Dark Ride Deception Nostalgia City Mysteries Book 4
by Mark S. Bacon Genre: Mystery
Is Tom Wyrick Dead? The computer genius is missing. So are his priceless tech secrets. Time for Lyle to go undercover again.
Tom Wryick’s mind-bending technology will rocket Nostalgia City theme park decades ahead of the competition. But the computer genius is missing. So are his secrets. Is he dead? On the run? His billion-dollar, breathtaking discovery is the Perception Deception Effect.
An FBI agent theorizes the People’s Republic of China is responsible for the disappearance. The Nostalgia City CEO, however, is convinced a rival theme park is behind the theft. He drafts ex-cop turned theme park cab driver Lyle Deming to fly to Florida to find the missing computer scientist and recover his secrets.
Does this have anything to do with the severed human finger Lyle finds in his cab?
Back in Nostalgia City, park executive, 6’ 2” Kate Sorensen, a former college basketball star, is persuaded to investigate the death of an actor starring in a Vietnam-era crime movie being filmed at the Arizona park. Nostalgia City is a meticulous re-creation of a 1970s small town.
Shrugging off jet lag, anxiety, and oppressive Florida humidity, Lyle goes undercover using a parade of false identities to snoop behind the scenes at another theme park’s engineering and computer offices. He’s forced to jump from one covert scheme to another as his identity is exposed, his safety jeopardized.
In the meantime, Kate confronts a mentally unstable actor—fresh out of rehab. But she may be forced to give up the murder case—Lyle needs help.
Kate and Lyle have little time to explore their nascent romantic relationship as both their investigations turn deadly, threatening them and the future of Nostalgia City.
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“Mark S. Bacon’s well-told mystery is clever, smooth, and intriguing, with a reluctant detective who has just the right touch of self-deprecating humor. The author’s wry wit and engaging voice will keep you turning the pages of Dark Ride Deception until the very last satisfying twist.” --Mary Adler, author of the Oliver Wright WWII mystery series
***Recommended: Death in Nostalgia City, the first book in this series, was recommended for book clubs by the American Library Association.
The Orange County Convention Center in Orlando looked more like a theme park than a trade show. Life-size dinosaurs with chomping jaws competed for Lyle’s attention with roller coasters, robots, rocket ships, boats, and bobsleds. One ride spun visitors around in circles, another threw them along twisting tracks up in the air toward the shiny beams of the convention center’s sky-high ceiling. Everything either flashed lights, gyrated, or emitted sharp electronic sounds. Or all three. Enough to give you a seizure.
The day before, after he'd talked to Max, Lyle called Joseph Arena to arrange for IAAPA passes. It was no problem. The park sent people every year as Kate had told him. Lyle's admission would be waiting for him at the gate. Atlantic Adventures helped him get a reservation at a small hotel several miles from the convention center.
“Holy crap,” Lyle whispered to himself as he walked into the cavernous, noisy exhibit hall. A badge with his name and Nostalgia City on it hung from the lanyard around his neck and he clutched a map of exhibitors. “Where to begin?” Some parts of the floor had aisles that separated the sprawling company displays. In other areas, exhibits overlapped. Bobsled-shaped cars dashed along tracks suspended in the air over virtual reality truck rides that shook and bucked.
Unfamiliar with the names of the ride builders, Lyle arbitrarily started at one corner of the exhibit hall. He looked for company representatives among the crowd of gawkers. Occasionally he saw people in costumes ranging from circus performers to aliens to superheroes. Visitors or vendors, he knew not.
He stopped at an exhibit featuring high-tech bumper cars. The different models sat in groupings like new cars in an automobile showroom. “Excuse me,” Lyle said to a casually dressed man with a name badge that matched the bumper car logo. “I’m trying to locate this man.” He pulled out his cell phone and showed Wyrick’s picture to the bumper car salesman. The man glanced at the photo, then shook his head. Lyle mentioned Wyrick’s name, but the man kept shaking his head.
The next exhibit showcased gondolas—the kind that hang from cables strung up the side of mountains or stretched in the air above theme parks. Gondolas in the exhibit hung from cables attached to an elaborate steel beam superstructure.
