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Ruler of the Night: Wyld’s Monster Globe

Sep 18, 2016 in Guest Posts, Mulholland Authors

David Morrell’s Ruler of the Night is set on the harrowing, fogbound 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 essay about Euston Station.

Wyld’s Monster Globe was constructed in 1851 to take advantage of the millions of curiosity seekers who traveled to London for the first world’s fair—the so-called Crystal Palace Exhibition. (See a separate photo essay about the amazing Crystal Palace.)

Sixty feet in diameter, one of the tallest buildings in the West End, the Monster Globe occupied much of Soho’s Leicester Square, a formerly pastoral area that had degenerated into weeds, trash, and dead cats. An entrepreneur named James Wyld persuaded the square’s owners to lease it to him, promising to improve the area immensely. To their dismay, they discovered that his idea of improvement was to fill the Square with his Globe.

Artist: Thomas H. Shepherd

For the price of a shilling, visitors could step inside and admire plaster models of the world’s continents, oceans, rivers, and mountains. As many as three million people did so, and none seemed to think it bizarre that they viewed a world turned outside in, where mountains that normally rose toward the sky now pointed inward toward the Earth’s core. In Ruler of the Night, this inverted world parallels Thomas De Quincey’s inside-out opium logic in which there are many realities. Lord Palmerston visits the Monster Globe for a crucial meeting with one of his spies.

Illustrated London News, 7 June 1851

As the attraction’s popularity diminished, Wyld allowed the building to deteriorate. When his lease expired in 1862, the owners of Leicester Square reclaimed the property and ordered Wyld to demolish the huge structure. Restoration of the gardens took several years, but by 1874, the area had indeed been improved immensely. The unusual building in the background is the Alhambra Theater, which remained standing until 1936.

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A Soundtrack for Red Right Hand

Sep 13, 2016 in Guest Posts, Mulholland Authors, Music

Red Right Hand by Chris Holm

When people ask about my writing process, I usually describe it as “blind panic.” The fact is, my approach differs wildly from book to book. Sometimes I outline. Sometimes I don’t. Sometimes the story pours out of me, and sometimes getting words down is like pulling teeth. But there’s been one constant throughout: I can’t listen to music while I write.

That tends to make any book soundtrack I cook up something of an afterthought—but not this time. Though I still wrote in silence, music played a huge role in the genesis of Red Right Hand.

Obviously, I borrowed my title from the Nick Cave song of the same name. He was kind enough to grant me permission to use a quote from it as an epigraph; it appears alongside the Milton quote that, in turn, inspired him.

The Freewheelin' Bob DylanRed Right Hand’s opening chapter features a man attempting to recreate a photo taken of his parents on their honeymoon. That photo was based on the iconic cover of The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, on which “Masters of War” appears. (My first draft even name-checked the album.) I chose that song in particular because the book grapples with the privatization—and monetization—of global security.

Dylan sneaks into the soundtrack a second time as the songwriter behind Johnny Cash’s “Wanted Man.” It, too, appeared in an early version of the book, as the song Chet Yancey whistles at the end of chapter eighteen.

Neko Case’s “Knock Loud” is a cheeky homage to the weirdest meet-cute I’m ever likely to write, in which a retired gangster attempts to break into a wealthy ex-professor’s home.

Said retired gangster needed a distinguishing characteristic to tie his physical appearance to that of his younger self in the prologue. I was stumped as to what it should be until I took a walk and The Velvet Underground’s “Pale Blue Eyes” popped up on shuffle.

As for the other tracks, each is resonant in its own way. A mood, an image, a phrase. But to tell you much more would be to dip into spoiler territory, so instead I’m gonna shut up and let you listen in peace.

Oh, one last thing: in an ideal world, this playlist would include Morphine’s “Take Me With You,” but Spotify failed me. Feel free to find it elsewhere and give it a spin.

