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Start Reading Shutter Man by Richard Montanari

Feb 09, 2016 in Excerpts

Shutter Man by Richard MontanariThis is probably the scariest opening chapter of any novel that we’re publishing this year. If your ideal novel lives in the intersection between horror and police procedural, then head to your local bookstore for Richard Montanari’s new Byrne and Balzano novel, Shutter Man.

Who are you?
I am Billy the Wolf.

Why did God make it so you can’t see people’s faces?
So I can see their souls.

Philadelphia, 2015

At the moment the black SUV made its second pass in front of the Rousseau house, a tidy stone colonial in the Melrose Park section of the city, Laura Rousseau was putting the finishing touches to a leg of lamb.

It was her husband’s fortieth birthday.

Although Angelo Rousseau said every year that he did not want anyone to make a fuss, he had been talking about his mother’s roast lamb recipe for the past three weeks. Angelo Rousseau had many fine qualities. Subtlety was not among them.

Laura had just finished chopping the fresh rosemary when she heard the front door open and close, heard footsteps in the hall leading to the kitchen. It was her son, Mark.

A tall, muscular boy with an almost balletic grace, seventeen-year-old Mark Rousseau was the vice president of his class’s student council, and captain of his track team. He had his eye on the 1,000- and 5,000-meter events at the 2016 summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

As Mark entered the kitchen, Laura slipped the lamb into the oven and set the timer.

‘How was practice?’ she asked.

‘Good,’ Mark said. He took a carton of orange juice out of the refrigerator and was just about to drink from it when he fielded a withering glance from his mother. He smiled, pulled a glass from the cupboard and poured it full. ‘Shaved a quarter-second off my hundred.’

‘My speedy boy,’ Laura said. ‘How come it takes you a month to clean your room?’

‘No cheerleaders.’

Laura laughed.

‘See if you can find an egg in the fridge,’ she said. ‘I looked twice and didn’t see any. All I need is one for the apple turnovers. Please tell me we have an egg.’

Mark poked around in the refrigerator, moving plastic containers, cartons of milk, juice, yogurt. ‘Nope,’ he said. ‘Not a one.’

‘No egg wash, no turnovers,’ Laura said. ‘They’re your father’s favorite.’

‘I’ll go.’

Laura glanced at the clock. ‘It’s okay. I’ve been in the house all day. I need the exercise.’

‘No you don’t,’ Mark said.

‘What do you mean?’

‘All my friends say I’ve got the hottest mom.’

‘They do not.’

‘Carl Fiore thinks you look like Téa Leoni,’ Mark said.

‘Carl Fiore needs glasses.’

‘That’s true. But he’s not wrong about this.’

‘You sure you don’t mind going to the store?’ Laura asked.

Mark smiled, tapped the digital clock on the oven. ‘Time me.’

Continue reading ›


Hap and Leonard Return!

Feb 02, 2016 in Excerpts, Mulholland Authors

Honky Tonk SamuraiIt gives us great joy to welcome back Hap and Leonard, the crime-solving odd couple who anchor many of Joe Lansdale’s most beloved novels. In Honky Tonk Samurai, the pair are tasked with a missing persons case that leads them to a prostitution ring operating in East Texas. Hap and Leonard don’t always play by the book, but when it come to injustice, there are no two more fearsome opponents. Read the opening chapter below, and click here for Lansdale’s book tour dates.

Chapter 1

I don’t think we ask for trouble, me and Leonard. It just finds us. It often starts casually, and then something comes loose and starts to rattle, like an unscrewed bolt on a carnival ride. No big thing at first, just a loose, rattling bolt, then the bolt slips completely free and flies out of place, the carnival ride groans and screeches, and it sags and tumbles into a messy mass of jagged parts and twisted metal and wads of bleeding human flesh.

I’m starting this at the point in the carnival ride when the bolt has started to come loose.

The truck windows were rolled down and the heat wasn’t quite unbearable yet, but the air had the smell toast gets as it begins to brown and you know the butter will spread clean. In less than a half an hour, about noon, my butt crack would be completely filled with sweat and breathing the air would be like swallowing fishhooks. I was already looking forward to loose clothes, a big glass of ice tea, and lots of air-conditioning.

