of the cacti must be protecting his own Treasure of the Sierra Madre.  Since I didn’t look like either Bogie or Tim Holt, he probably couldn’t figure out who the hell I was.”

Collins is 41, unmarried, tall and describes himself in Hollywood terms as a cowboy type.  He’s not a full-time shamus and an early chapter shows him dressed in western duds, acting in a TV commercial for Chubby’s Chicken.  After Collins and a partner have gone through 17 on-camera takes, including biting into the chicken, we learn the necessity of an actor’s spit bag. 

The PI side of Collins’ life is complete with a secretary loaded with moxie, a small office and tiny attached apartment, a fondness for Jim Beam and beer chasers and an occasional eye for attractive women.

“She always dressed in richly colored blouses that gave the faint suggestion of a woman who didn’t mind staying out late.”

Rosengren has an enviable knack for phrasing:

“She looked as uncomfortable as Gidget sitting in the middle of an Elk’s convention.”

“As lonely as an Orange County Democrat” referring to one of California’s few right-wing enclaves.

Searching for a wandering dog, Collins observes: 

“There was no sign of Clyde, other than what he had deposited on the lawn.”

Collins has such a smooth, somehow familiar narrative voice—a term usually applied to authors, but I’m applying to the first person point of view character here—he sounds like someone you would like to know.

Just as life is a journey, not a destination, you read Rosengren to follow Collins’  intriguing, at times idiosyncratic—and wholly entertaining—life as he pokes around his Hollywood haunts in search of the truth.   Naturally, he ultimately solves the murders, but getting there is the most fun.  Then, of course,  you crave another case with Eddie.

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Book prices vary depending on the day and the bookstore or website.

News, upcoming events, articles & profanity

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Listen to me

Recently I was interviewed by Laura Brennan, host of the Destination Mystery podcast.  It’s now posted on the podcast websites listed below.  I talked about my background as a police reporter and as a theme park copywriter.  I responded to questions about specific aspects and details from both Desert Kill Switch and Death in Nostalgia City.  Brennan is a good interviewer and does her homework.

She said she was fascinated that I had come up with creative, unexpected ways that people can break the law.  Truth be told, most of the crimes in my books are loosely based on actual cases.

As I discuss in the interview, the car dealer practices, that make up part of the plot for Desert Kill Switch, are real.  Some dealers really do install kill switches in cars they sell to people they consider high-risk borrowers. I hasten to add this particular practice is not illegal to my knowledge, although some states or local governments recently may have passed laws to regulate kill switches.

I also talk about one of my newspaper crime stories that turned into a multiple-murder case that spanned decades.  As a result, I testified at a murder trial in LA recently.

And, I read one of my mystery flash fiction short stories.

It was fun.  Give a listen.  And thanks, Laura.

Destination Mystery podcast site– Brennan’s interview
Interview via iTunes podcast/download

 

Indie Award nomination

Death in Nostalgia City has been nominated for an Indie Award from Top Shelf Magazine. It’s entered in the action/adventure category.

 

 

Book #3

The third book in the Nostalgia City mystery series, Marijuana Murder, is being edited at Black Opal Books.  I will post its release date soon.  I’m working on mystery #4. 

 

Upcoming events

On Sept. 22 I will talk about “Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Mystery Novels” at the South Lake Tahoe branch of the El Dorado (Calif.) County Library. The event is posted on the library’s Facebook page hereVisit the friends of the library website here.

October 14 is the date for the Great Valley Bookfest in Manteca, just south of Stockton, Calif.  I’ll be signing copies of both my mysteries and will be a member of a mystery authors panel discussion. We’re working now on the specific topics we’ll cover.  Joining me on the panel are mystery writers Carole Price and Claire Booth.  Moderator will be Nancy Tingley.  Come by this big book event that benefits literacy programs in California’s Central Valley.  Activities for children, too.

 

Articles (blog posts) in the works

Profanity, aka obscenity, in mystery novels is the topic for the next two articles you’ll see in your email or on my website.  I talk about the evolution of naughty words in mysteries from the pristine prose of Christie and Sayers to the sometimes less-than-polite language of some mystery writers today. Continue Reading →

Ride the Pink Horse for an intimate profile and emotional journey

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Ride the Pink Horse
Dorothy B. Hughes
208 pages
MysteriousPress.com/Open Road   June 18, 2013
Originally published,  1946
$1.99 Kindle

A drunken, overweight, apparently homeless man who sleeps on the ground under a dirty serape and rarely washes is the moral authority in Sailor’s life.   Referred to only by his nickname, Sailor arrives in Santa Fe, New Mexico on a bus from Chicago.  He’s tailing his boss, corrupt former Illinois Senator Willis Douglas who has gone west with a beautiful young woman and a retinue to escape turmoil generated by his wife’s murder.

Sailor’s packing a gun along with a load of prejudice and delusion.

Hot and dirty Santa Fe is filled with hayseeds and yokels.  A hick town. Sailor is repelled by the populace.  Mexicans and Indians mostly, who he refers to in vile, insulting terms.   Not out loud of course, “this wasn’t the time or place.”

He’s come to town to have a showdown with his boss who he refers to simply as the Sen.  The Sen owes him money.  The murder of Mrs. Douglas was bungled.  She died, but not according to plan.  Other members of Sailor’s Chicago gang have high-tailed it out of town, Ziggy down to Mexico where Sailor plans to meet up with him.  With cash from the senator, Sailor and Ziggy can start some business, some scam in Mexico and live high.

In Ride the Pink Horse, a 1946 crime novel by noir writer Dorothy B. Hughes, the New Mexico environs play a strong role.  The multi-ethnic culture and the small dusty western town that vexes Sailor contributes to Hughes’ heavy themes.

Before Sailor can track down the senator, he has to find a place to stay for the night in this “God-forsaken town.”  He discovers that Santa Fe—never identified by name in the book—is crowded with people in town to celebrate the Fiesta weekend.  No hotel rooms are available anywhere.  Sailor becomes frustrated, angry and disdainful but at the same time disoriented and fearful.  His suitcase becomes a heavy burden.  He’s haunted by the eyes of the Indians he passes in the street. Continue Reading →

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