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Standing in Another Man’s Grave with a Gun Machine: Warren Ellis and Ian Rankin In Conversation

Jan 28, 2013 in Graphic Novels, Guest Posts, Mulholland Authors, Music, Writing

Ian Rankin has called Warren Ellis’s GUN MACHINE “hellish fun.” Warren Ellis has called Ian Rankin’s  STANDING IN ANOTHER MAN’S GRAVE “a magnificent read.” Figuring the Rankin and Ellis might have a thing or two to say to one another, we put the two in touch and watched the fireworks ensue. Their conversation follows…

Warren Ellis: In STANDING IN ANOTHER MAN’S GRAVE, you make returning to John Rebus look like putting on a comfortable old suit, but I wonder if it was. Was there ever a point where you assumed you’d never talk to Rebus again? Or were you waiting for the right story with which to go and see him again?

Ian Rankin: I retired Rebus because the real world demanded it. At that time (2006-7) detectives in Scotland had to retire at 60, and that’s how old I reckoned he was. But I knew that given the chance he would apply to work as a civilian in Edinburgh’s Cold Case unit. It really exists and is staffed by retired detectives. So when I got a notion for a story that involved a cold case…

Now let me ask you something, Warren: as a novelist, I found it hard the one time I wrote a graphic novel. I think authors of graphic novels work harder than novelists, who have all the time and words in the world. How different is it, approaching a novel to a graphic novel? What are the pros and cons of each?

Ellis: Writing a novel, for me, is always having to learn again when to stop describing.  You have to be so blunt and specific, for an artist, to achieve the image and narrative step you’re looking for, and doing that in prose is dull and thudding and takes away the possibility of the image growing and breathing in the reader’s head.  It’s like that art trick where someone draws three lines and a dot but yet everyone can see a face in it.  Not the same face, sure, because no-one sees everything the same way, but definitely a face.  But if you drew that face in detail, many of your readers would say, “huh, I didn’t think they looked like that,” and they’re kicked out of the book.  It’s that specific effect of evocation I have to try and find again.

The pros of writing a novel are about having space and time.  Graphic novels are limited containers of information, especially so in the amount of information one can radiate off a page, and books aren’t.  But there’s an atmosphere you can conjure in six words of text and a simple drawing that books simply can’t capture.  Comics are a hybrid form: they are semiotics and slogans and theatre and iconography and a dozen other things.  Like all hybrids, they have some weird weaknesses, and there are workings and effects in the prose novel that the graphic novel can’t really approach. But there are things in the graphic novel that the prose book simply cannot do.  They are pure visual narrative. Continue reading ›

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Whisperers

Jan 24, 2013 in Guest Posts, Mulholland Authors

The paperback edition of Donato Carrisi’s THE WHISPERER, the acclaimed international bestselling thriller about which Michael Connelly wrote: “This story screams high tension, high stakes, and high velocity,”and which Ken Follett called “brilliant…a great book,” is now available in bookstores everywhere!

In the below Author’s Note included with the novel, Carrisi discusses the psychological background to his “haunting, disconcerting, devastating portrait of evil” (Kirkus).

Criminology literature began to address the issue of ‘whisperers’ during the rise of cults and sects, but had great difficulty finding a definition of ‘whisperer’ for use in a legal trial, because mere suggestion is so hard to prove.

Where there is no causal connection between the guilty party and the whisperer, it is not possible to envisage any type of crime for which the latter might be liable. ‘Incitement to criminal activity’ is usually too weak to lead to a sentence. The activity of these psychological controllers involves a subliminal level of communication which does not add criminal intent to the psyche of the agent, but brings out a dark side – present in a more or less latent form in each of us – which then leads to the subject committing one or several crimes.

Often cited is the Offelbeck case of 1986: a housewife who received a series of anonymous phone calls and who then, out of the blue, exterminated her family by putting rat poison in their soup.

Anyone who sullies himself with heinous crimes often tends to share moral responsibility with a voice, a vision or imaginary characters. For this reason it is particularly difficult to tell when such manifestations spring from genuine psychosis and when they may be traced back to the hidden work of a whisperer.

Among the sources I used in the novel, apart from manuals of criminology, forensic psychiatry and texts of legal medicine, I’ve also quoted studies by the FBI, an organisation with the merit of having assembled the most valuable database concerning serial killers and violent crimes.