We were sitting in Leonard’s new-to-him pickup truck. He traded a lot. So did I. I’m not sure why, but we were always getting a different car or truck, usually used. This one was a Dodge and it was silver, and it was only a few years old. We were two blocks down from the house we were watching.

The guy who lived in that house, the fellow we were waiting on, had a wife who thought he was cheating and had hired the Marvin Hanson Agency to find out if he was and who with. She was brokenhearted and wanted everything to be all right, and if it wasn’t she wanted to divorce him in a serious and financially lucrative way that would cause him to have to sell his balls for a place to sleep.

We weren’t full-time employees, but we worked for Marvin quite a bit, a lot more lately. Divorce work, or potential divorce work, however, was not my idea of a good time, but the lady had hired the agency for two weeks of surveillance. We were on the last day of the job, and what we had pretty well determined was her sixty-year-old husband wasn’t cheating on her at all, but he was going at odd hours to the gym, and we had a pretty good guess he didn’t want to tell her.

Leonard thought it was because the idea embarrassed him, having to work out, or wanting to. That seemed peculiar to me, but Leonard understands that kind of thinking more than I do. For a gay guy he’s much more tuned in to machismo than I am, so I guess he could be right. I figured the fellow was just going to surprise her with his new body, hoping one day she’d look up and say how good he looked. Maybe he kept going so much because she hadn’t said anything.

Irony was, we had noticed that even in the last two weeks he’d dropped some pounds and muscled up a bit, and she had noticed over the last few months the same thing, but hadn’t mentioned it to him because she thought he was dieting and buying new clothes because he had a chippie piece on the side. That’s how she said it. “I think he’s got a little chippie piece on the side.”

I hadn’t heard the word chippie used in many a moon, but the sad thing was I was old enough to remember when it was more common. I was starting to feel as if I were getting along in years and the recent ones were angry at me. By the time you’re fifty you start to realize just how much of your time on earth you’ve wasted.

Anyway, we were sitting there watching him come out of the house, ready to follow, knowing full well by this time he didn’t have a chippie piece on the side and that this was our last day so we would coast it on out for the dollar and give her our report. She had paid in advance and wanted two weeks, so I didn’t feel we were sucking money she didn’t want to spend.

I had been on a diet myself. I always exercised, and hard, and was usually in better shape than I looked, but lately I wanted to look it again, because Brett, my red-headed woman looked so good. I wanted to make my body more like the way I felt. But truth was, I had had to change my workout methods. I had dropped lifting heavy weights and gone to doing more reps with light weights. Jogging a little, but doing more walking than before. It seemed to be working. I was never going to be pretty, but I preferred not being able to rest a glass on my stomach when I was sitting down, as if it were an end table.

Even Leonard, who normally looked firm and ready for action all the time, had changed his eating and workout habits a little, because for the first time in a long time fat had crept in around his middle. He claimed it was protecting his gooey chocolate center. But since he was black as rich chocolate all over, I told him that seemed kind of redundant. And on top of that I didn’t want to know about his gooey chocolate center.

There we sat, me reflecting on these things and holding in a wheat-bread fart out of courtesy, when Leonard said, “What the hell?”

He was looking at a yard across the street from our car. A man had a dog on a leash and the dog was cowered on its belly and the man was kicking it, and I could hear him screaming at it. The dog yelped a couple of times after the kicks.

Leonard was already out of the car by this time and crossing the street.

I got out and went around and followed, heard Leonard yell, “Hey, motherfucker, how about you try kicking me?”

The man stopped his dog abuse and looked up.

I let the fart ease out. I did it quietly, not wanting to frighten the dog. I left the fart where I had laid it like a rotten egg and moved away from the smell.

“Who the hell are you?” the man said to Leonard.

“I’m the man fixing to put that leash on your neck and kick you all over this goddamn yard like a soccer ball.”

“You’re trespassing,” the man said.

