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An Excerpt from White Crocodile by K. T. Medina

Jun 30, 2015 in Excerpts

White Crocodile by K.T. MedinaTess Hardy thought she had put Luke, her violent ex-husband, firmly in her past. Then he calls from Cambodia, where he is working as a mine-clearer, and there’s something in his voice she hasn’t heard before: Fear. Two weeks later, he’s dead. Against her better judgment, Tess is drawn to Battambang to solve the mystery of Luke’s sudden death, but what she discovers there is an entire network of secrecy, terror, and lies. Below is the scene in which Tess learns about the White Crocodile.

The sign was a square of painted wood nailed to a post at the edge of the minefield, hanging crooked, as if it had been hurriedly tacked up. The stick figure of a reptile daubed on a black background. Needle-sharp teeth, a splash for an eye.

Tess realised that her hands were tattooing a rhythm against her thighs. Curling them into fists, she jammed them into her pockets. There was something written in Khmer beneath the drawing. She couldn’t read it. But she knew what the thing meant.

‘White Crocodile minefield.’ A Khmer in mine-clearance fatigues was standing watching her, his flat brown face expressionless. ‘You heard about the White Crocodile?’

Tess shook her head, and thought back six months to an English spring morning: trailing a hand along the sleek lines of a young man’s coffin.

‘No.’ She was surprised at how steady her voice was. ‘What’s the White Crocodile?’

The Khmer slotted some betel nut into his mouth, his saliva reddening as he chewed. ‘It come to Cambodia at time of important change. Present at birth of Cambodia. When Khmer Rouge took country, White Crocodile seen. This minefield.’ He gestured towards the red-and-white warning tape. ‘When this minefield found, White Crocodile here.’ He stared past her, out across the spoiled fields. ‘Seen here.’

‘So it represents fate, does it? Is that what people in Cambodia think?’

The mine clearer levelled his gaze at hers; he hadn’t understood.

‘Fate,’ she repeated. ‘Something that is meant to be. Something that you can’t change whatever you do.’

‘Bhat.’ Sudden understanding lent a gleam to his dark eyes. ‘Fate. The White Crocodile is fate.’

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Joe Lansdale on How He Came to Write Paradise Sky

Jun 15, 2015 in Guest Posts, Mulholland Authors

Paradise Sky by Joe R. LansdaleIn the late 1970’s, I became intrigued with nonfiction material I read about black cowboys and soldiers in the Old West. I was surprised to find that their contribution to the West was much larger than I had been led to believe by general history books, Western novels, and films over the years. The reason for this is painful but real: Racism had hidden their contribution. The information was there, and in abundance, but it hadn’t been properly mined. A full quarter or more of the cowboys in the Old West had been black or of color. You didn’t see this in Westerns. Blacks were always maids and cooks in novels and film, if they were represented at all.

Most of the material about their lives and times in the West, was nonfiction. John Ford had touched on it in a safe way in his film Sergeant Rutledge. Still, on the posters the main star was Jeffery Hunter, not the black actor, Woody Strode, who played the title character. There were a few novels about blacks in the West, but I didn’t encounter any that were epic. I was thinking of writing one in the vein of Wild Times by Brian Garfield, Little Big Man by Thomas Berger, The Big Sky by A.B. Guthrie, Jr., or The Travels of Jaimie McPheeters by Robert Lewis Taylor. I wanted to write about the real black experience in the West, and at the same time, make it larger than life. I had also read an autobiography about Western life by a black cowboy named Nat Love. Nat Love’s experiences were no doubt influenced by the dime novels of his era, so it has to be taken with a grain of salt, but his story was epic, and it was clear he knew his business when it came to being a cowboy. He knew the world of his time, and was able to express it in such a way as to put you there. It was the kind of book I wanted to write. Better yet, it was a book by an actual black cowboy. He was doing the same thing that many white Westerners had done. He was “stretching the blanket,” as they used to say, taking kernels of truth and turning them into a kind of hybrid product that housed both reality and dadburn lies. He claimed to have acquired the nickname Deadwood Dick due to a shooting match he won in old Deadwood, and he also claimed the dime novels about Deadwood Dick, the Black Rider of the Plains, were based on him. No doubt they were not, but this was a kind of wish fulfillment for Nat, so he took his life and welded it to the Wild West tale. Unlike so many dime novel heroes, Nat’s adventures seemed real.

