BY: MARK S. BACON
He thinks he’s on edge now…then people start getting killed…
Uptight has been ex-cop Lyle Deming’s default setting for years, but his new job, driving a cab in a theme park, promises to cure his chronic anxieties. Nostalgia City is the ultimate resort for anyone who wants to visit the past. A meticulous recreation of an entire small town from the early 1970s, it’s complete with period cars, music, clothes, shops, restaurants, hotels—the works.
The relaxed theme-park atmosphere is just what Lyle needs—until rides are sabotaged and tourists killed. Then park founder, billionaire “Max” Maxwell, drafts Lyle into investigating—unofficially. As the violence escalates and employees get rattled, Lyle gets help. Kate Sorensen, the park’s PR director—and former college basketball player—becomes another incognito investigator. Except that she’s six-foot-two-and-a-half-inches tall and drop-dead gorgeous. So much for incognito.
Together, Lyle and Kate must unravel a conspiracy of corporate greed and murder.
TAYLOR JONES SAYS: In Death in Nostalgia City by Mark S. Bacon, Lyle Deming is a former, burned out cop, who’s now a taxicab driver in a theme park designed around the 1960s and ’70s. The park is like a trip back in time to the era of flower children and 8-track tapes. Lyle is happy working as a cab driver, but when someone sabotages the park and people start dying, his cop instincts take over, and he accepts a new position as investigator for the park. Add in Kate Sorenson, the six-foot blonde new VP of public relations, whom Lyle convinces to go undercover for him, and you have all the elements of a first-class mystery.
The characters are well-developed, and the plot is strong. All in all, it is a thrilling, suspense-filled, action-packed ride.
REGAN MURPHY SAYS: Death in Nostalgia City by Mark S. Bacon is a fast-paced murder mystery with a unique twist. The premise of the book is not exactly new, but I like the idea of sabotage in a retro 60-70s theme park. Our hero, Lyle Deming, and our heroine, Kate Sorenson, are an unlikely match, but that just makes it more interesting. As does Lyle’s background as a discredited cop who could be just a little crazy. Kate is over six feet tall, which adds another wrinkle to the romantic elements in the background,
As I said, I thought the idea of a retro theme park unique. It adds another dimension to an already-complicated plot, which has more than enough twist and turns to surprise and intrigue you. This is a mystery/thriller that you won’t be able to read just once, not if you want to get all the little details that are easy to miss.
Whose idea was it to replace the chrome knobs and push buttons on car radios with touch screens? Lyle had no clue. He eased off the accelerator of his 1973 Dodge Polara taxicab so his passengers wouldn’t miss anything. The sedan lumbered past an appliance store where a dozen identical images of the Fonz–leather jacket and all–were speaking unheard words from 24-inch, picture-tube TVs in the shop window. Lyle’s passengers gaped. A common reaction. Lyle had been at his new job for six months now, so the time warp didn’t faze him. He liked it. The new job brought him back to happy days.
“Oh, baby, I’m in love,” cried the DJ on the car radio. “That was a new one by Roberta Flack, ‘Will You Love Me Tomorrow?’ You’re listening to Big Earl Williams on KBOP. Next up, the latest from Three Dog Night, but first–”
Lyle turned the radio down so he could talk to his fares, a wholesome-looking sixtyish couple, probably from the Midwest. “This your first time?”
“Yes,” the husband said. “First time.”
“We’ve heard all about this place,” his wife said, “but we had to see for ourselves. It’s amazing.”
Lyle glanced at the couple in the mirror. “Just your average town.”
“You got good cell phone coverage here?” the husband asked. “I’m having problems with my iPhone.”
“What’s an iPhone?” Lyle said.
“What, are you nuts? A cell phone!”
“Don’t be a cynic, Warren,” his wife said. “It’s part of the experience here.”
“Okay. I get it.” He held up two fingers in an awkward peace sign. “Far out, man. Groovy.”
Lyle smiled. He didn’t mind. He tried not to let little things bother him anymore. If people didn’t want to get in the spirit to relive the good old days, that was their choice. It just puzzled him why anyone would spend the money to visit Nostalgia City, one of the most elaborate theme parks in the world, and not enjoy the masquerade.
Nostalgia City was the brainchild of billionaire developer Archibald “Max” Maxwell. The re-creation of a town from the early 1970s was as complete as billions of dollars and Max’s ceaseless energy could make it. Aimed at baby boomers, or anyone who wanted to go back in time, Nostalgia City was the size of a small town. Rides, shops, restaurants, hotels–everything–was constructed from scratch in northern Arizona near a reclaimed stretch of Route 66. To Lyle, a baby boomer himself, it was part resort, part theme park, and very much an escape. His new job gave him the chance to meet people not because they were robbed or assaulted but because they were on vacation.