Lyle peered inside one gondola and saw a man using a straw to sip a light green frozen drink that looked suspiciously like a cocktail. For breakfast? The man’s badge identified him as an aerial gondolier, so Lyle showed him Wyrick’s photo. The man put his drink aside and leaned out of the car to stare at the picture. Then he looked up at Lyle.
“Dude, you’re from Nostalgia City. I’ve been there. It’s way cool. Is this person you’re looking for from your park?”
“Ah, yeah,” he said, suddenly wishing he didn’t have Nostalgia City on his badge.
“Haven’t seen him. If I do, should I tell him to call you?”
“Nah,” Lyle said. “Tell me, where did you get the margarita?”
Reminded of his drink, the man reached behind him and returned the straw to his mouth for a liberal gulp. “Snow cone place down the way. They have unique flavors not on the menu. Ask Bobbo for the special of the day.” He winked.
Advertising that he represented Nostalgia City was not what Lyle had in mind. Letting the word out that NC was looking for its absent programmer would get in the way, at minimum alerting Wyrick that he was on his trail. He thanked the guzzling gondolier and headed for the exit.
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 and became a copywriter for Knott’s Berry Farm, the large theme park down the freeway 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 the Library Journal, and selected by the Book of the Month Club and two other book clubs. His freelance feature articles have appeared in the Washington Post, Cleveland Plain Dealer, San Antonio Express News, Orange County (Calif.) Register, Denver Post and many other publications. Most recently he was a correspondent for the San Francisco Chronicle.
"Dark Ride Deception" is the fourth 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 recommended for book clubs by the American Library Association.
Bacon is the author of flash fiction mystery books including, "Cops, Crooks and Other Stories in 100 Words - Revised Edition".
He taught journalism as a member of the adjunct faculty at Cal Poly University – Pomona, the University of Nevada – Reno, and the University of Redlands. He earned an MA in mass media from UNLV and a BA in journalism from Fresno State.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times
by Mark S. Bacon
Charles Dickens captured readers’ attention when he created what is now one of the best-know first sentences in any novel. A Tale of Two Cities is a classic of literature and, I suggest, the story’s first sentence is in no small part responsible.
I love first sentences. They can tell you much about the novel that follows. Primarily they should grab your attention or entice you into reading further. Mystery writers often, but not always, do this.
“He was the ghastliest hitchhiker whoever thumbed me.”
That’s how Ross Macdonald, the author of 18 Lew Archer detective novels, began his 1954 book, Find a Victim. It’s startling and invites you to imagine a gritty, perhaps haunting scene. Dick Francis offered up an unusual—but not scary—scene in the first sentence of his mystery, Banker:
"Gordon Michaels stood in the fountain with all his clothes on."
These beginnings, penned by masters of the craft, make you want to keep reading. But a first sentence can do even more. While getting your attention, a first sentence can identify a setting or locale, introduce a character, set a tone or mood or set up action that carries on immediately.
When I wrote my first mystery I agonized over that first sentence—as I have for my subsequent mysteries. And I looked for good examples.
John Grisham’s The Rainmaker, like several of his novels, is a tale of a young, struggling attorney. The first line: “My decision to become a lawyer was irrevocably sealed when I realized my father hated the legal profession.” Grisham shows that humor is a good hook for readers.
My first novel, Death in Nostalgia City, like the others in this series takes place in Nostalgia City, a re-creation of an entire small town from the 1970s. The park is complete with period cars, clothes, hairstyles, food, fads music, shops—the works. To start the story, I wanted to intrigue the reader with this setting and get my protagonist into action. Ultimately I forsook action for a sentence that in a light way describes the protagonist’s attitude to modernity, an important point because of the novel’s retro theme. The story begins:
Whose idea was it to replace the chrome knobs and push buttons on car radios with touch screens? Lyle didn’t have a clue.
For my new book, Dark Ride Deception, I decided to start with action and create a slightly unusual scene that also told you about the occupation of my protagonist, Lyle Deming.
The slender woman with the sad blue-green eyes gasped, gagged,
then threw up all over the back seat of Lyle’s taxi.
The first chapter is not just about this smelly scene, but I wanted to get your attention.
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