“That’s just where I start,” Leonard said. “How about I put one of your goddamn eyes out?”

Appeared like a start to a fairly ordinary day for us.

I stayed at the curb while Leonard stood in the yard talking. I was waiting patiently, ready to stop Leonard from the death blow, which I was fairly certain might be coming.

“Take two of you to do it?” said the man, checking us both out. He was a pretty big guy, about Leonard’s height, wider than both of us, bigger belly than us put together. He had the air of someone who had once run with a football and thought that gave him an edge for life. Maybe he should get with his neighbor who went to the gym, get some diet and exercise tips. Still, he was big enough to cause problems, even if it was just falling on you.

“No,” Leonard said. “Just one of us.”

I said, “And you can choose which one. Just for the record, I can hit harder. But I was thinking I’d rather not get all worked up. The heat, you know.”

“He can’t hit harder,” Leonard said. “Faster, but I actually hit a little harder.”

“He’s a braggart,” I said. “We both know I can hit harder, and I’m faster, too.”

“You don’t neither one of you look so tough to me,” he said.

“Why don’t you show us how tough you are?” Leonard said. “You do pretty good with a defenseless dog wants to please you, but we don’t want to please you. Right, Hap?”

“Right,” I said.

“Tell him again.”

“Right. Not in the pleasing mood.”

“Tell you what, ass wipe,” Leonard said. “Give me the dog, let me take it with me, and we’ll call it a day, and you get to keep your face like it is. With a nose on it and everything. Without me punching a fucking hole in it.”

The guy laughed. “You are nuts. Both of you.”

“That’s what I’m trying to warn you about,” Leonard said. “But I don’t think you’re listening.”

By this point I could tell the man was starting to worry a little. That was a good idea. Leonard might truly be nuts. Some people didn’t even think it was open to discussion.

“You want him, or should I go on and beat the shit out of him?” Leonard said to me.

“I’ll just be here to stop you should you go too far.”

“Hey, now,” the man said. “You’re in my yard. I’ll call the cops.”

“I don’t think you’ll make it to the door,” Leonard said. “Got a cell phone in your pocket, you won’t have time to punch in the numbers. I promise you that. And if you call afterward, it ain’t going to help you none. The deed will be done. And they might have a hard time understanding you, as you might be missing some teeth, trying to talk with your nose gone. They might have to read your fucking lips you still got any. Now apologize to the dog and give the poor thing to me.”

“Apologize to the dog?”

“Yeah, apologize.”

“I’m not apologizing to any goddamn dog.”

“I would if I were you,” I said. “He means it.”

“Fuck you. She’s my dog.”

“Not anymore,” I said.

Leonard crossed the yard then. He moved swiftly. It was like those old Dracula movies when the vampire glides over the earth with the ease of a windblown mist. The man let go of the dog’s leash. The dog, a young German shepherd mix, maybe a year old at the most, remained cowed. I hated to see that. I loved dogs. I loved animals. People I’m a little more mixed on, so I didn’t hate what was about to happen to the asshole in the yard, though I had to consider the cops might take a different view if the guy lived long enough and was strong enough to call them. Or maybe some neighbor looking out the window had already given them a call. Probably filming the whole thing on a cell phone.

The man put his hands up, clenched his fists in what he thought was a boxing position.

Shit, I could tell from the way he stood this wasn’t even going to be a good fight.

Leonard didn’t even put his hands up, just walked right up to the guy. The man threw a haymaker so slow and cumbersome we could have damn near driven home, had a cup of coffee, and come back before it landed.

It didn’t.

Leonard looped his arm over the strike as he stepped in, most of the guy’s force going around Leonard’s back, the arm itself trapped to Leonard’s side. Leonard lunged forward and shot out a palm that caught the guy in the nose and knocked him to the ground, or as close to that as he could get with Leonard still clutching his arm, partially lifting the guy’s side off the ground.

The dog started to slink off on its belly like a soldier crawling in high grass. I went over and took the dog’s leash. When I did the dog winced.