Many of the cases quoted in these pages really happened. For some, names and places have been changed because the investigations relating to them are not closed or the trials have not yet taken place.

The investigative and forensic techniques described in the novel are real, even though in some circumstances I have taken the liberty of adapting them to the needs of the narrative.

Donato Carrisi studied law and criminology before he began working as a writer for television. THE WHISPERER, Carrisi’s first novel, won five international literary prizes, has been sold in nearly twenty countries, and has been translated into languages as varied as Dutch, Hebrew, and Vietnamese. Carrisi lives in Rome.

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Detective John Rebus: Twenty-Five Years Later

Jan 22, 2013 in Books, Fiction, Writing

Twenty-five years will take its toll on anyone. No one knows this better than former detective John Rebus, the star of Ian Rankin’s dazzling crime novels, who now finds himself a retired civilian, peering at cases from the outside.

But even the passage of years can’t bring closure to a cold case, and Rebus has found the ultimate lost cause: the disappearance of a woman from the side of the road with no witnesses, no body, and no suspect. Rankin explains the evocative nature of the road and Rebus’s emotional state as he digs up the past in the new novel, Standing in Another Man’s Grave:

While we see Rebus’s role evolving, so, too, does our understanding of Malcolm Fox:

Continue reading ›

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The Lineup: Weekly Links

Jan 16, 2013 in Weekly links

Contrasted Confinement

The Oscar race kicks in to high gear now that the Golden Globe winners have been announced. So who’s your dog in the race? Argo? Zero Dark Thirty? Les Mis?

Cory Doctorow has a moving remembrance of Internet pioneer Aaron Swartz up at Boing Boing. Rest in peace, Aaron.

In Mulholland news, in anticipation of the February release of Lawrence Block’s HIT ME–which features fan-favorite hitman Keller coming out of retirement, just as Larry’s about to return to this own–Adam Woog of the Seattle Times included Larry’s new novel in a roundup of notable upcoming crime novels. And did you read Jeffrey Toobin’s great piece in the New Yorker on the long-running mystery/thriller round table presided over by Mary Higgins Clark, and frequented by the likes of Larry, Harlan Coben, and many more?

Meanwhile, Warren Ellis‘s GUN MACHINE continues to receive high marks from critics and great media coverage. Charles McGrath of the New York Times (“A pleasingly quirky crime thriller [that] races along in crisp, hard-boiled fashion”) AND Marilyn Stasio of the New York Times Book Review (“vivid [with] fully fleshed characters…a seriously good writer with a seriously wicked imagination”) both have strong words of praise for Ellis’s novel. Also check out this great interview with Warren in the Los Angeles Times, this review in the Independent (“a perfectly flawless crime book with a feral glint in its eye,”), the Nerdist podcast with Warren, or the second GUN MACHINE trailer below. And don’t forget to pick GUN MACHINE up in time to join the i09 Book Club discussion on February 5th!

Did we missing something sweet? Share it in the comments! We’re always open to suggestions for next week’s post! Get in touch at mulhollandbooks@hbgusa.com or DM us on Twitter.

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Ernest Hemingway and Other Literary Spies

Jan 15, 2013 in Books, Fiction

In Dan Simmons’s The Crook Factory, which is out in paperback on February 5th, Ernest Hemingway assembles an espionage ring from an unlikely team of misfits in order to root out Nazi infiltrators in Cuba. Though this storyline is, regrettably, a work of fiction, there are plenty of writers who really were spies. Some of our favorites include:

Christopher MarloweChristopher Marlowe

Oh yes, the man who brought us Faustus was also a spy. And his mysterious death at 29 raises all sorts of questions: was his fatal stab wound the result of a bar brawl? Or an assassination by the Elizabethan state? I highly recommend you listen to this BBC podcast for more on Marlowe.

Graham GreeneGraham Greene

The author of The Quiet American, The Third Man, and Our Man in Havana (among many other excellent novels) was recruited by his sister into the M16, resulting in a posting to Sierra Leone during the Second World War.

