Nostalgia City Mysteries

By Mark S. Bacon

Category Archives: Death in Nostalgia City

Rock music: setting a tone for murder?

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The Marijuana Murders

Nostalgia City, the theme park setting for the mysteries in this series, is a 1970s town complete with period cars, clothes, hairstyles, music, fashions, food, fads—the works.  One of the most important of those elements is music.  In The Marijuana Murders (as in the previous Nostalgia City books) I use the names of real songs (and artists) to establish the decades-past setting of the park and sometimes to contribute to the mood of individual scenes or chapters.

It helps if you remember some of the songs or at least recognize the names of the old singers and groups.  Recollection of the music can help you slip into the ambiance of a scene, and nowhere is music more important to a setting than in Chapter 3 when Kate walks into the park’s famous headshop.  Imagine the aroma of incense, the fluorescent glow of psychedelic posters, and the sound of Ravi Shankar’s sitar.

In this book, Lyle has chosen a few bars of Chuck Mangione for his cell phone ringer.  He uses an upbeat section of Mangione’s Grammy-nominated “Feels So Good” from 1977.  Lyle must have chosen the selection on a particularly bright day considering the grief he faces in the novel.

Two other notable songs from the book are “Treat her Like a Lady by the Cornelius Brothers and Sister Rose and “Take It to the Limit” by the Eagles.  It’s the rhythm of the former song that sets a pace in a later chapter and the lyrics of the latter song that more accurately reflect Lyle’s general feelings.

The books ends with the light touch of Olivia Newton-John singing “Magic.” The song sat at #1 on Billboard’s pop chart for four weeks in 1980. Other groups and artists mentioned include The Village People, Barry White, The Monkees, The Who, Captain and Tennille, and The Animals. 

Finally, to get into the retro spirit of the book, try to remember these oldies, also mentioned:  “Along Comes Mary” – The Association, “Puff the Magic Dragon” – Peter, Paul and Mary, “Maggie Mae” – Rod Stewart.

“Death in Nostalgia City” is library assn. selection

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Death in Nostalgia City was recommended this month for book clubs  by the American Library Association’s Book Club Central.

The book was selected for its fresh start theme.  In Death in Nostalgia City, one of my two protagonists is ex-cop Lyle Deming. His wife divorced him then he was dismissed from the police department, in part for his erratic behavior.  Anxiety is his default setting.  Desperate  for a stress-free job that has nothing to do with consoling murder victims’ families, Lyle becomes a cab driver—in a theme park.

Nostalgia City is no ordinary theme park.  Covering several square miles in central Arizona, the park is a re-creation of an entire small town from the mid-1970s. Peace and relaxation reigns–until someone starts sabotaging rides and killing tourists.
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F**king profanity in mystery novels: an update

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First of two parts

Comedian George Carlin had seven words.   Mystery novelist John Sanford has hundreds, but he repeats. John Grisham uses them sparingly.  Many mystery, suspense and thriller writers use them.  But some don’t.

Agatha Christie didn’t.  Neither did a whole generation of cozy authors from Dorothy L. Sayers to Ngaio Marsh to Charlotte MacLeod.

Swear words, dirty words, four-letter words, cuss words or however you describe them are the  way many people—including mystery writers—express themselves.  Are words like f**k and s**t appropriate in mystery fiction?  Or does avoiding profanity altogether make present-day dialog sound tame and artificial?

I’m a little new to mystery writing and the use of expletives still fascinates and puzzles.  I wrote about this topic here when I’d published my first mystery.  Now that I sent the manuscript for my third Nostalgia City mystery to my publisher, I’m still intrigued.  Although I have settled on a profanity policy for my own work, I decided to take another look at the opinions and practices of mystery readers and writers alike.  The result was damn surprising. Continue Reading →

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