Nostalgia City Mysteries

Mark S. Bacon

Tag Archives: Linda Townsdin

I don’t know everything


The books I write, both nonfiction and fiction, start with ideas and branch out into chapters.  The background information in those chapters doesn’t all come from me.  No surprise.  Even with fiction—perhaps especially with fiction—I want to include accurate information, authentic details.  And many of those details are products of research: reading online and printed material and talking to experts.

Once I have collected facts and written a manuscript, I still need help. Writing is a solitary occupation, but making a manuscript as good as it can be  certainly is not. I need comments, suggestions, reactions and detailed editing.

I don’t know everything, but I know how to find people who know more than I do.  In Desert Kill Switch I thank the people who helped me create my book.  I’d like to thank them here, too.

Acknowledgements for Desert Kill Switch

My thanks to the professional team at Black Opal Books including Lauri, Faith, L.P., Arwen, and Jack for their hard work to make the book a reality.

Automobiles—classic cars in particular—are a big part of the story. I could not have included all the details about cars without the help of experts including veteran mechanic and classic car owner Bill Fogel and Tim Cox, a classic car owner and CEO of Quiet Ride Solutions.  Any automotive errors here are mine, not theirs.  Thanks to Jason Soto and Dustin Dodd for their generous help with my law enforcement questions.  And old friend Sue Longson gave me some pointers on auto lending.  Again, errors are all mine, not theirs.

Thanks again to Christel Hall for her careful editing.

My special appreciation goes to James Mandas for lending his beautiful 1972 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am to pose for the cover of this book and for his patience in arranging a photo shoot much delayed by weather.

Helpful ideas and support came from writer friends Jane Gorby, Linda Townsdin, Craig Holland, David Pincus and Gene Michals.  Many thanks to advance readers and to critique group members: Harriet Snyder, Christina Batjer, Betty Knapp, Carolee Hanks, Carol Watson, Anne Johnson, Marge Parnas, Deb Cork, Brian Cave, Nicole Frens, Rene Averett, and Lucas Ledbetter.

Finally, thanks to my wife, Anne, for her love and support.

Fast-paced mystery scares, intrigues

Close Up on Murder – A Spirit Lake Mystery
Linda Townsdin
$2.99 Kindle $12.52 Trade paper
Create Space  262 pages

As an amateur detective, Britt Johansson, a Pulitzer-Prize winning press photographer, is brash, aggressive, occasionally reckless and has the patience of a toddler with ADD. “Following the rules… didn’t always work for me,” she says.

When she stumbles on a gruesome murder in her small hometown of Spirit Lake, Minn., she’s off and running in an absorbing tale that has both unsettling and heart-breaking elements. The first murder scene—not the only one—is so vivid and shocking it puts you on edge. The story then segues into a mystery Close-up-On-Murder-Web-optiinvestigation that could lead to hate crimes or systematic terror. And possibly bad news for Johansson. “I…heard the unmistakable crack of a pump action shotgun behind me.” Author Townsdin provides murderous details sufficient to shock, without bloody, slasher-style prose. A good balance.

Her characters include some typical Scandinavians (this is Minnesota, after all) a batch of scary zealots and a mixed batch of writers encamped in Spirit Lake for a seminar. Johansson’s brother’s restaurant becomes her investigation headquarters and later, her fortress. “Every customer who entered the restaurant looked like a psychopath killer to me,” Johansson says. Continue Reading →

Two new detectives uncover murderous plots

The Red Queen’s Run – A Red Solaris Mystery
Bourne Morris
Henery Press 280 pages
$28.79 hardcover $14.26 trade paper $2.99 Kindle
Focused on Murder – A Spirit Lake Mystery
Linda Townsdin
CreateSpace   286 pages
$11.59 trade paper $2.99 Kindle

A  journalism professor and a press photographer are two of the newest amateur sleuths drawn into investigating murders in their own back yards. A crumpled body at the bottom of concrete stairs in a Nevada university journalism school and a corpse buried in snow in northern Minnesota are the beginning points for these two rewarding whodunits. Both books are the initial offerings in mystery series. In these two mysteries you can get to know the appealing protagonists and be ready for the next installments. Both are due this year.

