Las Vegas writer Megan Edwards gives a nod to Pahrump in her newest mystery, “Full Service Blonde,” launched recently at the Writer’s Block bookstore in Las Vegas.
The book’s main character, Copper Black, is an aspiring feature writer for the fictional Las Vegas Light.
Black hopes to get a byline writing about outspoken sex workers’ rights activist Victoria McKimber, who works in a Nye County brothel.
When McKimber’s body is found abandoned in the desert shortly after she hands a box of files to Black, the young reporter is determined to investigate.
The Beavertail brothel where McKimber works is a fictional creation, said Edwards, and the people who work there are an amalgamation of personalities and details she observed while doing research in Pahrump.
She toured Sheri’s Ranch several times, said Edwards, and talked with many different people, determined to create a realistic picture of the brothel world for her characters to inhabit.
“Full Service Blonde” is a uniquely Nevada story, Edwards said, and inspiration originally came to her several years ago when she spent a month in Virginia City.
“People told stories about the Mustang Ranch and about a woman similar to Victoria McKimber. She took a lot of grief, people in Virginia City didn’t want the publicity she generated.”
In the novel, McKimber does direct sales for a beauty product company.
When she wins a top seller competition, she publicly announces her profession, much to the company’s dismay. She uses the spotlight to talk about legal prostitution and the challenges faced by women who work as prostitutes, which earns her the animosity of a variety of players and provides Copper Black with a good handful of suspects.
For locals, reading Edwards’ books offers the added fun factor of recognizing places and uniquely Nevada or Las Vegas customs. But the people, Edwards insists are all fictional and not meant to represent any real personalities.
One of the most compelling aspects of the book is main character Black’s discovery that McKimber has a family to support and that her work is largely motivated by the need to pay for expensive medical treatments for her son.
Edwards said she wrote Black as a young woman in her 20s because it placed her at an age uniquely suited to discovery. “She’s torn between family and becoming an adult, making a career,” Edwards said.
Having the character be new to Las Vegas gave Edwards scope to discover, through her novels, many aspects of a city Edwards said she unexpectedly fell in love with when touring the Southwest with her husband in an RV twenty years ago.
Edwards said she did consider Pahrump when looking for a place to settle permanently. “I was always drawn to Pahrump. I love the desert feel to it, the desert is right there.” But ultimately Edwards and her husband, Imbrifex publisher Mark Sedenquist, decided they needed to be closer to the city.
If there was one thing her beloved new city lacked a bit, said Edwards, it seemed to be a literary community. Back then “I thought—there can’t be writers, probably no books. The image is that it’s not culturally advanced but it takes a lot of creativity to create a place like Las Vegas.” And Edwards soon discovered a vibrant community of writers.
Edwards, with the launch of two uniquely Las Vegas mysteries as well as a love story called “Strings” this year, and her husband Sedenquist’s Las Vegas-based Imbrifex publishing company have contributed immensely to the Las Vegas literary scene, said Drew Cohen, co-owner of the Writer’s Block bookstore.
“We’ve waited and we’ve watched and we’ve hoped for a literary revival in Las Vegas,” said Cohen. “And it’s finally happened. Edwards and Imbrifex Books are a big part of that,” Cohen said.
Edwards began as a travel writer when her northern California home burned down in the 1990s and penned a memoir called “Roads From the Ashes.” She was working on her first novel when she visited Las Vegas to get some background material.
“Full Service Blonde” was the first Copper Black novel Edwards wrote, but was published as a prequel to her debut mystery, “Getting Off On Frank Sinatra”, released by Imbrifex Books in March of this year.
Both books feature Copper Black, along with her minister brother and a handful of other regular characters.
In writing about Las Vegas or Pahrump, or any location, “It’s important to write about the real place the right way,” Edwards said, to spend time and truly see a place. “I really do love writing about Las Vegas and I really hope I get it right.”
Edwards added that she’d like to see Pahrump represented more often in fiction. The literary world “needs a good Pahrump novel.”
And, she said, Imbrifex Books is currently looking for more projects, including fiction or others oriented to the desert Southwest.
Edwards will be traveling as far as England in the next few months to promote her books and said she will be making a more local appearance in February at the museum in Shoshone, California.
Robin Flinchum is a freelance writer and editor living in Tecopa, California. Her book, “Red Light Women of Death Valley,” was published last year.