Chris Holm is the author of the Collector trilogy, which blends crime and fantasy, and the Michael Hendricks thrillers. His first Hendricks novel, The Killing Kind, was nominated for an Anthony, a Barry, a Lefty, and a Macavity Award and named a New York Times Editors’ Choice, a Boston Globe Best Book of 2015, and Strand Magazine’s #1 Book of 2015. Hendricks returns in Red Right Hand, now in bookstores. For more about Chris, including links to his Twitter profile and Facebook page, visit www.chrisholmbooks.com.

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Mulholland Books at Bouchercon 2016

Sep 02, 2016 in Industry News, Mulholland Authors, Mulholland News

Bouchercon 2016I love going to Bouchercon, the annual mystery reader conference. But this year, enthusiasm is at fever pitch, because Bouchercon will be held in New Orleans! Authors are turning out in record numbers, because who doesn’t love The Big Easy? And the same goes for your friends at Mulholland Books, who will be celebrating five years as a publisher of page-turning thrillers, brilliant mysteries, and genre-bending suspense.

Here’s where to find our authors this year—and by extension, where you’ll find us. You know, in case you have an extra birthday cake you want to unload.

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 15

12:00-12:50 One More Time: Novels and characters taking on another life on screen with David Morrell, author of Inspector of the Dead (LaGalleries 6)

1:30-2:20 Something To Talk About: Open Topic with Lawrence Block, author of Hit Me, and Joe Lansdale, author of Honky Tonk Samurai (Mardi Gras E)

6:30-9:00 Opening Ceremonies. We’ve got our fingers crossed for Life or Death by Michael Robotham and The Killing Kind by Chris Holm to win the Barry Award for Best Novel. These same novels are also up for Macavity Awards: Life or Death is in the running for Best Mystery, and The Killing Kind is up for Best First Mystery. Congratulations, gentlemen! (Carondelet/Bissonet Ballrooms)

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 16

7:30-9 New Author Breakfast with David Swinson, author of The Second Girl in (Bissonet)

10:10-10:40 Lawrence Block signs books at Mystery Mike’s booth in the book room.

11:00-11:30 Get a free galley of Joe Lansdale‘s next Hap and Leonard novel, Rusty Puppy, in the book room. Lansdale will be signing ’em, too!

11:40-12:30 Join us at Mystery Mike’s booth in the book room for a MEGA-SIGNING with Chris Holm, Duane Swierczynski, David Morrell, David Swinson, Matthew Quirk, Joe Lansdale, and William Shaw. BYOB—and yes, that means Bring Your Own Book. Mystery Mike will have some for sale, too.

2:00-2:50 We Don’t Need Another Hero: Thunderdome competition with Duane Swierczynski, author of Revolver, and Chris Holm, author of Red Right Hand (Mardi Gras D)

3:30-4:00 William Shaw, author of the Breen and Tozer trilogy, is joining us for his first Bouchercon! Meet us in the book room to pick up a free copy of his forthcoming mystery, The Birdwatcher.

6:30-7:30 How special is this: as part of the Anthony Award festivities, Lee Child will be interviewing David Morrell, this year’s Lifetime Achievement Guest of Honor! (Orpheum Theater)

8:00-10:00 Stick around for the rest of the Anthony Awards—which Mulholland Books is proud to sponsor. We’ll be rooting for Chris Holm, whose first Hendricks thriller, The Killing Kind, is up for Best Novel!

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 17

9:00-9:50 All Tensed Up: Spy Thrillers with Matthew Quirk, author of Cold Barrel Zero (Mardi Gras FG)

10:30-11:20 Yesterday: Historical with Kathleen Kent, author of The Dime (Mardi Gras FG)

12:00-12:50 Bad to the Bone: Anti-Heros with Chris Holm, author of Red Right Hand, and David Swinson, author of The Second Girl (Mardi Gras ABC)

2:30-3:00 Get on board Kathleen Kent‘s new crime series with a free copy of The Dime signed by the author in the book room.

3:30-4:00 David Morrell‘s bestselling Victorian thriller series comes to a close with Ruler of the Night. Get a free advance copy signed by the author in the book room.