“It’s okay, doggie,” I said. “Uncle Leonard is kicking the bad man’s ass.”

By this time Leonard had let go of the man’s arm and was kicking him sharply in the ribs, way that bastard had done the dog.

“How you like it?” Leonard said. “Enjoying that, asshole? Bark for me, cocksucker.”

The guy didn’t seem to be enjoying it. He started yelling, not barking. Hell, the dog had only yelped a little, this guy, you’d have thought was taking a real beating. And for him, I guess he was. Leonard actually seemed a little altruistic, I thought, considering it was all about animal mistreatment. Maybe he was getting old. Though actually he hadn’t had much breakfast, so it might have just been his blood sugar was down.

After a bit, I guess Leonard got tired, because he quit kicking the guy, bent down, and retied his shoe, the string having come loose. When that was done I thought he’d go back to it, but he didn’t.

The man, not learning his lesson, his face covered in blood from his nose to his chin, said, “That’s assault, nigger.”

“Couldn’t leave well enough alone, could you?” I said.

Leonard had already grabbed him by the ears and was picking him up just enough to knee him in the face. Blood went everywhere, and the guy lay on the grass without moving. I hoped he had fallen in dog turds. I thought I saw one of his teeth gleaming wetly in the grass, like a cheap Cracker Jack prize.

Leonard came over to pet the dog. The dog let him. The dog seemed to know we were on her side. Leonard said to the dog, “When he wakes up I’ll get him to apologize and maybe lick your ass.”

“You didn’t kill him, did you?” I asked.

“No, but I wanted to.”

“Well, yeah,” I said. “Me, too. But maybe it’s best not to.”

“Reckon so,” Leonard said. “Still, not nearly as satisfying. Goddamn, what’s that smell?”

“I’m having a little intestinal disturbance going on. My body does not deal well with wheat.”

“Quit eating it. God, man. That’s just foul and wrong. Let’s move to some other spot.”


How to Write a Historical Crime Novel

Jan 22, 2016 in Fiction, Guest Posts, Mulholland Authors, Writing

Historical Crime NovelWilliam Shaw is the author of the Breen and Tozer series, mysteries set in London in the late 1960s. He has been praised for his ability to evoke the period by Publishers Weekly (“Shaw perfectly captures the end of an uneasy era”), The Guardian (“A compelling and accurate portrait of a changing society”), and many others. It’s no surprise, then, that he has some advice about how to write a historical crime novel.

1. Research. Obviously. It wouldn’t be a historical novel if you didn’t. Inevitably, though, you will find you do two chunks of research. You can’t begin to write a word without immersing yourself in your era. But be prepared to start the research over once you’ve finished. After 100,000 words or so, you’ll have more questions than you started with. However, unlike at the start, when you’re just wallowing in piles of history books, now your questions will be ultra-specific. Like, how long would it take to drive across London in 1968? What coins did London phone boxes take? Once you have specific questions, you can call up real experts, and you know what? They won’t mind at all; in fact, that’s where the real fun starts. For A Song for the Brokenhearted, I had found a naturalist who could tell me about British wildlife in 1964. And when I found my expert, it was like they had waited for years for someone to come up with that topic.

2. Embrace the known unknowns. The juiciest bits are the bits between the facts. History leaves holes; this is where you play. There’s not much in the way of a record of Thomas Cromwell’s childhood, so Hilary Mantel was free to make it up in Wolf Hall. Whatever your era, the language of the common person is probably only sketchily recorded, so you’ll have to imagine what they said and how they said it.

3. … but beware the unknown unknowns. Some of the assumptions you thoughtlessly make will turn out to be plain wrong. When I wrote my first draft of She’s Leaving Home, I had Constable Helen Tozer driving a police car all the way through the book. Luckily, my recent historical past features people who are still alive. I met a couple of women who had served in Tozer’s police division in London in 1968; when I ran the plot back to them they were fine, until I reached the bit about the driving. They looked at me like I was insane. “Oh no. Policewomen didn’t drive cars, then.” Really? Ok. Major redraft. You might have your characters in a 12th-century European novel sitting down to breakfast before going to work in the fields, as Ken Follett does in Pillars of the Earth. Most people won’t notice, but all it takes is one person who knows that wouldn’t have happened… (Confession: I only know this is wrong because a disappointed historian pointed it out in a review).