Lyle steered the cab into the curb lane to give his passengers a closer look at the storefronts. He loved his big, old ’73 taxi. His parents had driven a Chrysler Cordoba with “soft Corinthian leather.” His Dodge wasn’t as fancy–after all, it was a cab–but it was fully restored. You could almost believe the 7,000 miles on the odometer. Like everything else in Nostalgia City, the cab didn’t look like an artifact. It looked new.
Rolling through the reproduction of a decades-past downtown, Lyle and his passengers came to a stop light. At the corner, Lyle’s guests stared at a Flying A service station with its white-uniformed attendants. Each gas pump was a sculptured red tower with one long hose and side-mounted nozzle, like a fashion model with one hand on her hip. As the tourists gawked, something moving drew Lyle’s gaze up a hill to the left. He saw a white 1970 Ford Torino moving toward the cab, picking up speed. Instantly, Lyle saw something missing–a driver.
In seconds, the Torino would smash into the driver’s side of Lyle’s cab. He stomped on the gas pedal and yelled for his passengers to hang on. The taxi’s rear tires chirped. Then the rubber took hold. The Dodge lunged forward as the Torino rushed to¬ward it. Lyle escaped the runaway car–almost. The Ford scraped along a corner of the taxi’s rear bumper, catching the edge of a metal advertising sign on the back of the cab. It ripped off the sign with quick, metallic popping sounds.
Streaking forward, the driverless car headed for the gas station. It ran up the drive and caromed off a column supporting an awning over a row of pumps. The heavy metal awning trembled, tilted, then crashed to the ground. Slowed but still unchecked, the Torino reeled on. It plowed into a stack of motor oil cans, sending them flying. Finally, the Ford rammed into a gas pump, giving up the last of its momentum in a resounding crunch.
Gasoline gushed from the damaged pump while the motionless Ford straddled the concrete island like a ship stuck on a shoal. The sharp gasoline smell pierced the air. Lyle stopped his cab away from traffic. He bailed out and barked at his passengers to get away from the station. Seeing a customer standing near the flowing gas, he motioned for him to back away from the growing, flammable lake.
Everyone waited for the explosion.
But it didn’t happen.
Lyle dashed up to an attendant who had jumped out of the way of the car and was lying on his back, stunned and trembling. “Shut-off.”
The attendant pointed to the side of the building. Lyle found the emergency shut-off and punched a fist-sized button.
“You all right?” he asked the attendant.
“Think so.” The young man stood and dusted himself off. “We gotta call for help.”
“Already being taken care of.” Lyle saw another uniformed attendant in the service station office with a phone in his hand waving toward them.
The gasoline contained itself in the station’s parking area. An asphalt berm became a dam creating a small gas lagoon a few inches deep. Avoiding the gasoline, Lyle trotted over to the Ford. Its front bumper, grill, and the right side of its body were shredded and crushed, but the driver’s side looked relatively untouched except for long scratch marks from Lyle’s cab. Lyle glanced at the Torino’s driver’s side front door for a second, then pulled it open. He knew the engine wasn’t running, but he wanted to make sure the ignition was off. He stuck his head in, careful not to touch anything he didn’t have to. His right hand rested on the smooth vinyl seat as he leaned in farther. Then he felt someone tapping him on the back.
“Don’t touch anything,” said a deep voice. “Step back, sir.”
That was a little difficult because a large man in a shirt and tie stood right behind Lyle. The man had a badge holder hanging from his pocket and a holstered semi-automatic clipped to his belt.
“Clyde Bates, chief of security,” the walking impediment said. “What happened here?”
“Looks like someone tried to top off his tank.”
Bates scowled. “Okay, comedian, were you driving?”
“Yes–but not this car. No one was driving the Ford. That was the problem.”
Lyle recognized Bates from a staff meeting a couple of months earlier. He noticed the prematurely gray hair trimmed in a crew cut and the expression that said smiling was off limits. The park security chief looked as if he was once in shape but that recently his center of gravity had been moving south.
Lyle stepped away from the Ford and pointed to his Nostalgia City ID badge. “Deming. Lyle Deming. The car’s in neutral. I was just looking to see if–”
“Where’d it come from, that hill?”
“See anyone around?”
“No. Just the car, no driver.”
“You didn’t see anyone on the sidewalk?”
“No. So I looked inside the car to–”
“Okay. We’ll take it from here.”
Since Bates was alone, Lyle wondered who the “we” referred to. Then he heard a siren and knew reinforcements were on the way. A black-and-white early ’70s Plymouth with “Nostalgia City Security” painted on the door rolled up, followed by two fire engines of the same vintage.