3:40-4:10 Rev your engines: C.J. Box, James Sallis, Wallace Stroby, Gary Phillips, and Ace Atkins all sign at Mystery Mike’s booth in the book room, and the first 25 readers to arrive will receive a free galley of The Highway Kind, the car-themed short story collection to which these authors all contributed.

SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 18

9:00-10:00 Another Town, Another Train: Setting with William Shaw, author of A Song for the Brokenhearted (LaGalleries 6)

12:00-12:50 Guest of Honor panel with David Morrell (Carondelet)

 

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Ruler of the Night: Magnificent Euston Station

Aug 07, 2016 in Guest Posts, Mulholland Authors

Ruler of the Night by David MorrellDavid Morrell’s Ruler of the Night is set on the harrowing, fogbound 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.

The railway era began in 1830 with the first train between Liverpool and Manchester. Ten years later, almost two thousand miles of tracks crisscrossed Britain. By 1855, a mere twenty-five years later, six thousand miles of tracks united every corner of the nation, with more being planned. Materials, products, and coal could now be transported with such speed and profit that Britain became the first nation to take full advantage of the Industrial Revolution, achieving unprecedented world dominance.

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London’s first railway stations were monuments of power and prosperity, but none equaled the grandeur of Euston Station, one of the principal locales in Ruler of the Night. Euston Station was graced with an impressive entrance courtyard and a huge arch that rose 70 feet high and was 44 feet wide, the largest of its kind in the world. Massive ornate bronze gates added to its spectacle.

Euston2

There was further grandeur. Beyond the arch, to the right, travelers entered the Great Hall, with its twin staircases, numerous columns, and eight statues. It was 64 feet high, 126 feet long, and 61 feet wide.

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But while the arch and the Great Hall evoked the wonder of classical antiquity, the actual railway platform represented the industrial age. Composed of iron and glass, it now seems more bleak than awesome. The original station with its arch and Great Hall was destroyed in 1961 to make room for a larger but less impressive one.

Euston5

Ruler of the Night is based on an actual incident: the first murder on an English train and the terrifying consequences.

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Laird Hunt and Christopher Charles in Conversation

Aug 03, 2016 in Fiction, Mulholland Authors, Writing

The Exiled by Christopher Charles The Exiled is Christopher Charles’s debut thriller, featuring a detective named Wes Raney who seeks refuge from his ignominious past in NYC in the brutal and beautiful New Mexican desert. Of Charles’s novel, Shelf Awareness writes “The Exiled is a fine piece of crime fiction with a keen sense of timing and character.” Here to talk about timing and character is Christopher Charles in conversation with his former writing instructor, Laird Hunt, author of the critically acclaimed novel Neverhome.

Laird Hunt: Which came first: Raney in New York or Raney in the New Mexican desert? When did you know you were going to give both Raneys more or less equal portions of the novel?

Christopher Charles: Raney in the desert came first, largely because the desert came first. I started with the crime, or an image of the crime: three bodies in a Cold-War style bunker in the New Mexico desert. The detective grew from the case. The murders felt urban to me—out of place in the southwestern landscape. The detective had to be urban and out of place, too.

To be honest, I’m not sure the decision to give them equal portions of the novel was ever really a conscious one—the past just seemed to be catching up with the present as I wrote, and I went where the story took me.

Hunt: The later Raney obviously contains the earlier. In what ways does the earlier Raney contain the later?

Charles: They’re both motivated in ways they don’t necessarily understand. They’re driven, but their drive is like a foreign entity. Raney at any age would likely launch full-throttle into anything you put in front of him. Both Raneys have an idyllic vision of who they’d like to be, but they can’t stop themselves from chasing after whatever seems urgent in the present. Older Raney realizes that he can only control himself by controlling his environment. But how long can you sustain that? How long can you remain isolated in the desert—even if the desert itself has become your passion—before civilization calls you back? Continue reading ›

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Read the First Chapter of Revolver by Duane Swierczynski

Jul 24, 2016 in Excerpts

Revolver by Duane SwierczynskiDuane Swierczynski’s new novel opens in 1965, but the events in the opening pages reverberate forward and backwards through the decades. The event crosses family lines, race lines, and legal lines, putting nearly all of Philadelphia in its cross hairs. Read the first chapter of Revolver below and discover the crime that sets everything in motion.