Anthony BurgessAnthony Burgess

Burgess did cipher work for British Army intelligence in Gibraltar during World War II before penning A Clockwork Orange in 1966. Perhaps there lies something encrypted in lines like “The trombones crunched redgold under my bed, and behind my gulliver the trumpets three-wise silver flamed”? Continue reading ›

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The Dark in Zero Dark Thirty

Jan 14, 2013 in Film

Spoiler alert: DO NOT read this blog post if you haven’t yet seen Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal’s new film; this post most likely goes into enough detail that you’ll probably come away feeling a little bit like someone ruined the surprise for you. At least, as much as one can feel that way about a film where you already know how it ends.

Whether you’ve seen the film or not, you’ve probably caught wind of at least some of the controversy surrounding the release of the ZERO DARK THIRTY. Some members of the intelligence community assert the film misrepresents the role torture played in the trail of evidence that led to the discovery of Osama Bin Laden’s whereabouts. Critics have alternately claimed that the film’s portrayal of brutal interrogation methods either works either as a tacit endorsement thereof, or the film’s objective, journalistic approach is morally reprehensible in the face of what some would consider amorality of the events it portrays.

Maybe it’s an effect of my reading habits, or maybe I had Scott Montgomery’s essay on my mind—but I can’t help but feel there’s another interpretation of the film that hasn’t been fully explored in the criticism I’ve read: ZERO DARK THIRTY as noir cinema.

Most noir stories (or at least the genre’s most traditional strain) operate as negative example—a playing out of the it-never-gets-better series of events that lies in wait, should one make the same kind of choices as the story’s protagonist. This strand of noir is intensely, almost puritanically moral, despite the immorality it depicts; any portrayal of violence or criminality within the confines of this strand of storytelling is anything but an endorsement. Its message is simple: bad things happen to people who make bad choices–so choose wisely, or be prepared to face the music.

Montgomery argues that noir begins with a crime and only gets worse from there— certainly, ZERO DARK THIRTY has this angle down pat. An eerie series of voiceovers that alludes to the most infamous crime of the century, 9/11, opens the film, which then transitioning directly to another act of violence much more intimate in scope, yet just as central to the story at hand–the harrowing interrogations that took place in CIA black sites, where we first meet Maya, Jessica Chastain’s then-junior operative.

Maya’s first on-screen moments are performed with a thick, oversized ski mask that obscures both her features and gender—both to engineer a dramatic reveal and also, it would seem, to signify that without an active role in the brutal methods shown, she’s not yet fully accountable for the brutal violence to which the film depicts, more witness than active participant.

This all changes when Maya returns to the locked room, having this time left the mask at the door. Dan, the senior agent leading the interrogation, asks Maya to fill him a bucket of water that will be used to  torture the detainee under question. Maya hesitates, if only for a moment. And while, as with much of Chastain’s understated performance, much has to be inferred, her reluctance in this crucial moment speaks volumes. This is it, you can almost sense Maya thinking. Here is the point of no return.

From then on, Maya is complicit in the acts of violence depicted, at times even signaling to other participants when a prisoner is to be physically assaulted—even if Maya never quite inflicts these acts without the buffer of an enforcer. Even Dan, who seems so totally unflinching in the film’s opening scene, turns aside from this dastardly mission before Maya, who continues to take part in the torture of detainees right up to the minute the President puts an end to these brutal methods that give Maya her first piece of key intel, and many others that follow.

While the facts of Maya’s story necessitate there’s not quite the relentless, downward spiral of classic noir in ZERO DARK THIRTY—no pursuit by the authorities follows a government-sanctioned act of violence such as Maya’s—there is certainly a certain noirness in the overall trajectory of the plot. Director Bigelow and screenwriter Boal go out of their way to make note of every major act of terrorism in the past ten years while Maya continues her hunt, as if to challenge the validity the narrow focus of Maya’s relentless quest—more subtle and yet more effective than the in-tandem occasional insistence of Maya’s superiors that she consider broadening her focus.

The film’s conclusion carries this trajectory through to the bitter end. As we all know, Maya does, of course, get her man. And yet we never see Maya truly celebrate the completion of the task to which she’s devoted a full decade of her life—just more flat affect, a few choice tears, and a sense of loss in the final plateau, of Maya, alone, given anywhere in the world to go and nowhere in particular she seems to want to be. That may not be quite the sort of severe moral reckoning that traditional noir requires—but if so, it’s only another, more nihilistic strain of noir coming into play in the film’s final moments. In an unjust world with few moral absolutes, ZERO DARK THIRTY argues, sometimes the good guys aren’t quite so guilt-free—and sometimes the guilty go free.