Morris’s Red Queen mystery is several stories in one: an inside look at the The-Red-Queen's-Runjealousies and esoteric workings of academia, a love story and, of course, a whodunit.   The crime and the novel revolve around the journalism school at a western university. Lest you imagine that a university is not the place to look for murderous intent, Morris begins her book this way:

Anyone who thinks a college campus is a haven of scholarship and civility hasn’t been paying attention. Last year, I sat through a dozen faculty meetings with recurring visions of Dr. Amy Bishop flooding my mind. I could almost see Bishop seated in a 2010 faculty meeting at the University of Alabama, then see her stand, aim a nine millimeter gun at her friends and colleagues across the table and begin firing. Before her gun jammed, Bishop had killed three people, wounded three others…

This description is in the words of journalism professor Meredith “Red” Solaris, narrator of the first-person story. This jolting beginning puts you on guard for the confrontations that ensue among the faculty at Mountain West University. When the dean of the journalism school is found dead, it’s unclear if it was an accident or homicide. Before too long, Solaris has demonstrated her human relations skills keeping the school of journalism together amid the rivalry, rancor and professional conflicts that emerge with the dean’s death.  Members of the mutinous and possibly murderous faculty are drawn with detail so you can imagine them as real (and unusual) people plotting against each other.

Thirty-five year old Solaris, called Red because of her dark, thick red hair, is challenged to maintain the independence of the school, determine if one of her colleagues is a killer and generally decide the direction her life should take. She worries that people are expecting too much from her. But she has help from Sadie, a close friend she regularly meets over wine and, most important, a handsome police detective assigned to the case.

Is it murder or an accident? The investigation drags on as we watch Solaris sort out motives, uncover several surprises, and gradually develop feelings for the detective. Through Solaris’s asides and Morris’s voice you become comfortable with the level-headed, if sometimes insecure lead character. Solaris may be an academic but her background also has made her a good sleuth. For example, she meets an attorney who wants to appear kindly but, “His tone was friendly but his eyes were not.”

“Is there no limit to the wickedness of the journalism faculty?” Sadie asks Solaris at one of their luncheons. Wait for the clever conclusions in the circuitous ending and you’ll find out.


In Townsdin’s Focused on Murder, murder is not the only crime going on amid the frozen lakes and frigid forests of northern Minnesota and rash but resourceful news photographer Britt Johansson is right in the middle of it.

Focused-on-Murder-coverWhen the tall Pulitzer Prize winner is betrayed by her husband and fired from the Los Angeles Times, she returns to her hometown of Spirit Lake where she hopes to reconnect with her childhood boyfriend and her gay brother who runs a restaurant. She lands a job taking pictures in the generally sleepy northern Minnesota bureau of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. After a career shooting in war-torn parts of the world, taking snaps at town-hall meetings is putting Johansson to sleep, so when she accidentally stumbles on a body in the snow, she latches onto the story.

Told by the sheriff and her newspaper boss to stay out of it, Johansson naturally dives in. What she discovers going on in the back woods shocks her and ultimately the community—and will do the same for readers. All that snow can’t cover the ruined lives and evil family secrets.

This passage from early in the book describes Johansson—also a reformed drinker—and demonstrates author Townsdin’s writing skill and sense of humor:

“The word patience did not exist in my vocabulary. Act first, think later—maybe. Another one of those character defects they talk about in AA. Personality traits I’d been proud of turned out to be what they wanted you to stop.”

Johansson is adroit getting information from the collection of seedy, seamy characters that Townsdin has assembled, but all Johansson’s attempts to reconcile with her estranged boyfriend seem to fail: “That was not the first time Ben took the wag out of my tail.”

Townsdin has created a challenging mystery, spiced it with a cast of deceitful suspects and added appealing touches of noir in the dark settings and some of the dialog.

“The sky was the color of skim milk, what passed for sunshine in this part of the country.”

“I tossed the lie in with the rest of the sins in my storehouse.”

The novel’s ending is complex, compelling and like the conclusion of The Red Queen’s Run , leaves an opening for more adventures.

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