History of the Mystery: It Stays the Same—and Changes by Mark S. Bacon

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.

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History of the mystery: it stays the same—and changes

by Mark S. Bacon

Who published the first modern mystery story? It happened 180 years ago.

Modern mysteries got started in 1841 when Graham’s Magazine in Philadelphia published The Murders in the Rue Morgue by Edgar Allen Poe. Known for grim horror stories such as The Telltale Heart, Poe beat Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie by many decades in creating a detective series. The mystery introduces Paris detective monsieur C. Auguste Dupin who used his “analytical power” to solve a series of murders. He appears again in two other stories.

Later, in 1866, Fyodor Dostoevsky published Crime and Punishment. In it, Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov, an impoverished student, murders a woman with an axe for her money. After he’s killed her he becomes confused and paranoid. Enter the detective, Porfiry Petrovich, head of the investigation department. Petrovfich questions Raskolnikov at length using psychological techniques to wear him down.

When I read Dostoyevsky’s masterwork several years ago I was struck by Petrovich’s interrogation style. It reminded me of the old TV show Columbo in which Peter Falk would hound a suspect with dumb questions and hypotheticals until he or she confessed. Later I read that William Link, producer and writer for Columbo, actually based his detective’s style on Dostoyevsky.

Shortly after Crime and Punishment, 1868, English writer Wilkie Collins wrote The Moonstone, considered the first classic mystery novel and one that established many of the ground rules for the modern genre. It’s a tale of murder and a stolen diamond from India.

Two years later, Collins’ better-known contemporary, Charles Dickens, started The Mystery of Edwin Drood, but died before he could finish it. Then in 1887 Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes appeared for the first time in A Study in Scarlet.

Leap ahead almost a century and a half and DNA, cell phones and myriad other advanced technologies have replaced the magnifying glass for crime novel detectives. In some mystery and thriller novels today technology almost overshadows the characters. I didn’t want that to happen with Dark Ride Deception, my new mystery.

The story takes place in Nostalgia City, an Arizona theme park where a computer genius has just invented a remarkable new technology that will transform theme park rides forever. But the plans and computer programs that created the Deception Perception Effect are stolen. My protagonists are set off on a mission to solve the theft and the disappearance of the computer genius behind the new technology.

Rather than fill the story with complex tech, however, I focus on the players including my ex-cop turned Nostalgia City cab driver, Lyle Deming, who goes undercover to spy on other theme parks suspected of corporate espionage.

Technology is important to today’s mysteries, but it’s the people, the characters, who have always made tales of murder come alive.

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