Wes Miller is Mulholland Books’ Associate Editor and Marketing Associate. If Mulholland were a crime novel instead of an imprint that publishes them, Wes would be its PI—the stalwart presence resolving its issues, making sure at the end of the day, justice gets served and good prevails—at least until tomorrow comes. Reach him through the Mulholland Books twitter account (@mulhollandbooks), on Tumblr (mulhollandbooks.tumblr.com) or right here on the Mulholland Books website.

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Mulholland Books in 2013

Jan 11, 2013 in Mulholland News

Mulholland Books 2013

A look at the books we’re publishing this year. Read more about them on our Pinterest board.

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Grabbing At Shadows

Jan 10, 2013 in Guest Posts

NoirWhat is noir?

A question that has been debated in every film school and bar at Bouchercon. Many an article and anthology introduction has made the attempt to define it. There is even the thought that it is more style than genre.

Czar of Noir Eddie Mueller cleanly describes it as stories about attempts to take the shortcut to the American dream. Author Anthony Neil Smith once said, “Noir is Italian Opera sung by Delta bluesmen.”  Then there is the old standard: It starts out fucked and then gets worse.

There are certain tropes that most believe go along with it. A crime committed, usually from obsession, that leads a downward spiral where the only hope is found in death. There is also the style, the terseness on the page, the shadows on the screen.

The beauty of noir, though, is that there is no hard, fast definition. Its originators didn’t even know they were crating a genre. There are no set rules. It is as elusive as the shadows it’s identified with. It has the ability to be malleable, able to fit different times and perceptions. Noir plays by few rules. Continue reading ›

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How to Get Into Shape like a Navy SEAL

Jan 09, 2013 in Books, Excerpts, Mulholland Authors


Inside SEAL Team Six
If your new year’s resolution was to get into shape, and the three-day juice cleanse didn’t get the job done, maybe you need to up the ante. We’ve been re-reading Don Mann and Ralph Pezzullo’s SEAL Team Six series in anticipation of the next installment, Hunt the Scorpion (pre-order it now: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-A-Million | Indiebound | Other Retailers). It got us thinking: how do those men stay in shape?

Fortunately, Don Mann—whom we like to think of as Mulholland’s Chuck Norris—wrote Inside SEAL Team Six: My Life and Missions with America‘s Elite Warriors. Amidst tales of dangerous missions and grueling trainings, we learn how Mann kept his mind and body prepared for the most extreme situations. So while you may never be called on to execute a covert op in Colombia or Afghanistan, here’s how to make sure you’re ready nonetheless.
Continue reading ›

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Download Jim Thompson’s The Grifters for $1.99

Jan 08, 2013 in eBooks

Did you luck out and receive an eReader or tablet over the holidays? If so, it’s time to fill those digital bookshelves, and we have a low-price suggestion for you: The Grifters by Jim Thompson (Kindle | Nook | Other Retailers).

If you’ve never read Jim Thompson, you’re missing out a classic American crime writer. You know how we lament the overlooked gem? This guy is one of them. In his forward to The Killer Inside Me, Stephen King says, “This anonymous and little-read Oklahoma novelist captured the spirit of his age, and the spirit of the twentieth century’s latter half: emptiness, a feeling of loss in a land of plenty, of unease amid conformity, or alienation in what was meant, in the wake of World War II, to be a generation of brotherhood.”

Andrew Gulli, the managing editor of Strand Magazine adds, “It’s a pity that Thompson’s legacy has been overshadowed by Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett; both those authors were giants in the world of noir, but Thompson was every bit their equal. His books, though dark, gloomy, and at times nihilistic, probe the depths of human weakness and excess better than anyone else. Yet, despite his dim worldview, his books are addictive page-turners; it’s easy to know what the ending will be like, but the journey to the ending is captivating.” Despite raves like these, and despite being a sensation in Europe, Thompson has become nearly-forgotten here.

It’s time to change that. Join the Jim Thompson club. Let’s be the discerning readers who bring this great writer back into the spotlight. You’d only be risking $3 to dip your toes into this ingenious story about short cons…and when you’ve blazed through that, we’ve got 24 more eBooks for you:

Thompson eBooks

Already a Jim Thompson fan? Decidedly not a fan? Let me know in the comments!

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