Saturday, September 30, 2017

A Conversation with Mystery Author Mark S. Bacon

Omnimystery News: Author Interview with Mark S. Bacon

We are delighted to welcome back author Mark S. Bacon to Omnimystery News today.

Mark's second mystery in his "Nostalgia City" series is Desert Kill Switch (Black Opal Books; September 2017 trade paperback and ebook formats) and we recently had the opportunity to catch up with him to talk more about the book.

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Omnimystery News: Introduce readers to Desert Kill Switch with a tweet of the synopsis.

Mark S. Bacon
Photo provided courtesy of
Mark S. Bacon

Mark S. Bacon: Gorgeous theme park VP turns investigator when accused of murder: suspense, $2 million car, desert chase, blackmail, missing corpse, romance.

OMN: Suppose your lead character was interviewing you. What would be her opening question? And what would your answer be?

MSB: Kate Sorensen: Am I really as beautiful as you describe me?  

Answer: And then some. You’re a tall shapely blonde with nearly flawless skin and only tiny lines around your eyes that hint you haven’t been in your twenties for some time. Your hair is long and billows in the breeze and you keep yourself fit with regular exercise. Yes, you are exceptionally tall, taller than most women and perhaps a majority of men. But although you can be self-conscious about your height, it only serves to emphasize your allure. Remember how you vamped that corporate executive when you went undercover in our first book? It was easy for you.

OMN: When you start a new book, which comes first: the cast of characters or the storyline?

MSB: Both. Writing a mystery series means you already have your main character or characters established so you’re looking for a new setting, a new problem for them to solve. So in a sense, the story is the genesis of succeeding books in a series.

With me, that’s true—in part. In Desert Kill Switch, I wanted to explore two distinct areas of the automobile business: (1) a seemingly insidious practice of car sales for average to low-income buyers and (2) the high-end classic car market. To do that however, I created two characters who would represent those automotive worlds and be the subject of the investigation by my protagonists Lyle and Kate.

One of the new characters for this book is Alvin Busick, the owner of a chain of car dealerships in Las Vegas. The other is Ricky Stark, Busick’s unloved stepson, a dealer in antique cars who is in most ways the antithesis of his stepfather. Busick is old-school, hardnosed and possibly shady. Stark is young, hip, impulsive, emotional, and distrustful of his stepfather.

So while of necessity, the next book in the Nostalgia City series begins with a new storyline, it also has major new characters to carry the story ahead.

In addition of course, in each new novel of a series, the main characters get a chance to evolve slightly, exposing different elements of their histories and personalities.

OMN: Are any of the situations in which your characters find themselves based on real events?

MSB: Yes. Alvin Busick, the Vegas car dealer, sells lots of cars to low-income buyers. He considers many of them high-risk borrowers so he takes steps to protect his investment. His dealerships install GPS tracking devices and kill switches in the cars. If a buyer misses a payment, sometimes by as little as a few days, the car is dead. In my novel maybe the borrower is, too.

This is based on an actual practice among some car dealers in the US. According to news reports, more than two million kill switches have been installed in cars being financed. At least one dealer brags about it saying his customers love it because it keeps them from missing a payment. Automobile kill switches are real. What the characters in my novel do with them is fiction.

OMN: Was Desert Kill Switch your working title for the book as you wrote it?

MSB: Long story. Titles can’t be copyrighted. As a result, at least six relatively current suspense/mystery novels are titled “Kill Switch.” I knew that as I was working on the book so I tried hard to avoid those words in the title. Yet I kept coming back to it for two reasons:

1. Automobile kill switches are central to the story; and

2. None of the other books titled Kill Switch are about the kind of switches installed by auto dealers.

I tried to think of all kinds of modifiers to make my title unique. Auto Kill Switch, Secret Kill Switch were some titles I considered. Since the story takes place in Arizona and Nevada, “desert” came to mind. But my first thought was to pick a desert name. The story wanders around the two southwest states traveling through the Mojave, Sonoran and Great Basin deserts. I thought about using one of those in the title but settled on Desert Kill Switch. Simple to remember.

OMN: What kinds of books did you read as a child? Did the genre you read most influence your decision to become an author of the kinds of books you write today?

MSB: Absolutely, although I had a career as a journalist and business writer before turning to mysteries. As a teenager and young adult I read probably every novel Agatha Christie wrote. (She wrote 80+ books.) I loved the puzzles and tried my best to figure out whodunit before Hercule Poirot or Miss Jane Marple did. I also read contemporaries of Christie including Josephine Tey, Ngaio Marsh, Dorothy L. Sayers, G. K. Chesterton and others.