4. Wear your knowledge lightly. Just because you have spent days researching the Victorian sewer system doesn’t mean you have to inflict everything you know on your reader. It is enough for them to get a sense of what Victorian London smelled like. As in any fiction, the only detail that is relevant is the stuff that enhances theme, characterization and plot. Everything else is showing off. George MacDonald Fraser, writer of the brilliant Flashman books, tucked his knowledge into footnotes that were so well-written, they were as entertaining as the text itself. And then there’s the language. Yes, it’s good to use words and phrases that remind you of a period, but verily, don’t over egg ye puddinge.

5. Finally, the single most important thing is… you must have a time traveler in your cast list. Let me explain. If crime fiction is a type of morality play—as I think it always is—then historical crime exists in a really, really weird moral universe. How do you begin to reconcile the wacky beliefs of the age you are writing about with our liberal modern present? How are you going to cope with a world in which your even your best characters must presumably think that, say, slavery is perfectly normal, that women should have no rights of their own, and that homosexuality is utter depravity? The trick is that somebody in your book—usually a narrator figure—is not really from that time at all. This is a hell of a thing to pull off. C.J. Sansom manages it brilliantly with his narrator Shardlake. Shardlake shares our revulsion with the cruelty and religious zealotry of his time, because he is like us. Shardlake is disabled and his outsider status has, over the years, forced him to see the world differently. In my Breen and Tozer series, it’s not the narrator, but the sidekick who is out of her own time. Breen is more or less of his age. It’s his loud, rock music-loving Tozer who represents our point of view, challenging his post-war preconceptions of how the world ought to be. The trick is to find that character, and if you can, you’re halfway there.


And The Nominees Are…

Jan 20, 2016 in Industry News, Mulholland News

Who’s the lucky publisher who has three books sitting on the nominee list for this year’s Edgar Awards? IT’S MULHOLLAND BOOKS! On the shortlist for Best Novel, we have Michael Robotham’s Life Or Death and Duane Swierczynski’s Canary. On the shortlist for Best Paperback Original, we have the first book in Malcolm Mackay’s Glasgow Trilogy, The Necessary Death of Lewis Winter. Want to join us in congratulating these authors? Here’s the best way to do so: read these books!

The Edgar Awards will be presented on April 28th in New York City. We will be there, whooping it up for these nominees.


How Private Security Contracting Became Private Military Contracting

Jan 12, 2016 in Guest Posts, Mulholland Authors

Zero Footprint by Simon Chase and Ralph PezzulloRalph Pezzullo is no stranger to Mulholland Books. With former Navy SEAL Don Mann, he has written five SEAL Team Six thrillers, with a sixth on the way. And with private military contractor Simon Chase, Pezzullo proves that the truth can be even more explosive than fiction.  Zero Footprint, now in bookstores, delivers a dramatic insider account of the missions conducted by PMCs. But how exactly did an industry like private security turn into a powerful private military? Read on for Pezzullo’s take.

On September 11, 2001, British Special Boat Service (SBS) commando Simon Chase (not his real name) was in Kabul, Afghanistan with a team of eleven other contractors providing security to Agha Khan IV—the Iman of Nizari Ismailism, a denomination of Shia Islam—when the World Trade Center and Pentagon were attacked by al-Qaeda terrorists.

The very next day members of the CIA’s Special Activities Division started to arrive at the Kabul guesthouse where Chase and his colleagues were staying. The director of SAD pulled Chase aside and asked him if he and his men would be willing to join the US effort to drive the Taliban out of power and help destroy al-Qaeda.

