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, and many other publications. Most recently he was a correspondent for the San Francisco Chronicle.
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.
Mayra Calvani: Please tell us about Desert Kill Switch, and what compelled you to write it.
Mark Bacon: Reading a newspaper article about a new practice by some car dealers sparked the idea for the main story line in the book. The article explained how some automobile dealers today install GPS trackers and kill switches in cars they sell to people they consider high-risk borrowers, usually low-income buyers. If you miss a payment—sometimes by as little as a few days—the lending company flips a switch and your car is dead.
Obviously this has potential for those with malicious intent. I did more research and found stories in different parts of the country about dealers who used kill switches. At least one bragged about it.
So, one of my main characters in Desert Kill Switch is a Las Vegas auto dealer who flips switches. When cars are dead, sometimes people are, too.
M.C.: What is your book about?
Mark Bacon: A life-and-death chase across the Nevada desert in August highlights the action in this complex mystery spread across the southwest. Desert Kill Switch takes place first in Nostalgia City, a massive (and pricy) theme park with a unique appeal—particularly for anyone who remembers the 1970s. The Arizona park re-creates in minute detail, a small town from the 1970s. It’s complete with period cars, clothes, food, music, shops, fads, hair styles, restaurants—the works.
The story begins in the desert just outside the park. Lyle Deming, a park employee and ex-cop, finds a bullet-riddled body next to a pristine 1970s model Pontiac Firebird. But when he returns to the scene with sheriff’s deputies, no car, no body.
At the same time, Kate Sorensen, the park’s vice president of public relations is in Reno, Nev., representing Nostalgia City at a rock and roll and classic car festival. When she’s accused of murdering the festival’s president Lyle joins her in Nevada and the two embark on a wild, puzzling ride to exonerate Kate, save a witness’s life, trap a blackmailer and find the missing corpse. They travel from Nostalgia City to Reno to Las Vegas and back.
In addition to automobile kill switches, the book also looks at the classic car market. This is not the sale of repainted jalopies, but of beautifully restored muscle cars from the ’60s and ’70s that can sell in the low to high six figures. And can be counterfeited.
M.C.: What themes do you explore in Desert Kill Switch?
Mark Bacon: Greed, love, responsibility, and self-acceptance.
M.C.: Why do you write?
Mark Bacon: Because I love it.
M.C.: When do you feel the most creative?
Mark Bacon: I see to it that I’m at my creative best at 8 a.m. every morning. (I’m actually paraphrasing here a great line from author Peter De Vries because it accurately describes how I write.) I began as a newspaper reporter and in that job you don’t have the luxury of waiting for creativity to strike. You write. You edit. You rewrite.
M.C.: How picky are you with language?
Mark Bacon: Extremely. But that doesn’t mean I don’t use slang, sentence fragments and even occasional profanity and made-up words. My books are in large part dialog and people do not speak in complete sentences or even complete thoughts.
M.C.: When you write, do you sometimes feel as though you were being manipulated from afar?
Mark Bacon: Yes, from the ghost of Cornell Woolrich, the prolific but almost forgotten author of one of the best series of suspense novels ever written..
M.C.: What is your worst time as a writer?
Mark Bacon: To me that’s like saying, explain your worst day on the beach in Hawaii. I love to write. It’s the hardest work I know how to do reasonably well. I love the challenge. Worst time? If I had to pick a worst time, it would be having to write something I don’t believe in or something mind-numbingly routine or repetitive.
M.C.: Your best?
Mark Bacon: Any morning at 8 a.m.
M.C.: Is there anything that would stop you from writing?
Mark Bacon: : Nuclear war, zombie apocalypse.
M.C.: What’s the happiest moment you’ve lived as an author?
Mark Bacon: You always remember your first book. Mine was nonfiction, a book on business writing published by one of the big NYC publishers. As part of book promotion, I gave a talk to a large southern California writers group. After the talk I autographed books. I remember having to go back out to my car twice to bring in more books to sell and sign. Although I’d always made a living as a writer, in newspapers and advertising, this was the first time individuals paid me directly to read something I’d written.
M.C.: Is writing an obsession to you?
Mark Bacon: My wife would probably say yes. I’d say it’s just something I have to do.
M.C.: Are the stories you create connected with you in some way?
Mark Bacon: Aren’t all novelists’ stories part autobiographical?
M.C.: Ray Bradbury once said, “You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.” Thoughts?
Mark Bacon: By happenstance, I had lunch with Bradbury once. He was a remarkable person who spent much of his time inspiring and working with other writers. So I’d say, yes. I drank the Kool-Aid long ago.
M.C.: Do you have a website or blog where readers can find out more about you and your work?
Author: Please visit me at www.baconsmysteries.com