Guest Post by Luke Murphy: How Important Is Setting in Fiction?

Dead Man's Hand
By Luke Murphy

Today I'm pleased to introduce you to Luke Murphy, author of Dead Man`s Handwho's sharing his thoughts about the importance of setting in a story.  I especially enjoyed reading Luke's article as he and I chose Las Vegas, or Sin City, as locales for our recent novels.

How Important Is Setting in Fiction? 

Guest Post by Luke Murphy

A lot of people wonder just how important the setting of a story is. I believe that the setting for any work of fiction is critical to how the book is accepted.

Choosing a city for your characters is crucial in not only entertaining readers who have decided to sit down with the book, but to me, it’s also a very important marketing tool when targeting the market of readers you have in mind.

I was born and raised (and still reside) in a small, rural town in Canada. When I mean small, I’m talking small (1200 people). So you would think that it would only make sense that I write a story that takes place in a small town, something I’m very familiar with. NO WAY!!

I’ve always dreamed big, and set high goals for myself. When I decided that I would write a novel with the goal of publication, I didn’t want to just write a book to have it read by friends and family. I wanted to write a novel that would be accepted worldwide, and be available for people everywhere. I wanted something that would be desired by people all over the world. That means I needed a setting in my book that interested people and they wanted to read about.

So that meant, for the setting, I needed a major market in the United States. Major American cities that have become popular in books are Los Angeles, Washington, Chicago, New York, etc.

I chose Las Vegas, or as some people might call it, Sin City. Everyone is interested in this fast-paced, party-all-night lifestyle and city that is party-central.

I didn’t just choose this city on a whim. I had visited Las Vegas in 2000 with a buddy of mine and I instantly feel in love with the city. Las Vegas was the perfect backdrop for this story, glitz and glamour as well as an untapped underground.

Everyone knows about the bright lights big city that is Vegas, but for as much as we read and see about that side of Vegas, we seldom here about the other, darker side of LV.

I also have to admit that that my wife was pretty happy that I had chosen Las Vegas as my setting, since she joined me in my research trip (wink, wink). Nothing like being able to write-off a trip to Las Vegas (lol).

There is not a single moment in time when the idea for DEAD MAN’S HAND came to be, but circumstances over the years that led to this story: my hockey injuries, frequent visits to Las Vegas, my love of football, crime books and movies.

Dead Man’s Hand became real from mixing these events, taking advantage of experts in their field, and adding my wild imagination. The internet also provides a wealth of information, available at our fingertips with a click of the mouse.

What I learned most from my trip to LV is what is found outside of the “Strip”. Not all of Las Vegas glitters, and there are parts of the city just like everywhere else in North America. This is the part of the city that I wrote about—things you haven’t heard about in other books.

So I was fortunate enough to visit Las Vegas and do some real, on-site research for street names, hotels, casinos, venues, etc. All of my personal contact with people such as members of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department was done via the Internet/email/phone.

When I had completed the first draft of my novel and sent it to my agent for her revision notes, I had a very long phone conversation with her. Because this was my first novel, and the first time I had worked with an agent, I didn’t know about things like how is copyright infringements dealt with in fiction writing.

So, because most of this book is based on real places in Vegas, I had to make up names to protect myself. You will probably recognize the descriptions of certain hotels and casinos or restaurants in my novel, but those venues have had name changes just to be safe.

So how important is setting for you when selecting a book to read?

DEAD MAN'S HAND by Luke Murphy

What happens when the deck is stacked against you…

From NFL rising-star prospect to wanted fugitive, Calvin Watters is a sadistic African-American Las Vegas debt-collector framed by a murderer who, like the Vegas Police, finds him to be the perfect fall-guy.

…and the cards don't fall your way?

When the brutal slaying of a prominent casino owner is followed by the murder of a well-known bookie, Detective Dale Dayton is thrown into the middle of a highly political case and leads the largest homicide investigation in Vegas in the last twelve years.

What if you're dealt a Dead Man's Hand?

Against his superiors and better judgment, Dayton is willing to give Calvin one last chance. To redeem himself, Calvin must prove his innocence by finding the real killer, while avoiding the LVMPD, as well as protect the woman he loves from a professional assassin hired to silence them.

Luke Murphy, author of  Dead Man's Hand

Luke Murphy, author of Dead Man's Hand


Author Bio

Luke Murphy lives in Shawville, Quebec with his wife, three daughters and pug.