He answered, “yes,” and remembers the day as “the exact moment the business turned from private security work to private military.” In Chase’s words, we “exchanged the concealed Glocks and business suits we had previously been wearing for M4s, military gear and armored vests, and returned to our old skills and drills.” Continue reading ›


Paradise Sky by Joe Lansdale: The Illustrated Edition

Dec 22, 2015 in Books, Mulholland Authors

case6.140x9.210.inddJoe Lansdale’s epic, rollicking Western was one of our favorite publications of 2015. And we’re not the only ones who think so—the Houston Chronicle named Paradise Sky one of the 15 Best Books of 2015. Early next year, we’ll get to experience Nat Love’s adventures in a whole new way when Short, Scary Tales Publications releases the illustrated edition of Paradise Sky. Check out the panoramic dust jacket illustration:

Paradise Sky Illustrated Edition Dust Jacket

And here are three interior illustrations from the book by Ben Baldwin:

Interested in receiving the illustrated Paradise Sky as soon as it’s available? Preorder your copy today.


A Soundtrack for The Night Charter

Dec 09, 2015 in Guest Posts, Mulholland Authors, Music

The Night Charter by Sam Hawken

Music has been a part of Camaro Espinoza’s “life” since the very beginning, and different songs have, for me, come to represent her at different stages in her fictional existence. Whether it be Disturbed’s “Indestructible”—not featured here but essential listening—or White Zombie’s “Thunder Kiss ’65,” Camaro has found some of her inner life through musical expression.

The idea of a “soundtrack” for The Night Charter came early on. Between writing sessions I listen to music that speaks to me during the creative process, and little by little I begin to incorporate these into a playlist. That playlist carries the listener through The Night Charter stage by stage, from the free-spirited life Camaro enjoys on the seas (Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Up Around the Bend”) to the moment she realizes she has managed to set herself and her young charge free (Mark Knopfler with “Get Lucky”).

Some songs here represent the characters themselves, such as the aforementioned “Thunder Kiss ’65,” which contains classic lines from Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! that encapsulate Camaro perfectly—“I never try anything, I just do it. Wanna try me?” Meanwhile the melancholy Jimmy Buffett song, “Oldest Surfer on the Beach,” gives us Parker Story, the man whose youthful errors have brought him an old man’s troubles even though he’s not yet 40.

See Camaro on the titular night charter, making an exchange on the water to the eerie sounds of Fever Ray’s “Keep the Streets Empty for Me.” See her go to war as you listen to Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs.” The final few songs in the playlist are building tension, a climax of violence set to The Prodigy’s “Breathe,” and then released with Pink Floyd’s “Sorrow.” Even anti-Castro group Alpha 66 gets its moment when Dire Straits’ “Ride Across the River” plays.

The playlist is eclectic, but every song has its place and, reading the book, you’ll be able to place them where they belong with ease. Enjoy.


Meet Camaro from The Night Charter by Sam Hawken

Dec 08, 2015 in Books, Excerpts, Fiction

The Night Charter by Sam HawkenCamaro Espinoza is unlike any other action heroine you’ve ever read. First off, she’s not interested in saving the world. She’d prefer a simple, solitary life—like the one she has chartering catch-and-release fishing trips off the Miami coast. But trouble has a way of finding Camaro. In The Night Charter by Sam Hawken, which Mulholland is publishing today, we have the great pleasure of introducing our readers to “the deadliest female protagonist since Jon Land’s Caitlin Strong and Stieg Larsson’s Lisbeth Salander” (Booklist). Some advice? Read the first chapter below and stay on Camaro’s good side—this won’t be the last you see of her.


Camaro Espinoza awoke before dawn. She had fled New York City after the killing of five men exactly 364 days before.

The bright fluorescent bulb in the bathroom hurt her eyes, so she switched it off, choosing instead to shower in the dark. She left the bedroom unlit afterward, putting on her clothes without a shred of
sunlight passing through the slightly parted curtains. Her small backyard, only just visible, was a square of blackness because there was only the sliver of a moon.

She packed a small ice chest with a couple of beers and a lunch she’d made the night before, then let herself out onto the carport where a Harley-Davidson snuggled up against the shadowy bulk of her pickup. A pair of bungee cords secured the chest to the back of the pillion seat, and she walked the bike down the driveway and out onto the street. When it started up, the rumble of the engine was remarkably loud on the quiet street. She gave the throttle a twist and pulled away. The morning air stirred her dark, honey-brown hair.