Later my tastes changed. I watched Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade, Paul Newman as Lew Archer, Tom Selleck as Jesse Stone. I became attached to the PI novel and read Chandler, Hammett, Ross Macdonald and others.

PI novels are an American institution but, Raymond Chandler’s arguments to the contrary, they’re a little plodding. Just a little—but nothing like the slow-moving British detectives of the Miss Marple school. So I explored the increasingly popular suspense/thriller genre. Baldacci, Follett, DeMille, and Kyle Mills, are among the many thriller authors I’ve read.

So, with that background, when I decided to switch to mysteries from nonfiction books and articles for periodicals, I wanted to combine elements of the different types of mysteries I like to read.

My mysteries are not easy to solve—though not impossible if you just follow the clues. I want to involve my readers in the puzzles, plot twists and list of suspects. In other words, appeal to readers’ heads. But unlike the detectives of classic British whodunits, Lyle and Kate find themselves in one scrape after another and have to move fast to stay ahead of the bad guys—whoever they may be. In this way I want to reach my readers’ hearts as they consider what might be about to happen to Kate or Lyle.

And, in the tradition of American PIs, my duo sometimes find themselves in dark alleys and mean streets that lead nowhere.

OMN: Suppose the Nostalgia City series were to be adapted for television or film, who do you see playing the key roles?

MSB: I’ve revised my short list of female actors who I think could become Kate Sorensen on the screen.

Adrianne Palicki, star of the NBC TV movie Wonder Woman, and a variety of TV series, would be a good fit. She’s tall, although a little shorter than Kate, and she combines an appealing femininity with athleticism. She even played basketball in high school. Her versatile acting could turn Kate into a movie heroine.

Although seemingly not the type, Gwendoline Christie of Game of Thrones fame, could pull it off, if only because she’s a towering 6’-3”, a half inch taller than my protagonist. And, as Lyle would say, a looker.

As to Lyle, I’d now say, Russell Crowe, Dennis Quaid, Eric McCormack, Viggo Mortensen, or George Clooney.

OMN: What's next for you?

MSB: In my next book, I build a story around a latter-day hippie pot promoter and a hard-charging former hedge fund manager. Kate and Lyle are challenged as these two people threaten to change the character of the Nostalgia City theme park.

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Mark Bacon's articles have appeared in The Washington Post, Kansas City Star, Denver Post, USAir Magazine, Trailer Life, Cleveland Plain Dealer, San Antonio Express-News, The Orange County Register, Working Woman, and other publications. He is a former columnist for BusinessWeek Online and most recently was a regular correspondent for the San Francisco Chronicle, where he wrote on travel, outdoors and entertainment.

Bacon is a former president of the Orange County Chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators. He and his wife, Anne, and their golden retriever, Willow, live in Reno, Nevada.

For more information about the author, please visit his website at BaconsMysteries.com and his author page on Goodreads, or find him on Facebook and Twitter.

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Desert Kill Switch by Mark S. Bacon

Desert Kill Switch by Mark S. Bacon

A Nostalgia City Mystery

Publisher: Black Opal Books

Amazon.com Print/Kindle Format(s)BN.com Print/Nook Format(s)Kobo eBook Format

A deadly Vegas pursuit—with a twist…

On an empty desert road, stressed-out ex-cop Lyle Deming finds a bullet-riddled body next to a vintage mint-condition 1970s Pontiac Firebird. When he returns to the scene with sheriff's deputies: no car, no body. Does the answer lie in Nostalgia City, the retro theme park where Lyle works?

Nostalgia City VP Kate Sorensen, a former college basketball star, is in Reno, Nevada, on park business when she gets mixed up with a sleazy Las Vegas auto dealer who puts hidden "kill switches" and GPS trackers into the cars he sells to low-income buyers. Miss a payment — sometimes by as little as a few days — and your car is dead. Maybe you are, too.

When Kate's accused of murder in Reno, Lyle rushes to help his blonde not-quite-girlfriend. Kate and Lyle plow through a deadly tangle of suspects and motives, hitting one dead end after another, as they struggle to exonerate Kate, catch a blackmailer, save a witness's life, and find the missing car and corpse.

Desert Kill Switch by Mark S. Bacon

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Lance Wright owns and manages Omnimystery, a Family of Mystery Websites, which had its origin as Hidden Staircase Mystery Books in 1986. As the scope of the business expanded, first into book reviews — Mysterious Reviews — and later into information for and reviews of mystery and suspense television and film, all sites were consolidated under the Omnimystery brand in 2006.

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