Saturday, September 11, 2010

That's Amore--but this is A Murder

Tattoo artist Brett Kavanaugh inks high-class clientele in her Las Vegas shop, The Painted Lady. And when she's not on the job, she sets her designs on catching killers. . . .
Las Vegas is a rocking place where impersonators of the legendary Rat Pack - Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis Jr. - are alive and well and performing nightly at clubs all over town. Except they're not all. Alive, that is.

( be continued...see below)
**Driven To Ink

Well, ain't this a kick in the head? Karen Olson is back--she's such a pal of Jungle Red--and we are thrilled that her newest book is out. (How many is this now? Seven?) Now Karen's gone all Vegas, baby, and probably has a cigarette in a long holder and long white gloves and a sllinky red dress and shakes a mean...martini. (And knows the rules of blackjack, which are obviously incomprehensible.)

But her inspiration is from the golden age of Vegas. Like Dino himself sings, er, sang: memories are made of this. Volare, everyone. Now, take it away Karen.

THAT'S AMORE...but this is--a Murder

KAREN: I’ve always had this thing for the Rat Pack.
Ever since seeing Ocean’s 11 for the first time, the original one, not the one with George Clooney (although admittedly, the George Clooney version is very easy on the eyes), but the one with Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. The Rat Pack, which also included Sammy Davis Jr., Joey Bishop, Peter Lawford, Shirley McLaine, and Angie Dickinson, really were Vegas in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The group, brought together by Sinatra, were all around town, drinking and performing and having a blast.
They became legend.
So when I was trying to come up with a plot for my third tattoo shop mystery, DRIVEN TO INK, set in Vegas, I knew I had to pay homage to this bit of Sin City’s history.

So what did I do? I killed off a Dean Martin impersonator.

And not just any Dean Martin impersonator. A Dean Martin impersonator whose job was to serenade couples getting married at the That’s Amore Drive-Through Wedding Chapel.
Okay, sure, Dino wasn’t the most famous Rat Packer. Frank was. But Frank seemed so clich├ęd, so done. And I’d already used Frank in my Annie Seymour series, in which private eye Vinny DeLucia bears a striking resemblance to the old crooner (not the fat Frank from his later years, but when he was younger, with Ava).

That was in part for my husband, who is a huge huge HUGE Frank fan. So much so that if we hear a Frank song on the radio, we have to stop for a moment of silence to honor his memory. I’m totally not kidding. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard my husband say wistfully, “He can sing like that because he’s loved and lost.”

So Dino it was for this new book. And not just one impersonator. No. I had to do it right. There is a whole stable of Dinos at That’s Amore. And someone seems to be targeting them.

My editor was concerned that my readers might not know what the Rat Pack was. I found that a little hard to believe. I mean, who hasn’t heard of Frank Sinatra? Or Dean Martin? Maybe they haven’t heard of Peter Lawford, he’s a little more obscure. But regardless, I had to put a sentence explaining the Rat Pack to my readers, just in case they live under a rock.

Or get them confused with the Brat Pack. Remember them? From the ‘80s? Emilio Estevez, Rob Lowe, Robert Downey Jr., Judd Nelson. That dreadful movie St. Elmo’s Fire. The Rat Pack they weren’t.
But I digress.

If you were going to write a book set in Vegas and had to pick one of the Rat Pack to put in it, which one would you choose?

HANK: Angie Dickinson! That's who I'd be. I mean, choose. How about you?

Karen E. Olson’s newest tattoo shop mystery, DRIVEN TO INK, is now available. Visit her website at

...continued from above..

When Brett lends her car to Sylvia Coleman and Bernie Applebaum for a drive-through wedding, she's not expecting to get it back with a dead body in the trunk - much less one who looks like Dean Martin and sports a clip cord from a tattoo machine around his neck.
As for the newlyweds, they vanish before they can start their honeymoon, so Brett and Jeff, Sylvia's son, go undercover as bride and groom to sniff out the rat who seems to be targeting the impersonators. Whatever's going on, it's not amore. . . .


And we're quiet for a moment, today on September 11....