Her home was in the Allapattah neighborhood of Miami, and she lived fifteen minutes from the water. A pair of lights illuminated the sign at the marina, and beyond the open gates were the steady rows of silent boats waiting patiently for their time on the waves. Camaro parked up against the side of the marina’s office. She took the ice chest with her out onto the pier.

The fifty-nine-foot Custom Carolina waited about halfway down, bobbing slightly as the water shifted beneath her hull. The boat was named the Annabel. It had taken nearly all of the money she had for Camaro to get it. The flying bridge stood tall and white against the slowly lightening sky. Camaro boarded onto the aft deck and lightly touched the fighting chair mounted there.

She stowed the ice chest in the cabin and cast off before she climbed the ladder to the bridge. The boat had an even throatier noise than the Harley did, but there were no sleepers to disturb. The marina was utterly still.

Camaro navigated out of the forest of boats and onto open water. She drove toward the rising sun and found a spot in the blue just as the last of the bright orange disk cleared the horizon.

There were poles on board and bait in a cooler she had stocked a day ago. Camaro let the Annabel drift in the Gulf Stream and cast a line. The bait sank a thousand feet. She sat in the fighting chair and relaxed with the pole in the holder between her legs, listening to nothing and feeling only the feathering morning breeze that carried across the waves.

She carried on until noon, pausing only to slather sunscreen on brown arms and drink a beer. She hid beneath a cap and a pair of wraparound sunglasses. Nothing bit, but she didn’t much care one way or the other. Today was an empty day with nothing scheduled, no clients to meet, and no responsibilities. If she went ashore without a single catch, she would at least have spent the hours with the splendor of the sea around her and the luxury of absolute quietude.

By two she’d had a couple of nibbles but no solid hits. These were swordfish waters, but swordfish hunted by night. It wasn’t unheard of to catch them in the full glare of the sun and see them rear out of the water at the end of the line, battling the hook and the tension of the rod. She could have set the bait lower, all the way down to two thousand feet, and maybe find a little action, but she preferred to let the fish come to her today. If there was going to be a fight, then there would be one, but she wasn’t looking for it.

She reeled in at three and took her lunch inside on the vinyl-surfaced galley counter. The second beer went down cold and good, and even her sandwich tasted better for the wait. There was a bed in the bow, good for naps, and she considered it, but in the end she went back to the water and rod and line and the glare of the cloudless sky.

It was close to seven o’clock when she brought the bait in for the last time and set course for the marina. She’d drifted some forty miles, and the trip back was slow, the Annabel cresting the waves and carving them, the engine keeping her high. Eventually, the shoreline came into view, and the glitter of Miami was visible in the distance. Camaro felt a delicate sadness at returning to people and roads and cars and all of that. It was better out here beyond the skyline, absent all demands. She could stay here forever if the opportunity came. She’d buy a sailing vessel and take to the high seas and be free of it all.

The sun was failing, and already the lights were on as Camaro entered the marina, closed on her berth, and spotted the man coming down the pier.

Read Chapter Two on Sam Hawken’s website

Buy The Night Charter: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Indiebound


Brian Helgeland: Why is Legend Called Legend?

Oct 01, 2015 in Film, Guest Posts

kraytwinsIt’s been four years since we had the pleasure of interviewing the Academy Award-winning screenwriter and filmmaker Brian Helgeland for our site (part I, part II). We’re so pleased to welcome him back as we look forward to the release of his new film, Legend. But who—or what—is Legend? Helgeland gives us the story.