Stan Walczak – May 7, 1965

Officer Stanisław “Stan” Walczak usually takes his beer by the gallon, but he’s taking it easy this hot spring afternoon. He uses the backs of his thick fingers to wipe away the sweat beading up on his forehead. It’s seventy-two degrees and very humid. His Polish blood can’t stand the humidity.

He looks over at his partner, George W. Wildey. Unlike Stan, Wildey rarely breaks a sweat. He also hardly ever drinks. But after the week they’ve had, George said a cold one was most definitely in order. Stan couldn’t agree more.

They’re in plain clothes, but anybody setting foot in the bar would immediately tag them as cops. No white guy ever hangs out with a black guy in North Philly unless they’re undercover fuzz.

Technically, both are shirking duty.

A dozen blocks away, protestors are surrounding Girard College, and Stan and George are supposed to be there to help keep order. Over 130 years ago the richest man in Philadelphia willed most of his considerable fortune to establish a school for “poor, white, male” orphans on the outskirts of the city. Over the next 100 years, neighborhoods rose up around the campus. The neighborhood changed from German to Irish to Jewish and finally to black, even as the students of Girard College remained poor, white, and male.

After Brown v. Board of Education, however, blacks began to fight for their seats in the classroom. Picketing by the NAACP began seven days ago, and the commissioner dispatched a thousand police to the scene to make sure nothing got out of hand. The last thing the city wants is another riot like that clusterfuck on Columbia Avenue last August.

Stan and George were assigned to the protests from the very first day. Punishment detail, best they can figure. They must have pissed off someone high up. But despite fears of another riot, nothing has really happened. A few jokers trying to scale the twenty-foot wall onto the campus, but that’s been it. Otherwise, just a lot of standing around and waiting. Stan is pretty sure nobody will miss them. Continue reading ›

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Fictionalizing Crime

Jul 12, 2016 in Books, Guest Posts

Baby Doll by Hollie OvertonDebut novelist and television writer and producer Hollie Overton’s lifelong obsession with true crime inspired her debut thriller Baby Doll. The novel tells the story of Lily Riser, an identical twin who is kidnapped at sixteen and held captive for eight years. One day, her captor forgets to lock the deadbolt and Lily and her young daughter manage to escape. Baby Doll explores what happens next—to Lily, her twin sister Abby, their mother Eve, and Lily’s captor. Overton celebrates the publication of Baby Doll by sharing with us her favorite thrillers based on true crimes.

I had the idea for Baby Doll in 2013 when the three Cleveland women held captive for ten years by Ariel Castro finally managed to escape. As an identical twin, I kept thinking about Castro’s victims and all that they lost. I couldn’t begin to imagine how I’d cope if I lost my twin sister.

I also drew upon my own experiences, having spent my childhood with an alcoholic father who had his own own true crime past. As a member of Austin’s notorious Overton Gang, my dad spent seven years in prison for manslaughter, before marrying my mother and attempting to start a new life. This fascination with true crime, the people who commit them and the victims has evolved over the years. I love when other writers take true stories and make them their own. These are my top five thrillers inspired by some of the country’s most sensational crimes.

#5: Cartwheel by Jennifer Dubois

Cartwheel by Jennifer DuboisIn Cartwheel Lily, a young, optimistic foreign exchange student, travels to Buenos Aires and quickly becomes the prime suspect when her roommate is murdered. Lily’s family arrives to defend their daughter, but her strange behavior and lack of an alibi leaves them questioning what really happened and how well they know her.

It’s easy to see the similarities in Cartwheel to the Amanda Knox case. In 2007, twenty-year-old Amanda Knox was studying in Italy, when she was accused of murdering her roommate, Meredith Kercher. After Knox’s arrest, controversy exploded around the young woman’s behavior during and after her interrogation as well as countless media stories that painted her as an American seductress.