Ned BuntlineThis inspired me more than any of the books I read about the black experience. I had the real material in hand, but I loved the way Nat told a story. I wanted my novel to be almost mythic. I was eleven years old when I first read the Iliad and the Odyssey by Homer, and I had already devoured all the Greek myths. That grand sweep, the epic adventures of gods and heroes, hit me hard. I think for years I was trying to find a novel-length outlet for a story about the black experience in the West that could be mythic, or legendary, and when I was in my late twenties the idea of tying it to a realistic background was the way I decided I wanted to go. More real than myth, and instead of Greek-style mythology, I chose the voice of the frontiersman, as it was expressed by Nat Love and in dime novels. I read a large number of the Buffalo Bill novels by Ned Buntline, and those by other authors about Jesse James, and other frontier heroes. I read Davy Crockett’s fictionalized biography (and boy was it), and that had a terrific impact on the way I wanted to tell a story. I decided I was going to write a novel titled The True Life Adventures of Deadwood Dick (still my preferred title). Continue reading ›

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Six Historical Murders That Would Make for Great Crime Fiction

May 28, 2015 in Guest Posts

Thriller writers are always looking for inspiration, and what better source of crime than the annals of history? Author Andrea Maria Schenkel knows this better than most. Her new novel, Ice Cold, revisits a terrible crime that took place in 1930s Munich. Below, she does aspiring writers a favor by recounting six real-life murders that could inspire the best true crime books.

Wano De Grier Walsh

Wano De Grier Walsh and her husband, Edward DeWitt Walsh, were hosting a dinner party in Montclair, New Jersey in November 1903 when Mrs. Walsh suddenly reported feeling ill. Her husband carried her upstairs, and shortly after he returned, the sound of a handgun rang through the house. The guests and Mr. Walsh ran upstairs to find Mrs. Walsh dead—shot through the heart. While ruled a suicide, her death is surrounded by mystery. The New York Times reported that she had been “in excellent spirits all through the dinner and was quite the life of the little gathering.” Moreover, her death was not reported to police until two hours after the gunshot was heard.

ArnoldRothsteinArnold Rothstein

Rothstein was the mastermind behind the 1919 “Black Sox” scandal in which several players from the heavily favored Chicago White Sox took money from gamblers to intentionally throw games in the World Series. Nine years later, Rothstein was shot and mortally wounded at the Park Central Hotel in Manhattan. On his deathbed, he refused to identify his killer. A Rothstein-like character briefly appears in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby,” but a book-length fictional look at this early 20th-century gambler would undoubtedly be a grand slam.

MichaelStuhlbargThere is an eponymous character on the popular television show “Boardwalk Empire” nicknamed “The Big Bankroll”—based on the real Rothstein and played by Michael Stuhlbarg.

 

An engraving of James A. Garfield's assassination, published in Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper.

An engraving of James A. Garfield’s assassination, published in Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper.

President James Garfield

The assassination of Abraham Lincoln has long been of interest to fiction and non-fiction writers alike. But the killing of the United States’s 20th president, James Garfield, offers ample material for a crime novel. The Ohio native, who served less than a year, was shot in early July of 1861 in the presence of his secretary of war—and Lincoln’s son—Robert Todd Lincoln. Garfield died two and a half months later, most likely due to poor medical treatment, and only after inventor Alexander Graham Bell worked feverishly to devise a metal detector in a futile attempt to locate the bullet.

 

Left: 1968 newspaper article about “Bible John” victim Patricia Docker. Right: Artist’s rendering of “Bible John”

Left: 1968 newspaper article about “Bible John” victim Patricia Docker. Right: Artist’s rendering of “Bible John”

“Bible John”

In the late 1960s, three women were murdered after spending the evening in Glasgow’s Barrowland Ballroom. The sister of one of the victims reported that a man seen with her sibling called himself “John” and quoted from the Bible, thus earning his nickname. As with Jack the Ripper in the 19th century, many have claimed the identity of “Bible John,” but the killings have never been solved.

 

Christa Lehmann

Christa Lehmann in court (Corbis)

Christa Lehmann in court (Corbis)

In the 1950s in southwestern Germany, Lehmann’s husband, who suffered from stomach ulcers, and father, who suffered from heart failure, appeared to die of natural causes about a year apart. The following year a friend of Lehmann’s died after ingesting liqueur-filled chocolate-covered mushrooms that Lehmann had brought home. When police discovered that the treat had been laced with poison, they exhumed the bodies of Lehmann’s spouse and father—whose bodies showed traces of the exact same toxic material. Given the police’s tardy discovery of these crimes, one wonders: whom else did Lehmann know, and did she kill them, too?

