Welcome Janet Lynn and Will Zeilinger, husband and wife writing team. Janet and Will have been writing Skylar Drake murder mysteries for the past three years, beginning with Slivers of Glass and Strange Markings. Now they have a third book in their series, Desert Ice, and they’re guest posting on my blog today to let you know about their latest in the Skylar Drake series.
My husband and I spent a week in Las Vegas doing research for our new novel, Desert Ice, the third in the Skylar Drake Murder Mystery series. The UNLV Oral History Library, Clark County Public Library and the Nevada State Museum were amazing places to help find the true town.
No one can think of old Las Vegas without the immortal Rat Pack coming to mind.
The Rat Pack was a group of well known performers headed by Humphrey Bogart in the 1950s. Early members were Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop. Visiting members included Errol Flynn, Nat King Cole, Mickey Rooney, Jerry Lewis and Cesar Romero. Sinatra, Martin, and Davis were regarded as the group’s lead members after Bogart’s death in 1957.
The group was reportedly never called The Rat Pack by any of its members. They called the group either “The Summit” or “The Clan”. The Rat Pack was a term used by journalists and outsiders, although it remains the lasting name for the group.
While researching Las Vegas and reading interviews by family members of the group, the true adventures of the Rat Pack sparked many ideas to include in the novel as well as providing a good idea of what the sleep little town was like then. Though the Rat Pack had some bad press, they were instrumental in getting stars and well known performers into Las Vegas, thus building Vegas to what it is today. Was it their plan to build an entertainment mecca? No one knows for sure. However, detailed descriptions of the Sands hotel and casino, as well as its management and shows added to our story.
Little of old, quaint Las Vegas is in existence today, any buildings of that era standing today have had several make-overs. Our research was a waltz through the history that had a major impact of the future of Las Vegas. The streets, large casino and hotels began in the1950a which our hero, Skylar Drake makes good use of resulting in Desert Ice.
This was the first Veteran’s Day Parade I’d attended since I got back from Korea. Seems like a lifetime ago. Claire wanted to go every year, even offered to make it a family affair… I never took her up on it.
An Excerpt from Desert Ice by Janet Elizabeth Lynn and Will Zeilinger
Standing at attention, I saluted as the color guard passed. Next came the tanks and trucks and I was transported back to my time in the Corps. A pretty young girl dressed in red, white, and blue approached me with a basket full of tin American flag lapel pins. She held one out to me. The paper tag attached to it read Veteran’s Day, November 1955, but my hands wouldn’t come out of my pockets.
“Here sir, take one, they’re free.”
I reluctantly pulled out my hand. She placed one in my palm, and smiled and turned away. The cadence of the drums sounded like artillery as a formation of jet fighters passed overhead. I was back in Korea on Jeju Island, snow, guns, bombs… I shut my eyes and clenched my fists.
A woman wearing a big hat bumped into me. “Oh, excuse me sir.”
Slowly I opened my hand. The sharp edges of the flag pin were stained with my blood but I didn’t feel a thing.
“You should get something for that hand,” she said.
I couldn’t move.
“Come.” She led me to a hot dog stand and handed me a couple of paper napkins.
I leaned against a chain link fence, wrapped the tin flag in a napkin and dropped it in my pocket. I looked down at my blood smeared hand, the one that took shrapnel at Jeju. My head spun. I leaned forward until my head rested on the fence. “Keep breathing,” I told myself.
“So you’re a vet,” the lady with the hat said. “Korea?”
She lit a cigarette. “Here.”
I shook my head. “No thanks.”
“Suit yourself.” She hung the cigarette in her mouth and took my hand. After she wiped the blood, she wrapped another napkin around my palm.
“Just a minute.” She disappeared into the crowd. I stepped back and rested against the chain-link, staring at the tops of the trees. She returned and handed me a cup of coffee. I don’t know why, but my hand shook when I reached for the cup.
“It was pretty tough over there.” Her large hat covered most of her face.
I nodded, “How would you know?”
“47th M.A.S.H., Ouijonbu.” She joined me against the chain link fence and sipped her coffee. There wasn’t much more to say. After a few moments I looked at her. “Jeju Island, 1948. We got caught up in the rebellion.”
She held out her gloved hand. “I’m Nancy.” Still hidden under her hat she said,, “Pleasure to see you again, Mr. Drake.”
I studied her. “Have we met before?”
“We have a mutual association with an Officer Graves of the LAPD.”
I spit out the coffee and threw the cup in the trash. “Did that ass send you to…?”
Nancy shook her head. “No, he didn’t.” She took out a jeweled compact, held it at an angle and looked behind her with the mirror. “I didn’t say I knew him. I said you and I had a mutual association.”
Still checking behind her, she whispered, “Meet me at Hollenbeck Park in Boyle Heights.”
To Find Out More…
In 1955, a missing Marine and stolen diamonds lead Private Eye Skylar Drake to Sin City, where the women are beautiful and almost everything is legal—except murder. The FBI and a Las Vegas crime boss force him to choose between the right and wrong side of the law. All the while, government secrets, sordid lies and trickery block his efforts to solve the case. Common sense tells him to go back to L.A. but his gut tells him to find his fellow Marine.