He played six years of professional hockey before retiring in 2006. Since then, he’s held a number of jobs, from sports columnist to radio journalist, before earning his Bachelor of Education degree (Magna Cum Laude).

Murphy`s debut novel, Dead Man`s Hand, was released by Imajin Books on October 20, 2012.

For more information on Luke and his books, visit:, ‘like’ his Facebook page!/AuthorLukeMurphy and follow him on Twitter!/AuthorLMurphy

Praise for Dead Man's Hand

"You may want to give it the whole night, just to see how it turns out."
— William Martin, New York Times bestselling author of The Lincoln Letter

"Dead Man's Hand is a pleasure, a debut novel that doesn't read like one, but still presents original characters and a fresh new voice."
—Thomas Perry, New York Times bestselling author of Poison Flower

"Part police procedural, part crime fiction, Dead Man's Hand is a fast, gritty ride."
—Anne Frasier, USA Today bestselling author of Hush


THE NEWSROOM TV Series and Regional Dialects in These United States

Guest Post by Barbara Graham

When I as growing up in the 1940s and '50s you could easily tell what part of the United States one came from by the way they spoke. I have wondered recently whether television, movies and the Internet have worked to make us all sound more alike? Are our regional dialects disappearing?

The Newsroom: Dialects True to Their Region

In watching the series The Newsroom on television, one of my favorite shows, I am thinking our regional dialects are not disappearing so much. Or at least we have not lost the speed of our speech as experienced in the varying dialects. For example, I have trouble understanding what those wonderful people are saying on The Newsroom. They just talk too rapidly for me to keep up.  Hey, I am from New Mexico where we like to savor our words a bit before we present them to the world!

Obviously, on the East Coast, as in The Newsroom, their competitiveness is so great that they have to put their words out there as quickly as possible -- but for me it is like using a machine gun vs a little ole handgun. With this machine-gun speed, I cannot distinguish easily any nuances between the rat-tat-tat.  Are Easterners afraid that if they speak too slowly someone else will claim their speaking time?  Perhaps. 


Dictaphone from 1920s. Photo is credited to the Columbia Phonograph Co.

Dictaphone from 1920s. Photo is credited to the Columbia Phonograph Co.

Back in the Days of the Dictaphone

I once worked as a secretary for a man newly from Louisiana. I used a dictaphone, and he spoke his letters into a dictation machine for me to transcribe. This man spoke so very slowly, and here was such a long time between his words, I simply could not complete a single letter. Not one. This was before computers -- and I just kept putting periods where they should not be. Have you ever tried to erase a period? Periods in those days were pretty permanent. Plus, if you wanted to have copies, you had to type several pages at once. We did not have a copying machine. We used inked paper between pages, and it was extremely hard to make changes. No fun at all!

So I assume Southerners just cannot stand to toss their words out there, potentially to lose them forever? They spoke ever so slowly, and ever so carefully back then.  However, I have not traveled in years, so these days I do not normally hear dialects of people from other parts of the country.  But I do see and hear politicians, and do not notice much of a language difference with them. 

Improved Communications Systems = Less Regional Dialects?

Have our improved communications systems served as a melting pot for our regional dialects? Perhaps so. Many years ago when traveling with my family around rural Kentucky, we noticed many dilapidated small houses with very large TV antennas attached, almost overwhelming the small structures. This was in the 1950s. One has  to assume that the popular TV shows influenced the growing populace that watched them -- making small but increasing inroads to their culture and their language. 

Appreciating vs. Understanding The Newsroom's Dialects

I will continue to watchThe Newsroom, but with lessened expectations. I no longer expect to understand every word, but will appreciate what I can understand. And, maybe someday, they will hire some actors with slower cadence in uttering their very smart scripts. 

And, by the way, I have been forced to speed up my cadence just so Californians do not get bored and tune me out. Also, I have stop addressing just about everyone as “you all” or y’all, but don't hold me to that if a Southern relative calls.

Author Bio

Barb visit to Germany 1971.jpg

Barbara Graham has enjoyed wonderful careers as a teacher, counselor, grants writer, fund raiser and nonprofit agency manager.  These days, she creates jewelry and sun catchers using natural gems and Swarovski crystals, on display at HeavenlySuncatchers.