Hugo Betthauer and Otto Rothstock

HugoBetthauerWhat happens when a writer of numerous detective novels becomes the victim? Such was the fate of Hugo Betthauer, who was murdered in Vienna by a member of the National Socialist (Nazi) Party in 1925. The motives of the killer, Otto Rothstock, remain unclear. Coincidentally, or perhaps not, three years earlier Betthauer penned “The City without Jews,” a satirical—but prophetic—look at anti-Semitism in the 1920s.

 

Andrea Maria Schenkel lives with her family near Regensburg in Bavaria, Germany. On publication in Germany, her first novel, The Murder Farm, won the German Crime Prize as well as the Friedrich-Glauser Prize. Her second novel, Ice Cold, will be published on June 2nd.

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An Excerpt from Written in the Blood by Stephen Lloyd Jones

May 26, 2015 in Excerpts

Written in the Blood by Stephen Lloyd JonesYou may remember Leah Wilde, the daughter of Hannah and Nate, from Stephen Lloyd Jones’s debut novel, The String Diaries. If you don’t, no matter—all you need to know is that Leah’s tribe of supernaturally long-lived people is dying out, and she won’t stand for it. In a desperate bid against extinction, Leah brings together long-standing enemies, but her heroic actions have marked her as the most hunted young woman in the world. In the passage below from Written in the Blood, Leah learns more about the forces that threaten her.

Oxford, England

Leah Wilde arrived in Oxford, squeezing her hired Mercedes into a tight parking space outside a terraced row of town houses a few minutes’ walk from Balliol College.

It had been raining back in London, but the clouds had receded as she drove west, and now a red sun set fires blazing across the limestone façades of the buildings.

Professor Emeritus Patrick Beckett lived in a converted first-floor apartment in one of the Victorian houses along the terrace. Leah found his name beneath a bell and rang it. Moments later a device on the door clacked and its lock released. She let herself into a hallway that probably hadn’t seen a fresh coat of paint in thirty years.

An uneven floor of red and white tile was home to a collection of strangled umbrellas and a console table overflowing with curling telephone directories. To the left a staircase, covered by a frayed grey carpet, rose at a steep angle. Bolted to the wall beside it hung a newly installed stairlift, its red vinyl seat and smooth metal track a jarring counterpoint to the rest of the decor. Leah followed the stairs up and to the right, where she encountered a yellowing front door.

‘It’s open!’ The voice – high-pitched and wavering, hallmark of the very old – was the most cheerful Leah had heard in weeks. ‘I’m in the snug! Second door on the right! If you see a sheepish-looking cat out there you can throttle him for me. Wretched thing just peed on my foot.’

Leah pushed open the door into a hallway so piled with books that she had to shuffle through it sideways to avoid knocking over any of the stacks. It felt both incredibly claustrophobic and wonderfully homely all at once, although the smell, a cocktail of moth balls, cooked porridge oats, rancid cat litter and old books, made her nose wrinkle. A ginger cat stalked towards her, tail held high and eyes averted, as if offended by the accusation it had just endured.

She found the door to the snug, opened it, and from within heard a stack of papers collapse and fan out across the floor.

‘Don’t worry about that!’ cried the voice. ‘Come in, come in!’

Leah slid around the door, which had wedged itself rigid over the toppled pile, and entered the strangest little room she had ever seen. Continue reading ›

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An Excerpt from The Doll Maker by Richard Montanari

Apr 28, 2015 in Excerpts

The Doll Maker by Richard MontanariDetectives Kevin Byrne and Jessica Balzano are back to take on Richard Montanari’s most frightening creations yet: the debonair Mr. Marseille and Anabelle. Mr. Marseille and Anabelle have a macabre mission, one that belies their refined appearance. Below is their first appearance in Montanari’s new novel, The Doll Maker, which is on sale today.

Chapter 1

At just after six a.m., as every other day, Mr Marseille and I opened our eyes, dark lashes counterweighted to the light.

It was mid-November, and although the frost had not yet touched the windows—this usually comes to our eaves in late December—there was a mist on the glass that gave the early morning light a delicate quality, as if we were looking at the world through a Lalique figurine.

