Nostalgia City Mysteries

By Mark S. Bacon

Tag Archives: books

Great moments in the history of anxiety

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“Fear rots the faculties.”
–Cornell Woolrich, “Deadline at Dawn”

 In a few days, my publisher will release my novel, Death in Nostalgia City. Not my first book but my first novel. A debut mystery is the industry term and it’s appropriate as I feel not unlike a tense debutant taking tentative steps onto a stage, hoping for the approbation of her society.

Writing in general is nervous work. Novelist Shirley Hazzard said, “The state that you need to write in is the state that others are paying large sums to get rid of.” But at least, with any luck, an anxious mystery writer can transfer that feeling, so necessary to the genre, onto paper.Anxious author 3 tiny  6151

I’ve experienced several levels of anxiety during the creation of my book. (See photo.) In this case, it was the production stages and the promotional planning, rather than the writing, that seem to have challenged my sangfroid.

Although I’ve had my writing critiqued and edited thousands of times–dedicated writers crave editing–my publisher’s multiple editing process was a bit unnerving, confusing. Then there’s the two biggest tasks that await a writer whose manuscript has been sufficiently vetted: approving a cover design and obtaining blurbs.

In this case, the cover design was the easy part, though not a short process. Ultimately designer Jacci Wilson created just the right cover.  It conveys the fact (a) that this is a mystery novel–although any title with the word “death” in it is likely a crime story–and (b) that the setting for the crimes is the desert near old Route 66. The cover also shows a hint of a town and an amusement park in the distance. That’s where the story’s headed.Final Cover front +++

The second of the two required tasks is to obtain blurbs. For the uninitiated, a blurb is a flattering quote about a book, preferably from an authority or well-known person, which is plastered on the cover. You’ve seen them.

These days, one or two blurbs seems not sufficient to establish a writer’s credibility. Many books have one or more pages of quotes attesting to the author’s talent, the incredibly involving content of the book and the necessity for readers to cease all productive activities in their lives until they’ve finished the tome.

One of the first places I went looking for a blurb was the Boston Globe. As a large part of my book takes place in Boston, I contacted a respected Globe feature writer offering her my manuscript for review. Turns out, reporter Beth Teitell has written books too, and was wise to my ploy. “You’re on a blurb quest,” she said.

Indeed. Fortunately, I managed to receive good blurb comments not only from other mystery writers, but from people in specialized fields–such as oldies music, theme parks and 60s/70s culture and trivia–that are part of the subject matter of my book.

With those two tasks behind me, I’ll be dividing my time between promoting the book and trying to write Nostalgia City volume II. Either of these tasks can easily be a full-time job. Pass the tranquilizers.

Post script.   My book was supposed to be available for advance orders on Amazon, a couple of weeks prior to its release. Today, in addition to noticing that the thumbnail of my book cover looks cloudy on Amazon (ditto for B&N), I also saw that the print version of the book is available for sale earlier than I expected. Also, the Kindle and print versions are not linked.  I’m told that after the Oct. 4 release date the listings will be combined.

Amazon and my publisher will sort things out. In the meantime,  read the first four chapters of the book here, on my website.  My reluctant investigators Lyle and Kate have some exciting surprises for you.

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I’m often asked if I have advice for people just starting out to be writers. My advice: Some less stressful jobs might be worth exploring, like crab fishing in the arctic, testing experimental aircraft or painting radio towers.

News, fiction and surprise treats

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My website is evolving. I changed the theme, particularly so it can be more easily read on smart phones and tablets, but one of the unintended results was that a majority of the followers seem to have dropped from view. I’m working to recover everyone as I add more interesting details to this site.

In upcoming weeks I will have reviews of Ross MacDonald, T. Jefferson Parker, Cornell Woolrich and summaries of newly released mysteries. You’ll also see more mystery flash fiction and hush-hush previews of what life is like in Nostalgia City.

Oldies rock and roll fans can look forward to a few words from radio’s Dick Bartley all in this newly improved, renamed website/blog.

Cornell Woolrich’s 110th birthday; Dark stories, fast pacing

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Master of the noir suspense story, Cornell Woolrich was born 110 years ago today.  Having created one of the greatest collections of suspense novels and short stories ever written, he died in 1968, depressed and wheelchair bound.

My Nov. 20 blog article summarized his work: He wrote more than 25 novels, numerous screen plays, dozens of short story collections and his stories and novels were the source for more than 125 movies and TV dramas.   His most well-known work, the short story, Rear Window, was the basis for a 1954 Alfred Hitchcock film of the same name.   Another short story, The Boy Cried Murder, was the basis for three movies: 1949, 1966 and 1984.

Sadly, many of his works are out of print and nearly forgotten.  The latest movie taken from a Woolrich novel was the 2001 production “Original Sin,” based on the novel, “Waltz Into Darkness.”   Many of his movies are unavailable on DVD although some occasionally show up at film festivals.

A few websites provide information on Woolrich and the availability of his movies and books.  A primary source is CornellWoolrich.com.  That’s the name of the site, but not its web address.  See the link below hosted by toast.net and avoid going to the site with his name on it. (It seems to originate somewhere in Asia.)

The toast.net site has a beautiful collection of vintage Woolrich book covers, posters for a sampling of his movies, a brief biography and links to buy a selection of his books on Amazon.  Some of the books are pricy, some not.  Most are used.  When looking for Woolrich novels and short story collections, take note that he also wrote under two pen names: George Hopley (his middle names) and William Irish.

Cornell Woolrich was not a prose stylist with the sledgehammer metaphors of Raymond Chandler.  Black CurtainThe secret to Woolrich’s stories is the tension, the unanswered questions, the average guy who finds his world turned upside down and begins a headlong search for reality.

His “Black” novel series from the 1940s includes “The Black Alibi,” “The Bride Wore Black,” “The Black Path of Fear,” “The Black Angel” and “The Black Curtain.”   In the latter title, Frank Townsend suffers a nasty blow to the head when a portion of a building’s brick roof coping falls on him.  He dusts himself off and walks home only to find that his apartment is vacant and that his wife moved months before.   He manages to track down his wife who is overjoyed–and a little shocked–to see him because he’s been missing for three years.  The balance of the book puts a unique twist on an amnesia tale.  It’s a story of love and murder moving at a breakneck pace.

Woolrich’s stories, set in dark urban surroundings of the 1930s and 40s, hook you at the beginning and pull you into worlds that he imagined and you can live in for as long as the story lasts.

Links:

http://members.toast.net/woolrich/black.htm

Essentially a fan page, titled CornellWoolrich.com, this site has book covers, movie posters, Woolrich archive materials and more.

http://www.escape-suspense.com/cornell_woolrich/

Many of Woolrich’s stories became radio dramas.  This site has collection of the programs in audio format.   Cary Grant and Joseph Cotton are among the famous names giving voice to the suspense shows.

http://www.detnovel.com/Woolrich.html

This biography of Woolrich calls his work “endlessly descriptive.”

http://www.tv.com/people/cornell-woolrich/

Listing of episodes of TV dramas such as “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” featuring Woolrich stories.  The shows are available for download/viewing.

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Cornell-Woolrich/10491472214

The Woolrich page on Facebook has some colorful pictures of his book covers and 945 “likes,” but nothing’s been posted for nearly three years.

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