Bates started giving orders, and Lyle walked a few steps away to pick up his yellow cabbie hat that had fallen off. He ran his fingers through his dark, wavy hair and set the cap on the back of his head.
“Think it was an accident?” Lyle asked. “Maybe something slipped.”
“An accident?” Bates said, looking away. “Dunno. Make a report. We’ll handle it.”
Lyle didn’t like his attitude. “What makes you think it wasn’t an accident?”
“Could this be related to the ride someone vandalized? Or the bridge–”
“That’s our business. Not your concern.”
Just walk away, Lyle told himself as he touched the rubber band on his wrist. Leave the make-believe policeman alone. He’s right, not my problem.
Lyle inspected his cab. The rear bumper was twisted and scratched. The mangled advertising sign lay on the pavement and the trunk lid now sported several jagged air holes. Lyle was about to round up his passengers when someone yelled at Bates. A firefighter knelt at the edge of the toppled awning. Lyle ran over to see if he could help. Right away, he knew no one could. A middle-aged man had been standing under the awning when it collapsed.
“Dead,” the firefighter said.
© 2014 by Mark S. Bacon
Radio Host, Dick Bartley:
Death in Nostalgia CityDeath in Nostalgia City is a fascinating mystery set in a highly authentic world of ’60s & ’70s nostalgia – and the story works compellingly on both levels. It’s an excellent read that’s loaded with iconic touchstones of ’60s-’70s pop culture – music, fashion, TV, movies. Death in Nostalgia City is a blast! ~ Dick Bartley – host of radio’s The Classic Countdown and Rock & Roll’s Greatest Hits, member of the Radio Hall of Fame.
Author, Jim Hillman:
“With Death in Nostalgia City, Bacon has created an exquisite theme park resort. When a little crime and murder invades this sterile amusement park environment, the result is a mystery that will keep you turning the pages. Family vacations will never be the same.” ~ Jim Hillman, author, Amusement Parks, Director/Events Coordinator, National Amusement Park Historical Association
Rabbit Hole Reviews:
“There isn’t an ounce of fat in this novel. Bacon’s prose is clean, crisp and lightning fast. The plot moves like a theme park ride. Death in Nostalgia City is a spectacular read (five stars out of five). The function of nostalgia—re-framing stressful times through a sepia lens—serves as the novel’s clever subtext. Should conflicts of the past be reconciled, or simply glossed over with a comfortable, sanitized version of what never really was?” ~ Brian Kaufman, Rabbit Hole Reviews
Syndicated Columnist, Wilson Casey:
“Just as baby boomers love nostalgia and trivia, they will love Death in Nostalgia City. It’s a twisty mystery set in a retro theme park in the Arizona desert. The fast-paced story travels to Boston and back as we meet a diverse blend of intriguing characters, all with something to hide. Off-beat ex-cop Lyle Deming pursues suspects with an intensity bordering on obsession. He frustrates his younger partner with his questionable logic and his puzzling references to ’60s and ’70s trivia he knows well. Reading this theme park thriller is more fun than winning a trivia contest and riding your favorite wooden coaster on the same day!” ~ Wilson Casey, syndicated columnist, author, and Guinness World Record trivia guy
Author, Susan Whitfield:
“How is the deliberate sabotage of a theme park connected to corporate blackmail, an Indian reservation, and murder? Mark S. Bacon takes us on a suspense-filled ride full of surprising discoveries. A read worth the ride!” ~ Susan Whitfield, author of The Logan Hunter Mysteries
Author, Wendy Tyson:
“Bacon has written an entertaining crime novel full of action, intrigue and heart. With a pair of likable protagonists and a unique setting, this is one fast, fun ride. I want to visit Nostalgia City!” ~ Wendy Tyson, Author of the Allison Campbell Mystery Series
Bookin’ with Sunny:
Monday, January 19, 2015: Ann Royal of Bookin’ With Sunny call Death in Nostalgia City just plain fun.
She says: A rollicking good read! That’s how I would describe Mark S. Bacon’s novel, Death in Nostalgia City. It’s a page turner, a fast-paced mystery that pits the good guys against the obvious bad guys with forceful but satisfying results. Half way through Death in Nostalgia City, the reader pretty much knows who’s guilty. Learning how all the pieces of the plot fit intricately together and watching the villains’ attempts to avoid capture and prosecution are what’s so enjoyable about reading Bacon’s thriller…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. Even though there are several violent encounters, the rapid pace and the intricate machinations make the novel a delight, not a downer at all. 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. READ FULL REVIEW