Guest Post – Inspiration from the Big 80s – The Decade of Excess by Heather Weidner

Thank you so much for letting me visit today. Secret Lives and Private Eyes is the first novel in my Delanie Fitzgerald mystery series. When I started writing this (several years ago), I thought about what it would be like to encounter someone famous in an ordinary or unexpected setting. I coupled that with my love of ‘80s music and pop culture, and that’s how Delanie began her search for Johnny Velvet of the Vibes.

The Big 80s were a decade of excess. MTV debuted, latch-key kids came home to empty houses, the first woman was appointed to the Supreme Court, New Coke made its debut and exit, the Challenger exploded, and the Berlin Wall fell. Pac-Man, Atari, Cabbage Patch dolls, and Rubik’s Cube crazes were all the rage. Massive concerts like Live Aid, Farm Aid, and USA for Africa raised funds and awareness for causes through music. And bigger, brighter, and bolder were the fashion trends. Everything had stirrups or shoulder pads, and my friends and I probably helped destroy the ozone with all the hairspray we used for our “mall” hair. Earrings were huge and color palettes were often day-glow. We wore multiple socks (of different colors, of course), leg warmers, and at least two golf shirts with the collars turned up. Some were punk and others were preppie, but everything was over the top. Rat-tails, mohawks, and mullets were cool (or so we thought). And blue eye shadow and white shoes were in. (I cringe now when I see some of the pictures.) But it was a time of freedom and fun, a perfect background for my mystery.

Business had been slow for Private Investigator, Delanie Fitzgerald, but her luck seemed to change when a tell-all author hired her to find pop star, Johnny Velvet of The Vibes. Could the singer whose career purportedly ended in a fiery crash almost 30 years ago still be alive? And she and her partner, computer guru Duncan Reynolds, have to figure out why the star would leave the glitz and glamour of the Los Angeles music scene for a farm in rural Amelia County, Virginia. Could plain old John Bailey really be the Johnny Velvet, heartthrob of the ‘80s?

Johnny Velvet was a pop star during the heyday of the Decade of Excess. In my story, The Vibes were as popular as Boy George/ Culture Club and Wham! He and his bandmates, David Moore, Eric Davis, Jake “the Snake” Kowalski, and Will Lane were rockers, decked out in lots leather and big hair like Bon Jovi, Van Halen, Flock of Seagulls, and Billy Idol.

The Big ‘80s and its cultural icons provide a fun background for my mystery. It gave me an opportunity to write about the fads and the music, and I could juxtapose it with today’s world. A lot has changed, but it was a fun trip down memory lane. I listened to a lot of ‘80s music while I was writing and revising the manuscript.

Here’s my playlist for Secret Lives and Private Eyes:

  1. Adam Ant’s “Goody Two Shoes”
  2. A-Ha’s “Take on Me”
  3. Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun”
  4. Robbin Thompson’s “Sweet Virginia Breeze”
  5. Wilson Pickett’s “Mustang Sally”
  6. Modern English’s “I Melt with You”
  7. Icicle Works’ “Birds Fly” (Whisper to a Scream)
  8. Van Halen’s “Why Can’t This Be Love”
  9. The Beach Boys’ “Fun, Fun, Fun”
  10. Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark”
  11. Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead or Alive”
  12. Rachel Platten’s “Fight Song”
  13. Mark Wills’ “Nineteen Something”
  14. And of Course, Hall and Oates’ “Private Eyes”


Secret Lives and Private Eyes is a fast-paced mystery that will appeal to readers who like a strong, female private investigator who has a knack for getting herself in and out of humorous situations. Business has been slow for PI, Delanie Fitzgerald, but her luck seems to change when a tell-all author hires her to find rock star, Johnny Velvet. Could the singer whose life was purportedly cut short in a fiery car crash still be alive? And as if sifting through dead ends in a cold case isn’t bad enough, Chaz Wellington Smith, III, a loud-mouthed strip club owner, hires Delanie to uncover information on the mayor’s secret life. When the mayor is murdered, Chaz is the key suspect. Now Delanie must clear his name and figure out the connection between the two cases before another murder – probably her own – takes place.


Heather Weidner’s short stories appear in Virginia is for Mysteries and Virginia is for Mysteries Volume II. Currently, she is a member of Sisters in Crime – Central Virginia, Guppies, Lethal Ladies Write, and James River Writers. Secret Lives and Private Eyes is her debut novel.

Originally from Virginia Beach, Heather has been a mystery fan since Scooby Doo and Nancy Drew. She lives in Central Virginia with her husband and a pair of Jack Russell terriers.

Through the years, she has been a technical writer, editor, college professor, software tester, and IT manager.

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