Like so many people, I found myself fascinated by this case, devouring news stories, analyzing what the media presented, wondering if there was any way to really know the truth. Despite the familiar subject matter, Dubois’s perspective on such a famous case is deeply engrossing.

#4: Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll

Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica KnollLuckiest Girl Alive tells the story of Ani FaNelli, a beautiful, young and successful, magazine writer, engaged to the man of her dreams. Ani is hiding a painful secret from her past, a secret that could destroy her perfectly constructed life.

Upon the release of Luckiest Girl Alive, author Jessica Knoll spoke about the Columbine massacre and how it informed the plot for her bestselling novel. Knoll spent countless hours researching the mental state of the Columbine killers and applying that to her own fictional account of a similar incident.

After publication, Knoll revealed in blog post on “Lenny Letter” that another storyline in her novel was based on a true story as well: Knoll’s own sexual assault in high school. Knoll incorporated her own feelings of misplaced guilt and anxiety, and created a fast-paced thriller. Her character’s pain and suffering feels all too real, expertly capturing the repercussions of trauma left unchecked.

#3: Defending Jacob by William Landay

Defending Jacob by William LandayDefending Jacob tells the story of Assistant District Attorney Andy Barber, whose teenaged son is accused of murdering a fellow classmate. Andy insists that his shy and gentle son is innocent, but mounting evidence, strained relationships, and Andy’s own dark past force him to question everything, including how well he knows his own son.

Landay said that his inspiration came from a story he read about a Long Island detective whose father was convicted of murder, and years later the detective’s own son was also accused of murder. Landay also explores “murder genes” and expert research that says violent tendencies may be hereditary. Landay, a former Assistant District Attorney in Massachusetts, created a realistic look at the legal issues that unfold as well as his own feelings about fatherhood, making this novel one of the most emotional legal thrillers I’ve ever read.

#2: Before the Fall by Noah Hawley

Before the Fall by Noah HawleyBefore the Fall tells the story of a private jet crash that kills every passenger on board but two: a failed painter in his forties and a young boy who becomes the heir of a million-dollar fortune. As each of the victims and the crash itself are investigated, the mystery builds. Was the crash a result of bad luck or something more sinister?

The author Noah Hawley, also the creator of the “Fargo” TV series, has expressed a deep fascination with plane crashes. Hawley also explained in several interviews that the premise of Before the Fall was inspired by a story he heard about a man who was supposed to return his rental car to the World Trade Center on 9/11, but didn’t make it on time. The randomness of that day—those who lived and those who died—stuck with Hawley. It’s impossible to stop reading until you unravel the mystery, and Before the Fall is one of my favorite thrillers of the year.

#1: Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha ChristieOne of my favorite crime novels of all time is Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, the tenth book in the Hercule Poirot murder mystery series.

In this classic thriller, Poirot must solve the mystery of who killed a disagreeable American businessman on the Orient Express. The twelve passengers on board all become suspects. Poirot uncovers clues that lead him to believe the businessman was on the run from a sinister past, and that everyone on board had a reason to want him dead.

Agatha Christie based her most famous novel on one of the country’s most famous true crimes: the kidnapping and murder of Charles Lindbergh’s baby. Lindbergh rose to fame when he became the first pilot to fly solo from New York to Paris in 1927. Despite paying the ransom, Lindbergh learned his son was murdered, and the kidnapper was never caught. But Christie gets fictional justice in this intricately woven tale of suspense that stands the test of time.


HollieOvertonTexas transplant Hollie Overton is a novelist and television writer. Hollie has written for “Cold Case” on CBS and Lifetime’s “The Client List,” and she is currently a co-producer on the hit Freeform drama “Shadowhunters.” Hollie’s debut novel, Baby Doll, is now available in bookstores.

For more information about Hollie visit www.hollieoverton.com or follow @hollieoverton on Twitter.

