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Friday 16 November 2018

‘Desert Kill Switch’ by Mark S. Bacon

Published by Black Opal Books,
30 September 2017.
ISBN 978-1-62694-719-1

This is the second entry in Mark S Bacon’s ‘Nostalgia City Mystery’ series. I haven’t read the first (Death in Nostalgia City), but on the strength of this I may well seek out a copy.

The story starts bang on page one as ex-cop Lyle Deming comes across a dead body and an abandoned blue Pontiac Firebird in the middle of the Arizona desert. But when he’s able to finally get the cops along to investigate, they find nothing. Both car and body have disappeared into thin air. It’s a shame Lyle never made a note of the licence plate (surely second nature for an old ‘tec?) —it would have saved him a lot of time. Meanwhile his sort-of girlfriend Kate Sorensen is accused of murder in a gloriously tacky automobile convention in Reno. She has to explain why she’s found literally red-handed next to a Las Vegas businessman who’s been fatally stabbed with a birthday cake knife. But Kate is no walkover, and soon she and Lyle set about trying to find the real murderer. As they navigate many a twist and turn (as well as the inevitable cul-de-sac), they realise that even the most innocent people harbour dark secrets.

Bacon’s prose is slick, his dialogue taut, and he makes great use of short chapters to tempt the reader to keep turning those pages. His creation of Nostalgia City, a retro theme park in which nothing older than 1975 is allowed, is a stroke of genius. Imagine that, no Facebook! The place apparently featured more heavily in the previous book, but it’s still a significant presence here, with Lyle’s job as NC cab-driver providing some all-important narrative thrust. But don’t worry, the car-centric plot rattles along nicely even if you aren’t (like me) much of a petrol-head.

The titular ‘kill switch’—a device that stops an engine stone dead if the owner hasn’t kept up with their rental payment—is a new one on me. But it’s a real thing, and pretty horrifying. Google it. It’s as good a plot device as any to fuel this mystery story and Bacon extrapolates brilliantly to expose a whole world of corporate corruption lurking under the metaphorical hood.
Reviewer: Mark Campbell

Mark S. Bacon began his career as a Southern California newspaper police reporter, one of his crime stories becoming key evidence in a murder case that spanned decades. After working for two newspapers, he moved to advertising and marketing when he became a copywriter for Knott’s Berry Farm, the large theme park down the road from Disneyland.  Experience working at Knott’s formed part of the inspiration for his creation of Nostalgia City theme park.  Before turning to fiction, Bacon wrote business books including Do-It-yourself Direct Marketing, printed in four languages and three editions, named best business book of the year by Library Journal, and selected by the Book of the Month Club and two other book clubs.  His articles have appeared in the Washington Post, Cleveland Plain Dealer, San Antonio Express News, The Denver Post, Orange Coast and many other publications.  Most recently he was a correspondent for the San Francisco Chronicle.
Desert Kill Switch is the second book in the Nostalgia City mystery series that began with Death in Nostalgia City.  The first book introduced ex-cop turned cab driver Lyle Deming and PR executive Kate Sorensen, a former college basketball star.  Death in Nostalgia City was an award winner at the 2015 San Francisco Book Festival.  The third book in the series will be published in soon. Bacon is the author of flash fiction mystery books including, Cops, Crooks and Other Stories in 100 Words.  He taught journalism as a member of the adjunct faculty at Cal Poly University – Pomona, University of Redlands, and the University of Nevada – Reno.  He earned an MA in mass media from UNLV and a BA in journalism from Fresno State.   He and his wife, Anne, live in Reno with their golden retriever, Willow.                                            

Contact via email or Twitter:
or @BaconAuthor
Mark Campbell has written pocket guides to Sherlock Holmes, Agatha Christie, Carry On Films and Doctor Who, and was theatre critic for the Kentish Times. He currently works in The Stamp Centre in London and lives on a very noisy road in Greenwich. He has directed and appeared in many amateur theatre productions and enjoys collecting British humour comics from the 1970s. His favourite film is 2001: A Space Odyssey and his favourite book is The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins.

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