Thursday, 5 July 2018

An Introduction to Cold Desert Sky by Rod Reynolds

There's a theory I see espoused by authors, from time to time, that we all have a eureka moment at some point during the writing of a story, where it finally becomes clear what the book is truly about. Cold Desert Sky is the first time I can say I experienced that feeling.

Of course, I knew what the plot was - at least in outline - before I started writing: it picks up from where my second novel, Black Night Falling left off, with reporter Charlie Yates returning to Los Angeles and living in fear of legendary mob boss Bugsy Siegel. Charlie becomes obsessed with the disappearance of two aspiring starlets, and his investigations lead to him getting caught up in a murderous blackmail racket, targeting Hollywood bigwigs. 

The action moves to Las Vegas, right around the time Siegel was completing his dream: The Flamingo Hotel, the building which laid the foundation for the city we know today. Yates finds himself caught between Sigel's outfit and a rogue FBI agent, and as his chances of getting out alive dwindle, his only care is to find the missing girls while he still can.

The inspiration for the book came from several places. I've been visiting Las Vegas, periodically, for twenty years now, and I've always been interested in the history of the place. It also tied in with the historical events I based Black Night Falling on - in that Siegel travelled frequently to Hot Springs, where that book is set, and used it as a template for his vision of Las Vegas. With this connection in mind, it was too tempting a historical confluence to ignore.

I also started out wanting to write about the seedy side of Hollywood's golden era. The book was completed before the Weinstein revelations came out, and the subsequent #MeToo movement, and it's striking to be able to look at it now and think about how little has changed in the decades that followed.

But what about that eureka moment? That's to do with the missing girls. Anyone who follows me on social media will know I often post about some of the crazy things my two young daughters say or do. Becoming a father five years ago has changed me in ways I couldn't have imagined; in many ways it's made me more positive and optimistic, but also more fearful. And I realised these two missing girls - much older than my own, but perhaps more vulnerable for it - were the product of my parental worst fears. Those horrible moments where we allow our mind to imagine what it would feel like if something terrible happened. As unpleasant as it is, the emotion provoked is visceral and potent - and that's what I was trying to bring to this book. To have Charlie experience the same sense of terror, and being forced to confront just how far he's willing to go to protect two innocents.

Of course, when he discovers the truth, it isn't so straightforward...

But if I've managed to capture those emotions on the page - or readers can relate to them or have experienced similar, as I'm sure they have - then you'll understand why this is my most personal book yet. I hope you'll enjoy it.

Cold Desert Sky by Rod Reynolds is published by Faber & Faber in July (£12.99)

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