We decided to set DESERT ICE, our third novel in the hard-boiled Skylar Drake Murder Mystery series, in 1955 Las Vegas.
When people found out we were taking a week long research trip to Las Vegas, they insisted we visit the Mob Museum. We decided to take them up on it.
At noon on the first day, we arrived at the museum, located in the old post office. As we ascended the broad stone steps of the building built in1933, we were bathed in music from the 1940s-50s. It made you want to smile and put you into the mood of the era.
With four floors of mob memorabilia the ticket person suggested we plan two hours. The displays showed the very beginnings of the mob in the US and how the organization grew and spread throughout the country.
Great technology, state-of-the-art presentation, and knowledgeable, helpful staff on each floor brought the the history of the mob to life, particularly in the Las Vegas Area. An entire floor was devoted to tricks the mob used to hide assets from the government. It was extremely enlightening to learn how they were able to move money, gems, jewels and drugs out of Las Vegas
Locals opened their arms to the gangsters who provided jobs and gave back to the community i.e. building schools and hospitals for them. They loved them for it. However greed set in, money laundering and “skimming” money from what was owed the IRS made the FBI crack down on the profitable Las Vegas life style for them and their families.
When we finished the four floors we were surprised we had been at the museum for three and a half hours!Unfortunately, there is little left of 1955 Las Vegas, so our research week in Sin City was full of interviews and book work at libraries. We did squeeze in dinner at the Luxor Hotel and Casino. We "just had" schedule it in.
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 is gut tells him to find his fellow Marine.
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.
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."
Bio for Janet Elizabeth Lynn and Will Zeilinger
Published authors Janet Elizabeth Lynn and Will Zeilinger had been writing individually until they got together and wrote the SKYLAR DRAKE MURDER MYSTERY Series. These hard-boiled tales are based in old Hollywood of 1955. Janet has published seven mystery novels and Will has three plus two short stories. Their world travels have sparked several ideas for murder and crime stories. This creative couple is married and live in Southern California.
Janet Elizabeth Lynn Website
Will Zeilinger Website
8 cups (2 quarts) water
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 medium lemon, thinly sliced
3 fresh Italian parsley sprigs
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 pounds (21/25-count) shrimp, peeled except for the tails and deveined
for the cocktail sauce:
1 1/2 cups ketchup
1/4 cup prepared horseradish
1/2 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed
1/2 teaspoon Tabasco
for the shrimp:
Combine everything except the shrimp in a 4-quart saucepan or pot over high heat and bring it to a boil.
Add the shrimp, stir, and remove the pan from the heat. Cover with a tight fitting lid and let sit until the shrimp are opaque and just cooked through, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, line a baking sheet with paper towels and set it aside.
When the shrimp are ready, drain them in a strainer set in the sink. Transfer them to the prepared baking sheet and arrange in a single layer, removing and discarding any solids from the poaching liquid that have stuck to the shrimp (discard the contents in the strainer as well). Let sit until cooled to room temperature, about 10 minutes
Transfer the shrimp to a large bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate until chilled, at least 1 hour and up to 1 day. Meanwhile, make the cocktail sauce.
for the cocktail sauce:
Stir all the ingredients together in a medium bowl. Taste and season with more pepper as needed. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill until ready to serve. Serve the shrimp with the sauce for dipping.