Nostalgia City Mysteries

Mark S. Bacon

Category Archives: Thriller novel

Un-British viewpoint threatened to derail a new thriller

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By Kevin G. Chapman
Guest Writer

A bowler hat nearly sunk my newest thriller. All British businessmen don’t wear them, I discovered.

No writer is perfect, and once I have completed a second (or third) draft of a book which I think is pretty well finished, I look for help in the form of beta readers, people who agree to read a manuscript and provide comments and suggestions. This is feedback you can only get from the perspective of different eyes.

As I worked on book #4, Fatal Infraction, I had my usual batch of beta readers. But I also had a specific issue with which I needed help. I have a character in the story who is British – an investigator from a London insurance company sent to assess whether an NFL quarterback’s death occurred in connection with criminal activity (or was caused by the beneficiary – his team), which would void payment on a $20 million policy.

The character provided some comic relief because he was clueless about American football, which allowed the other characters to explain things to him – and by extension explain it to any of my readers who were similarly ignorant about football issues.

My British character seemed pretty simple at first. He would be very proper and buttoned-down. He would be a bit of a fish-out-of-water trailing along with my New York City homicide detectives. I pictured him as John Cleese in A Fish Called Wanda. I gave him a bowler hat and a series of pressed suits with matching silk handkerchiefs. He wipes the New York grime off chairs before he sits.

He was fun to write and was a hit with my early readers. But one of them, originally from London, flagged some issues. You see, my ear for British dialogue is based on watching movies, mostly comedies. It seemed that I had neglected to consider the language a posh English insurance inspector would actually use in dialogue. If I wanted to keep my UK readers from rolling their eyes at the stupid American author, I needed help.

Kevin G. Chapman
Author

I sent the manuscript out to three fellow authors in the UK and asked them to critique the dialogue – to let me know if anything sounded off. Boy, did I get back a lot of comments! It turns out that my character was a total caricature of an Englishman–and an offensive one at that. I got so much wrong, from his title to his wardrobe to his word usage. To an English reader, he was a joke – and not in a good way. It was an education.

As an example, there is a scene in Fatal Infraction where my detectives and my British inspector are watching security cam video as the suspected murderer puts a body in an elevator, then transfers it to a delivery truck and drives away.

It never occurred to me that an Englishman would never say elevator – he would say lift. And he wouldn’t say truck, he would call it a lorry. Small issues, perhaps, but it would drive an English reader crazy, and likely result in a negative impression of my writing (and a negative review).

Those little details can really make a difference and I was totally blind to them.  At one point I had my inspector putting milk in his cup of Earl Gray tea. Egad!  (Brits use milk in tea, of course, but not in Earl Grey.) There were a dozen (or more) such errors in my draft. Thankfully, I had time to fix them. (And when I narrated the audiobook, I had one UK listener tell me that my British accent did not make her laugh – which was high praise!)

The lesson here is that as much as I like to think I have a good ear for dialogue, my personal experience is limited—especially when it comes to British English.  So, admitting what you don’t know, and getting help, can keep you from being gobsmacked.

————-

Kevin G. Chapman is the award-winning author of the Mike Stoneman Thriller series. Perilous Gambit, the fifth book in the series, will be out this winter. Chapman is an employment lawyer for a major media company.  In Fatal Infraction, controversial quarterback Jimmy Rydell’s body is found naked—on New York’s Central Park carousel. Who killed him? How did he get there two days after he disappeared? Rydell’s football team just wants to move on, but NYPD homicide detectives must find answers to the bizarre facts of the case.

‘The Marijuana Murders’ by the numbers

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Notable elements in the content and creation of my latest novel, The Marijuana Murders

86,044
Number of words in the book

1980
Year Pac Man was licensed for distribution in the United States

907
Number of cups of tea I drank while writing

900
Depth in feet of the Lavender Pit in Bisbee, Arizona

381
Number of days it took me to write it

374
Number of miles from Nostalgia City to Agua Prieta, Mexico

340
Number of pages

235
Horsepower rating for the 1974 Chevy Monte Carlo with the 454 cu. in. engine (More than 300,000 Monte Carlos were produced by Chevrolet that year.)

205
Top speed (estimated) in miles per hour for a 2018 McLaren 570s

74.5
Height, in inches, of my protagonist Kate Sorensen

67
Number of chapters

33
Number of states in which medical marijuana is available (Medical marijuana is also recognized in the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.)

13
Number of beta readers and critique group members who read it before it went to my publisher

10
Number of states that have legalized recreational marijuana  (It’s also legal in D.C.)

8.2
Amount of estimated annual U.S. retail sales of marijuana, in billions of dollars

6
Number of hours of Ravi Shankar music I listened to while writing certain chapters

 

5
Approximate number of onion rings Lyle eats in a scene with Earl Williams

3
Number of times I use a form of the f-word

Today,  Friday Aug. 9, special offer

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Death in Nostalgia City

Kindle e-book

Free

No need to join Kindle Unlimited
Take a step back in time.  Visit the Nostalgia City theme park.  Most visitors come home alive.

Today, you can download the the first book in the Nostalgia City series for free for your Amazon Kindle.   Click now.  You  don’t need to join Kindle Unlimited.  The book is free, today, unconditionally.  Here’s a sample of what people have said about it.

“The book pulled me in from the very beginning and never let me go….
There is so much to love about this book.  The characters are well developed, well rounded and three dimensional.  Both Lyle and Kate have very many human traits that we all have.  Both Lyle and Kate come into each other’s lives and into the investigation with baggage.  Kate has problems with commitments.  Lyle left the police force under questionable circumstances and really struggles with his anxiety disorder.  They’re realistic and easy to start caring and worrying about.”

–Open Book Society

“Bacon is an excellent storyteller. He has imagination, and is able to put his ideas together in a way that readers won’t be able to put this book down. The characters are well-developed, and seem like real people. The nostalgic theme park is unique and fascinating; it seems Bacon has done his research on the 70s, and everything mentioned – from the old cars, old music and radio programs is absolutely true to the period.”

Karen Hancock
Suspense/Thriller Books Editor, Bella Online

 

“Lyle and Kate are a charming twosome, first deter­mining the cul­prits, then cal­cu­lating ways to trap the evil doers. As you can tell by my lan­guage, Death in Nos­talgia City is just plain fun….  Bacon plots well, char­ac­terizes well, and writes well. In addition, “Nos­talgia City” turns Dis­neyland into Magic Mountain into Dol­lywood into Wall Street into the mean streets of New York City, a winning collage of baby boomer fan­tasies and rem­i­nis­cences.”

–Ann Ronald, Bookin’ with Sunny Reviews

 

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