Nostalgia City Mysteries

Mark S. Bacon

Tag Archives: prison

Miscellaneous maliciousness


One way to get useful background for a detective novel is to spend time in prison.  Another way to look at it would be: writing a novel is one way to pass the time when you’re in the slammer for murder and various other crimes.

Alaric Hunt is probably not the first con to write a crime novel but one of the latest, and thanks to a feature story in the New York Times Magazine, one of the better known.   As reported by Sarah Weinman, Hunt’s life is a sad case.  His abusive mother died when he was young and his life went downhill from there. In a lame attempt to get money so his brother could go to music school, the two hatched a plot to rob a jewelry store.  Arson was involved and a young woman died.  Hunt was sentenced to life.  He’s now 44.  He went to prison at 19.

His novel, written in prison, won a prize and a publishing contract.   His whole story makes fascinating reading.

Also noted

This space has devoted many words to the future of the publishing business and the popularity of e-books.   Last year saw more consolidation.  We used to refer to the major U.S. publishers as the big six.  That ended in 2013.

Random House merged with Penguin creating the largest publishing house in North America.   According to Publishers Weekly, the company will release more than 15,000 titles each year and employ more than 10,000 people.  Instead of the big six, noted one writer, we now have the Big One and the following four.   It’s estimated that Penguin-Random House will control about a quarter of the U.S. publishing market.

Speculation as to what this will do to the book market has been all over the map with some predicting the consolidation and ultimate end of the publishing business as we know it.  The authoritative Library Journal published a detailed analysis discussing how the merger will affect readers, authors, other publishers, Amazon and the book economy.  Important reading.

Favorite movie lines about writing

In the recent Woody Allen movie, “Midnight in Paris,” Owen Wilson plays a writer named Gil who is somehow transported to Paris of the 1920s.  There he meets Ernest Hemingway (played with panache by Corey Stoll).  Gil gives Hemingway a manuscript he’s been agonizing over and asks him to give him his opinion of his novel:

Hemingway:   “My opinion is, I hate it.”

Gil: “You haven’t even read it.”

Hemingway:  “If it’s bad, I’ll hate it because I hate bad writing.  If it’s good, I’ll be envious and hate it all the more.  You don’t want the opinion of another writer.”


New York Times Magazine article on writer/con Alaric Hunt

Publisher’s Weekly reports the merger

Analysis of Penguin/Random House merger

More flash fiction

This entry is a day late due–quoting an old-fashioned TV expression–to technical difficulties beyond my control.   I just returned from San Francisco where we visited three major museums picking up enough inspiration to last for months.

Inspiration for today’s sample comes in part from my first job in journalism.


Tank Towns

Blake steered his car down the country highway. On his forearm he wore a reminder of years past. He was taking his teenage son on a journey to explain who his father was. He owed him that, and more.

“Every little town we’ve been through has its own water tower,” said his son, Scott. “I see another one ahead. Is that where you used to live?”

Blake nodded.

As they approached the tower and the cluster of buildings around it, Scott read the lettering on the tank: “Centerville State Penitentiary.”

Blake involuntarily rubbed the prison tattoo on his arm.

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