  1. Using the Rat Pack is a great way to set a mood, male sex appeal with the glitz of Las Vegas. When I used Audrey Hepburn as an image for one of my characters, I was told to update to a new actress because readers wouldn't know who she was. I am now in the middle of a book, copywrite 2006, which uses the same image. Though I changed the image to that of Eva Mendes, using Audrey Hepburn may have prompted some of those youngsters to find out about Audrey Hepburn, and research is easy with the Internet. Just like using the perfect word, but one that some readers won't know, readers can just look it up in the dictionary. Reading is learning in many different and unexpected ways. I come up with connections and knowledge of history, nonreaders never get. Most readers enjoy this aspect of reading. PS-Dean Martin was my favorite!

  2. Stopping in to say hi before dashing off to teach at Seascape all day. that sounds like a great premise Karen! Love the idea of loaning your car and having it returned with a body in the trunk. Haven't we all opened our trunks and had the fleeting worry that something awful might be in there??

    My mother was a huge Frank Sinatra fan too--though I never heard her say your hub's great line. I think of her when I hear one of his songs...

  3. Hi Karen,
    Funny, an early reader (in his 30s)advised me to change a reference to Bette Davis in my first book for the same reason. But #1 mystery readers do skew a little older and #2 C'mon...who hasn't heard of Bette Davis? I don't know that we'll remember Justin Bieber in 70 years - I know I won't - but BD?
    Since Hank has already taken Angie Dickinson (my first choice, too) I'll take Peter Lawford. He was one of them but an outsider, too.
    On one of my first trips to Vegas - I went there a lot when I was in the video biz - I visited the old Riviera Hotel. It was as if the Rat Pack's cigarette smoke was still in the wall paper. Low ceilings, very ring-a-ding-ding.

  4. I secretly suspected that my editor was too young to know who the Rat Pack was, and that's why she wanted me to explain in the book :) I can't imagine, though, someone not knowing Audrey Hepburn or Bette Davis! My husband and I have started renting older movies so our daughter doesn't think every movie has to be in color and so she gets to know these famous celebrities from the past who made such an impact.

    On a side note, when I wrote the blog post, I hadn't see St. Elmo's Fire in a very long time. But what was on yesterday afternoon when I had some time to myself? I found myself oddly drawn to it and watched the whole thing. It truly is a bad movie, but I started thinking about the cast and what happened to them...they certainly don't have the longevity of the Rat Pack!

  5. Hi Karen,

    Congrats on your continued success. I love the Rat Pack too. (also the Brat pack -- maybe just a PACK fan)

    Anyway, I'd choose Dean too. I loved his drunken savoir faire!!

    I'd go with Frank only if I wanted to write so do a mob- tie in -- one of my favorite topics.

  6. Loved the drunken sloppiness of Dino and I also loved Sammy. Like Brett, those dance moves got me.

    I'm about 1/2-way through Driven to Ink and loving it. Love the touch of the Rat Pack.

    In terms of Brat Pack flicks - Breakfast Club and Pretty in Pink. ;-)

  7. Hey all...yikes behind...In NJ at a conference, YAY Liberty States Fiction Writers, what a GREAT DAY!

    PLus I posted this monring, hit publish and the computer promtly crashed. NOt to work again. SO grr.

    Anyway! Back now. And what I tried so unsuccessfully to say this morning was ...I wasn't initially allowed to refer to Murphy Brown. My editor said: no one will know who that is.


    Andrew McCarthy. Wasn't he pretty cute?

  8. The book has my interest - mystery, Vegas (where I was hitched,) the Rat Pack and celeb impersonators. A job that brought in a few semolians for JP here in the 90s.

    But I wouldn't want to be told to leave out good parts and references because a reader's knowledge or event horizon wasn't up to date.

    When hit with "Huh? That was before my time." I knock back with "Ever hear of the Bible? Shakespeare? Wasn't that before your time?"

    Oh make me stop, I'm such a crabby thing.
    Jennifer "Madame" Perry
    Madame Perry's Salon
    Memoirs Of A Misanthrope

  9. Since Hank took Angie, I'll say Dino. I used to love his variety show with his singing and just being a funny guy. I think I was a little disappointed to discover he didn't really drink and wasn't drunk all the time. But I did have his albums. I remember him singing all those romance songs and who can forget "Its a Marshmellow World" Yep, its Dino all the way.

    Glad you got home okay, Hank. Loved you program today at Liberty. It was great to finally meet your in person.

    Oh and yes, I got my page written by three today. Hehehe!

  10. Thanks, Pat! Yes it was lovely to meet you..and everyone ..what a great day! SO delighted you enjoyed it.

    And yay for your pages.

    Earl I'm with you! Loathe synopses..but it's so fantastic when you're finished.