Before we dressed for the day we drew our names in the condensation on the windowpane, the double l in Mr Marseille’s name and the double l in mine slanting toward one another like tiny Doric columns, as has been our monogram for as long as we both could remember.

Continue reading ›

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An Excerpt from When We Were Animals by Joshua Gaylord

Apr 21, 2015 in Excerpts, Mulholland News

When We Were Animals by Joshua GaylordWhen Lumen Fowler looks back on her childhood, she wouldn’t have guessed she would become a kind suburban wife, a devoted mother. In fact she never thought she would escape her small and peculiar hometown, where at puberty, every resident “breaches” during the full moon. On these nights, adolescents run wild, destroying everything in their path. When We Were Animals is Lumen’s confessional, and below is an excerpt from the haunting and beautiful novel, which goes on sale today.

Do you want to know who I am?

Do you want to know what I do?

I live next door to you with my husband and my child.

I have done such things as would shame the devil, yet I keep my front yard tidy, the trash bins lined up neatly on trash day.

I attend the meetings of the PTA. I offer to bake cookies.

At night, after everyone is asleep, I creep downstairs to the kitchen table and write down my memories. They are the stories I tell myself when I can’t sleep. Like fairy tales—or the mythos
of a lost culture.

I was an excellent student.

I am an excellent member of the community. I never spit, and I always put my waste in the proper receptacles.

Do you know what else I do? Continue reading ›

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Start Reading Inspector of the Dead by David Morrell

Mar 24, 2015 in Books, Excerpts, Fiction

Inspector of the Dead by David MorrellThomas De Quincey is a real person. He really was addicted to opium, and in 1821, he really did scandalize all of England with his first-person account of addiction, Confessions of an English Opium-Eater. He really was the first to advance the idea of a subconscious (70 years before Freud), and he really was an expert in murder, publishing a masterful report of the Ratcliff Highways killings of 1811 called “On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts.” But in David Morrell’s hands, Thomas De Quincey becomes the insightful, provocative hero of a bestselling historical thriller series. In 2013, Mulholland Books published Murder as a Fine Art. Today, we publish the sensational sequel, Inspector of the Dead. Read the shocking first chapter—in which we meet a vengeful killer—below.

CHAPTER ONE: THE KILLING ZONE

London, 1855

Except for excursions to a theater or a gentlemen’s club, most respectable inhabitants of the largest city on earth took care to be at home before the sun finished setting, which on this cold Saturday evening, the third of February, occurred at six minutes to five.

That time—synchronized with the clock at the Royal Greenwich Observatory—was displayed on a silver pocket watch that an expensively dressed, obviously distinguished gentleman examined beneath a hissing gas lamp. As harsh experiences had taught him, appearance meant everything. The vilest thoughts might lurk within someone, but the external semblance of respectability was all that mattered. For fifteen years now, he couldn’t recall a time when rage had not consumed him, but he had never allowed anyone to suspect, enjoying the surprise of those upon whom he unleashed his fury.

Tonight, he stood at Constitution Hill and stared across the street toward the murky walls of Buckingham Palace. Lights glowed faintly behind curtains there. Given that the British government had collapsed four days earlier because of its shocking mismanagement of the Crimean War, Queen Victoria was no doubt engaged in urgent meetings with her Privy Council. A shadow passing at one of the windows might belong to her or perhaps to her husband, Prince Albert. The gentleman wasn’t certain which of them he hated more.

Approaching footsteps made him turn. A constable appeared, his helmet silhouetted against the fog. As the patrolman focused his lantern on the quality of clothing before him, the gentleman made himself look calm. His top hat, overcoat, and trousers were the finest. His beard—a disguise—would have attracted notice years earlier but was now fashionable. Even his black walking stick with its polished silver knob was the height of fashion.

“Good evening, sir. If you don’t mind me saying, don’t linger,” the constable warned. “It doesn’t do to be out alone in the dark, even in this neighborhood.”

“Thank you, constable. I’ll hurry along.”

Continue reading ›

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Lev AC Rosen on Future Noir

Mar 19, 2015 in Guest Posts, Uncategorized

Depth_Main_ImageLev AC Rosen’s new novel, Depth (published by Regan Arts), is a classic hardboiled mystery set in a future radically transformed by environmental catastrophe. Here, Lev explains how he hit upon that combination.

The Big Sleep is my favorite noir movie—of course, it has to be the 1946 version, which has more Bacall and Bogart scenes than the original version from the year before—that wasn’t actually released until much later. Don’t get me wrong, I love a lot of them: Laura, Double Indemnity, The Maltese Falcon, The Blue Dahlia… maybe I love all of them. But The Big Sleep is my favorite.