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How We Got to Underground Airlines

Jun 01, 2016 in Guest Posts, Mulholland Authors

Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters

Ben Winter’s novel Underground Airlines opens in an America almost like our own, with the same smartphones, social networks, and Happy Meals. There’s just one crucial difference: in this novel, slavery is still legal in four states. How did this happen? Winters outlines the crucial events in this alternate timeline of American history.

Feb. 12, 1861: President-elect Abraham Lincoln is shot and killed on a hotel balcony in Indianapolis, en route from Springfield, Illinois to Washington, DC to be inaugurated.

May 9, 1861: Congress passes the “Crittenden Compromise,” a package of resolutions and amendments narrowly avoiding a war between the states and permanently enshrining slavery in the American political system.

1898: Maryland passes legislation allowing for a periodic referendum on slavery, a model that will be adopted by several other states and territories.

March 4, 1934: President Franklin Roosevelt (over the objections of the remaining slave states), signs the federal Clean Hands bill, prohibiting the “possession, sale, or consumption” of slave-produced goods in any non-slave state or territory.

Autumn of 1942: In a successful effort to head off a ballot-box land rush like the one that turned Texas free, conservative lawmakers and power brokers in the states of North and South Carolina perform a set of legislative and electoral maneuvers, merging into one state, known simply as Carolina.

1944: President Truman claims a huge victory for the abolitionist movement, convincing Georgia and Kentucky to abolish slavery in exchange for lucrative wartime munitions contracts.

June 1964: The “Freedom Summer” brings busloads of abolitionist activists, black and white, into the heart of the slave-holding south to bear witness to conditions inside the new mega-plantations.

1964-1975: After Texas declares that it is seceding from the union, and President Johnson pronounces this illegal under the Constitution, the Gulf War erupts. Fought primarily in the Gulf of Mexico and along the East Texas coast, the conflict claims hundreds of thousands of lives on both sides, ending not in surrender but an uneasy detente.

Summer of 1972: The “Starman Revolt” in and around Asheville, Carolina is the largest slave uprising in modern history. The bloody revolt and its suppression, along with the lengthy manhunts that follow, lead to a raft of new “citizen protection enforcement” measures in the Southern states, and contribute to protracted, often bitter soul-searching among northern abolition movements, over the appropriateness of encouraging disobedience.

September 27, 1984: The latest reauthorization of the Fugitive Persons Law includes the Moore Amendment, exempting African American law-enforcement officers from its enforcement.

Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters will be available in bookstores July 5, 2016. Preorder it from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, or your local independent bookstore.

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Author Tom Fox On Choosing Your Central Characters

May 25, 2016 in Guest Posts

DominusTom Fox, author of Dominus, shares his thoughts on what qualities make for powerful central characters. Outsiders, iconoclasts, observers, or protectors—what kinds of characters do you think drive the most powerful stories? Let us know in the comments!

There comes a point in every writer’s work, or “process,” when decisions have to be made about just who the central characters of a book are going to be. Will they fly solo, or will there be a team? Will they be the macho type filled with back-stories of skills and experience, or ignorant and accidentally thrust into strange surroundings? Or will they be frail, broken? Will they be loved, or hated?

I knew from the outset that I wanted two protagonists in Dominus: no solo hero leading the cause alone, but a partnership of sorts. I wanted to be able to explore some of the key themes of the book—deception, reality, faith, doubt—from different perspectives, so it seemed natural to create two characters whose own backgrounds would allow different approaches to be taken to some of these central questions. Continue reading ›

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You Call That A Crime Novel?

May 18, 2016 in Fiction, Guest Posts, Mulholland Authors

Why isn’t every novel that hinges on a crime or criminality considered a crime novel? When books come along and we throw them into their chosen pigeonhole, it feels like our aim is often a little off. Here are five famous books that could, with just a little argument, be considered crime novels.

upatthevillaThe Literary Novel: Up at the Villa by William Somerset Maugham

A story about passionate affairs that becomes a short novel about dumping a body without being caught. When the overwrought waiter she took pity on shoots himself in her bedroom, Mary turns to good, old-fashioned cad-about-town Rowley Flint to help her get rid of the evidence.

