“Reader’s draft” of prequel completed…

JFK-motorcade-view-of-Landmark-coverI just transferred the first “reader’s draft” of LANDMARK KILL to my wife’s Kindle. She’s an avid reader of all genres and probably the best editor imaginable for a first draft. Her contributions to JOEY’S PLACE are incalculable. If any of it works for her then I know I have something good started. After several months working on the story, letting it go is a bit unsettling. Still, every chick must leave the nest…

Set in September 1963, LANDMARK KILL is as much a thriller as it is a crime story. Like JOEY’S PLACE, it drills deep into the blood and bones of a lost Las Vegas, America’s famously infamous playground, and its ties to national politics. Det. Heber Parkins plays a major role in the story as the rough-edged, rookie partner of “cagey old Dave Fortuna,” but the main character is a jaded young gambler who’s drawn by chance into a many-layered murder mystery that traps him between the law and the Mob.

On the left is the “concept” cover for the book. Check back here or join my mailing list to be the first to know about publication dates.

A Q&A “blog hop tour”…


Chewing the fat on Fremont Street, circa 1940s

Some mystery authors are participating in a “blog hop” discussion that asks the following questions:

  1. What am I working on?
  2. How does my work differ from others of the same genre?
  3. Why do I write what I do?
  4. How does your writing process work?

It’s a quick and informative way to meet new authors and learn about what they’ve done and what they’re up to. Below are my responses:

*What am I working on?*

I’m outlining my next Las Vegas crime novel (tentatively titled “Landmark Kill”) while prepping its completed sequel, “Joey’s Place,” for e-publishing. The creative activity balances out the nuts & bolts process of attempting to uncover the (allegedly) best ways to offer and promote an e-book. I also just completed what I think will be the final revision of a short story, “The Car and Candice,” that will appear in an e-book anthology later this year titled “Saints and Sinners.” A previous version of the story is available in my collection, “L.A. Limo Tales,” available on Amazon.com. That collection is based upon my experiences as a limousine driver in Los Angeles in 1978-1979.

*How does my work differ from others of the same genre?*

Both crime novels are rooted in the old Las Vegas, before it became the industrial playground that it is today. “Joey’s Place” is set in 1970 and tells the story of an outcast sheriff’s detective who is mysteriously assigned to investigate the murder of a respected Mormon businessman who owned half of the most exclusive club on the Strip — Joey’s Place. Naturally, nothing is as it seems and everything plays out against the real-life struggle for control of Howard Hughes and his Nevada holdings. “Landmark Kill” will take place during approximately one week in September 1963. Like “Joey’s Place,” its protagonist will seek a killer and discover that much more lies beneath the surface. Unlike “Joey’s Place,” its protagonist will probably not be a detective but, instead, a down-at-the-heels private detective who is in way over his head. 

*Why do I write what I do?*

I grew up in Las Vegas and was fortunate to meet some of the historical figures who appear in “Joey’s Place” and will appear in “Landmark Kill;” others inspired many of the fictional characters in the stories. These two novels are part of a planned series that works back through time and the town’s unique history. As for writing crime novels, they are what I most enjoy, particularly the classics by Hammett, Chander, Macdonald, and Spillane (to name a very few). My current favorites are Robert Ellis and his Lena Gamble series along with Robert Crais and Carl Hiassen.

*How does your writing process work?*

I use outlines and I am a student of John Truby and his concepts. Combined, this helps me avoid the loose ends and time-wasting tangents that seat-of-the-pants development usually produce (at least, in my case). Technically, my writer’s tool of choice is Scrivener, which gives me just about everything I need to sketch, plot, and write the complete work. It also makes it very easy to generate output in almost any format you can think of.

The inspiration for “Landmark Kill” came from reading about John F. Kennedy’s visits to Las Vegas before and after he became president. With all the conspiracy theories surrounding his death in Dallas, it gives me pleasure to add my own fictional theory to the mix. The essential key in this hybrid of crime and historical fiction is research research research. My background in history helps me there and I also benefit from a variety of resources, including some remarkable “old Las Vegas” groups on Facebook and Google+. As an example, I was curious as to the decor of the old Dunes hotel and was able to learn about it from one of the group members who worked there in the 1960s.

I hope you enjoyed this “blog hop” Q&A and will also visit the participating authors listed below.
James Callan (www.jamesrcallan.com/blog)
Ilene Schneider (http://rabbiauthor.com)
Joyce Ann Brown (http://retirementchoicescozymystery.wordpress.com/)
Sally Carpenter (http://sandyfairfaxauthor.com/)

(Moderated comments are permitted on this post, so please feel free to join in the conversation.)

The Landmark Hotel & Casino…

The Landmark Hotel & Casino at the corner of Paradise Road and Convention Center Drive was a major gamble undertaken by a Kansas City contractor and his financiers. Its construction began in 1961 but funding was cut off in December of 1962.

It sat unfinished for years, towering over the nearby Convention Center and its rotunda. A Teamsters Union Pension Fund loan in 1966 permitted construction to resume, but the resort remained unfinished until it was acquired by Howard Hughes in 1969.

Hughes, residing in isolation on the top floor of the Desert Inn’s high-rise, turned all his attention to remodeling the Landmark and opening it in competition with his rival Kirk Kerkorian’s new International Hotel & Casino on the other side of Paradise Road.

The unfinished resort plays a major role in the prequel to “Joey’s Place,” which is tentatively entitled, “Landmark Kill.”