A lot of people don’t understand why I’d be so into a movie that, frankly, makes very little sense, even less sense than the first cut. (Supposedly, not even Raymond Chandler was sure who killed the chauffeur.) But it makes perfect sense to me—it’s the style. The Big Sleep is dripping in noir style that you just don’t see anymore. The glamour of Lauren Bacall coming down the steps at night in her dressing gown, the gruesomeness of her sister’s disorder, the dirtiness of all the (unnamed, because of the Hayes Code) crimes Philip Marlowe uncovers—drugs, sexual coercion, abuse, blackmail. The scenes between Bogart and Bacall are fantastic—the telephone scene, or the moment in his office when he tells her to go ahead and scratch, or the talk about her sister, or my favorite, the horseracing conversation. Nothing really captures, for me, the feel of noir like that movie.

So when I set out to write my own hardboiled noir detective fiction, I knew I wanted that feel. I thought about writing something period, but it felt too familiar. I tried writing it in the present day, but it didn’t have the glamour or the grit I wanted. So I did something that I’ve been told was either a brilliant idea or a very bad one: I set my story in the future. I imagined a world where the ice caps have melted and all that’s left of New York City is the tops of buildings, with worn bridges and decommissioned boats floating between them. A city of flotsam.

This was a world where my detective, Simone Pierce, who I tried to write as a female Bogie, could have hard-boiled conversations with the cops and her clients. Where a body could just vanish by being rolled into the water, where crime could flourish and justice was a wisp you would try to snatch out of the air (and probably miss). This was a world, in short, that felt noir.

I know, I know, I know. “You got scifi in my noir!” “You got noir in my scifi!” Now no one will want to eat it. I heard that (well, maybe not exactly that, but some variation on it) over and over, along with the “no one will know how to sell this because these are two different types of readers” refrain from various publicity departments, though ultimately I did find an editor and publisher who found the world of Depth as enthralling as I did. I didn’t do market research when I created this world. But I knew the feeling of the thing I wanted to write and I found my way of getting there. And I ended up with my lone detective in a ruined world, trying to keep everything as together as it can be. It might be less then traditional, but I do genuinely look at Depth as a noir that just happens to take place at the end of the world. Because the end of the world is where I found my noir voice.

Lev-by-Rachel-ShaneLev AC Rosen is the author of the critically acclaimed All Men of Genius and the middle grade novel Woundabout. He received his BA from Oberlin College and his MFA in Creative Writing from Sarah Lawrence College. Lev is originally from lower Manhattan, and now lives in even lower Manhattan, right at the edge of the water, with his husband and a very small cat. You can find him online at LevACRosen.com.

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Visiting Inspector of the Dead: Radiant St. James’s Church

Mar 16, 2015 in Guest Posts, Mulholland Authors

David Morrell’s Inspector of the Dead is set on the harrowing streets of 1855 London. A gripping Victorian mystery/thriller, its vivid historical details come from years of research. Here are photo essays that David Morrell prepared about the novel’s fascinating locations. Read the first post about Mayfair and Belgravia, the second post about Constitution Hillthe third post about Lord Palmerston’s House, the fourth post about Jay’s Mourning Warehouse, and the fifth post about the Crystal Palace.

If asked to name the most impressive church in London, most people would say, “St. Paul’s cathedral.”

stjames1

They might be surprised to learn that its designer, the great English architect, Sir Christopher Wren, considered a quite different, small, simple church to be his favorite creation.

Continue reading ›

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Visiting Inspector of the Dead: The Magnificent Crystal Palace

Mar 02, 2015 in Guest Posts, Mulholland Authors

David Morrell’s Inspector of the Dead is set on the harrowing streets of 1855 London. A gripping Victorian mystery/thriller, its vivid historical details come from years of research. Here are photo essays that David prepared about the novel’s fascinating locations. Read the first post about Mayfair and Belgravia, the second post about Constitution Hillthe third post about Lord Palmerston’s House, and the fourth post about Jay’s Mourning Warehouse.

The first world’s fair took place in London in 1851. Championed by Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert, it demonstrated the might and majesty of the British Empire. Officially called the Great Exhibition, it quickly became known as the Crystal Palace exhibition because of the amazing building in which it occurred.Crystal1

Crystal2

Continue reading ›

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