They laid him on the floor and Rowley wrapped the towel around the dead man’s middle in case the jolting caused a flow of blood. He jammed the soft hat on his head.

Switch it around and present the story from the point of view of someone looking for the dead man, or trying to work out where the gunshot had come from, and you have an unabashed detective novel. Present it from Mary’s view, throw in some posh angst, and you get to dress it up as a literary novel.

 

thespywholovedmeThe Spy Novel: The Spy Who Loved Me by Ian Fleming

According to Wikipedia (so it must be true) the reaction to this book was so disappointing that Fleming tried to suppress elements of it. Perhaps the disappointment is that it’s really a crime novel, shorn of many of the usual Bond tropes. It’s the least Bond-y Bond, and no worse for the experiment.

I heard a single bullet crash into the metal frame of the door, and then, with my hand cushioning the ice-pick so it didn’t stick into me, I was running hell for leather across the wet grass.

Calling it a Bond novel when he only turns up on page 100 of 164 is rather… bold. It’s really a Vivienne Michel novel, the young Canadian woman working as a caretaker at an American motel out of season when two murderous gangsters turn up. It’s a gangland crime novel that a sociopathic Englishman happens to wander into the middle of. It was published in 1962, and in 1966 Richard Stark published The Handle, a Parker novel that had a faint whiff of Bond’s world about it. The moral of the story, I suppose, is that great writers influence other great writers, even if accidentally.

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The Classic: The Trial by Franz Kafka

A lot of crime novels are not about crime, but about justice. In many it’s the successful pursuit of a definitely guilty party, but there are some where we see things flipped around, and the innocent become the hunted.

All I want is a public discussion of a public outrage. Listen: I was arrested about ten days ago. I can laugh about the fact of the arrest itself, but that’s not the point.

A novel about a crime not committed is still a novel about a crime. The consequences of what did, or did not, happen lies at the heart of much crime fiction, and poor Josef K wasn’t laughing about his arrest when they (spoiler alert) stuck a knife in his heart.

 

medeaThe Classical: Medea by Euripedes

Looking for references to the earliest crime fiction tends to lead to the early- to mid-nineteenth century and names like Edgar Allen Poe and Wilkie Collins. Terrific writers of crime fiction, no doubt, but arguably two and a bit thousand years late to the party.

…she and all who touch the girl will die in agony; such poison will I lay upon the gifts I send. …I weep to think of what a deed I have to do next after that; for I shall kill my own children.

Take away the mythological flourishes and the heart of the story is a wife and mother, Medea, abandoned by her husband, Jason of “Golden Fleece” fame, for another woman. Medea extracts hideous revenge by poisoning Jason’s new wife and murdering two of her own children. The evil wrought by revenge, criminal acts in a family setting. This is slightly cheating in that it’s a play and not a novel, but as there were no novels in 431 B.C.m we’re categorising it as crime fiction and putting on the list.

 

therepublicofthievesThe Fantasy Novel: The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch

There’s a clue, I guess, in the title of this, the third of the Gentleman Bastards series. Protagonist Locke is hired to help rig elections, while in flashback we see the start of his career as a thief among a youthful gang pretending to be actors.

It wasn’t any sort of row that Locke recognised. Fisticuffs, theft, murder, domestic quarrel—all of those things had familiar rhythms and notes, sounds he could have identified in a second.

A lot of fantasy follows themes of murder, betrayal, revenge, and other staples of crime fiction. Sure, there are a hell of a lot more swords, magic, and funny-looking kingdoms to draw the eye, but there’s more than enough crime and criminality to fall onto our list.

Malcolm Mackay is the author of The Night the Rich Men Burned, which is definitely a crime novel, and the Glasgow Trilogy, which has been nominated for several international prizes. The Necessary Death of Lewis Winter was shortlisted for the Edgar Awards’ Best Paperback Original, the CWA John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger, and the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award. How a Gunman Says Goodbye won the Deanston Scottish Crime Book of the Year Award. Mackay was born in Stornoway on Scotland’s Isle of Lewis, where he still lives.

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