The cigarette punch. Shake a smoke out of a pack and offer it to your unwitting victim. When he leans in to accept it—WHAM!—you break his jaw with a single punch; the fact that his mouth is open makes it that much more breakable. Reggie Kray broke the jaws of five men this way. No wait, twenty-five men. No, hold on, it was one hundred and twenty-five men. His paranoid schizophrenic brother Ron, meanwhile, was nailing people to the floor. Those are the types of stories you come across when you begin to investigate London’s most notorious gangsters—the Kray Twins.

kraytwinsmovieOn my mission to make a film about them, one of the first research images I saw was a photo of Reggie Kray’s hearse and a flower arrangement it held: white carnations spelled out the word Legend. With everything I had heard and read, the name seemed to fit and so I adopted it as my title. History is written by the winners, and Reginald Kray’s name will never be counted in that column. His story is told by enemies who hated him, whose self-serving interests necessitate that they diminish and degrade him. His story is told by authorities of law and class who wish to make him an example and hold him up as a lesson. Last, but not least, it is told by those who want to place him firmly in the mythic role of the outlaw. He was certainly some of the things they  say he was, but none of it is close to the whole truth—and no one, as far as I know, tells his story out of love.

Reggie Kray was close to two people during the free part of his life: his brother Ron and his wife Frances. My desire was to humanize him and thereby do right by all of them. How can you humanize a villain, some may protest? Well, demonizing him doesn’t ask or answer very much; it’s too damn easy to be honest and also not very interesting. For me it all begs the question: how do we ever really know what’s true about someone? What we hear is opinion, what we see is point of view, and none of it is necessarily the truth, especially where the Krays are concerned.

reggieandfrancesReggie is a myth now, doomed to a tabloid history and shoddy biography. I am guilty as well. Early on in my research I heard the story that on the morning of the day Frances Kray killed herself, Reggie had bought two tickets for them to go away together on holiday to Ibiza. That story appealed to the romantic in me, but it got even better. In his thirty-three years in prison, the one physical constant in Reggie’s existence was that he kept those unused tickets with him.

A tale of a violent cigarette-wielding gangster? I’m not that interested. But a man torn between his duty and his desire? A man who carries with him a talisman of his lost love and his sins against her for three decades behind bars?
Now we’re cooking with fire. The story of Reggie and Frances? That’s a Legend to me.

Legend opens November 20, 2015. Visit for more information.


A Soundtrack for The Killing Kind

Sep 21, 2015 in Guest Posts, Mulholland Authors, Music

The Killing Kind by Chris Holm

In a recent interview for The Life Sentence, I was asked (by an interviewer who knows damn well that I’m a music geek, on account of she’s my wife) what Michael Hendricks’s theme song would be. Here’s what I answered:

First of all, Michael would never pick himself a theme song; he’s way too self-serious for that. So I envision that question being fielded by his partner in crime, Lester Meyers, who’s a little more playful about their endeavor of killing people for money. Lester would choose James Brown’s “The Payback.” It’s a bouncy revenge tale. It’s funky. It’s interesting. If Hendricks were forced to choose his own theme song, it’d be darker, more morose. Jimi Hendrix’s “Machine Gun,” maybe. It’s a menacing, sinuous anti-war tale. I also think Massive Attack’s “Protection” wouldn’t be a bad theme song for him. In fact, if The Killing Kind were a movie, you could put “The Payback” over the opening credits and “Protection” over the closing credits, since the latter’s built around a sample of the former.

Ever since, I’ve been wondering what a soundtrack for The Killing Kind would sound like. Its antagonist, Alexander Engelmann, takes pleasure in his bloody work, and demands something arch. Its action scenes require propulsive, energetic tracks. Special Agents Thompson and Garfield deserve a nod, at least. Our damaged antihero, Hendricks, longs for a woman whose love he feels he no longer deserves, so songs of heartbreak and longing are a must. And, of course, I need something gut-wrenchingly sad for that scene in which… well, you’ll see.

Chris Holm is an award-winning short-story writer whose work has appeared in a number of magazines and anthologies, including Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Needle: A Magazine of Noir, and The Best American Mystery Stories 2011. His Collector trilogy, which blends fantasy with old-fashioned crime pulp, wound up on over forty Year’s Best lists. David Baldacci called his latest, the hitman thriller The Killing Kind, “a story of rare, compelling brilliance.” Chris lives in Portland, Maine.