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In Conversation with Douglas Purdy about Serpents in the Cold

Jan 21, 2015 in Mulholland Authors

Serpents in the Cold by Thomas O'Malley and Douglas PurdyThe first novel in Thomas O’Malley and Douglas Purdy’s Boston Saga, Serpents in the Cold, has just been published by Mulholland Books. Kirkus Reviews calls it a “bone-crunching, gut-wrenching novel . . . It delivers noir fiction like we always want it to be.” Click here to read an excerpt from the book.

Mulholland Books: Tell us how you two decided to partner up to write Serpents in the Cold.

Douglas Purdy: Twenty years ago, Tom and I met at the UMass-Boston campus along the grey-slate waters of the Boston Harbor. Fittingly enough, it was for a class on Detective and Crime Fiction. Later in a creative-writing workshop, Tom began writing “The Iscariot Kiss,” his protagonist named Cal O’Brien, and I started working on “The Wooden Man,” featuring a desperate junky, Dante Cooper. Over pints of Guinness one night, we sat in the corner of a pub, The Field (Cambridge, Mass) and discussed what would happen if O’Brien and Cooper were to meet on the same page. At one point we had them in Los Angeles, another time in some nameless Gothic city. Years later, we decided it was finally time to have Cooper & O’Brien team up—and not in any other city but our own, Boston. We were in Cape Cod, and Tom and I came up with the opening scene on Tenean Beach, a beach that my mother used to go to in the 1940s, and one that Tom went to when visiting Boston from overseas. During that meeting, we asked ourselves, “Who is this woman [found dead on the beach], Sheila?” And from that point on, we explored this dark world of 1951 Boston and decided that the novel had to take place during one of the worst winters on record. For over the next four years and countless pages, we finished Serpents in the Cold. We hoped that it not only served the genre well, but also our city. Boston is both Cal and Dante, two men who could not have come from any other place in America.

Mulholland: Tell us more about Cal O’Brien and Dante Cooper, the central characters who drive the investigation in Serpents in the Cold.

Purdy: For me, reading David Goodis, Jim Thompson, and Dashiell Hammett’s The Glass Key really shaped the dark place Dante was coming from. I knew that Dante wouldn’t exist in the modern world—he’d probably be an obituary in the first few chapters. His era had to be the 1940s or 1950s, wearing a beat-up fedora, dirty gabardine slacks, a penchant for jazz and junk, a fragment of the man he was before the overdose of his wife, Margo. He was interesting to me because he is one who skirts the underworld, the pool halls and flophouses where the lecherous and the downtrodden live—all while representing some form of righteousness that may or may not lead to some redemption in the end. Cal is an ex-cop, and he’s a war veteran. He comes from a different place, but still a place where violence is prevalent, and with their shared past, we thought they’d be a unique duo with many stories to tell.

Wintry Boston in the 1950sMulholland: Aside from your personal ties to Boston, why did you choose to set Serpents in the Cold in such a particular time and place? 

Purdy: I think some crime novels lack a full sense of atmosphere, and it was important to both Tom and I to create a rich, layered one for this novel. We wanted an atmosphere that also had an isolated feel to it, and how more isolated can you get than the cold and the snow, the worst winter on record? Also, Boston as a city is not known for being overly kind. It has a hard-knuckled introspective manner to it, uniquely Northeastern. So it’s a perfect place for ambiguity and deception, a locale where corruption and violence can take effect. Not only does the oppressive weather augment the claustrophobic elements in tandem with the damaged psyches of the characters, but it also paints a widescreen cinematic effect. Boston is a beautiful city, but by the winter, a gray pallor seems to suck the life out of the streets. The waters turn to slate, the skies turn raw and bleak, and the collective moods of the population sour and become downright miserable.

Mulholland: What was it like to co-write a novel?

Purdy: Collaborating with a friend is equal parts excitement and hard work. Writers are solitary creatures, so I wouldn’t recommend two writer friends going into a novel together, unless they have a strong grasp of the book before starting on Chapter One. There were times when we wanted to put out a hit on one another, but in the end, such disagreements only pushed us to work harder at solving a difficult chapter. We scrapped scenes, took them back out in the alley and put a few bullets in their heads, and then buried them without thinking of them ever again. Other times, a chapter floundered and one of us would come in and breathe new life into it. There was plenty of “pitching” involved, and like any Hollywood meeting, we sometimes responded to each other’s proposals with laughter or dismay. In the end, one of the biggest positives was that when one of us was down, the other would be there to get the fire stoked again, a crucial plus as both Tom and I continue to write Cal & Dante novels in our “Boston Saga.”


Start Reading Serpents in the Cold by Thomas O’Malley and Douglas Purdy

Jan 20, 2015 in Excerpts

Serpents in the Cold by Thomas O'Malley and Douglas Purdy Just when you thought January couldn’t get any colder, we bring you this chilly novel of Boston noir. Set in the 1950s, Serpents in the Cold follows lifelong residents Cal O’Brien and Dante Cooper as they track a murderer…all the way to city hall. Awash with atmosphere and bursting with period detail, O’Malley and Purdy’s first novel as a writing team introduces us to an indelible pair of characters and kicks off a magnificent new series. Read the first two chapters below.


In winter, in daylight, Scollay Square was a cold and desolate place. The neon lights that brightened the avenues and alleyways at night remained unlit and encased in ice. Here and there along its concrete walkways, in the doorways of betting shops and poolrooms, stood men draped in oversized coats, hats hiding their eyes, hands buried deep in their pockets. On street corners, small groups of them huddled and lit one another’s cigarettes, spoke of things having little consequence. They were killing time, waiting for the night.

Kelly’s Rose was a basement dive with one long window and a steel slab for a door. Those walking by wouldn’t even register it as a bar. The neon sign hawking Pickwick ale hung crookedly in the lone window and was never turned on, and farther inside, the lights above the bar and booths were kept so low not even a moth would be drawn to them.

In the two-stall, two-urinal bathroom in the back of Kelly’s Rose, Dante Cooper had many thoughts going at once, but he didn’t have any place to put them. They spun and caught onto memories, dragging them and the rest of the junk into something vast and confusing. And there were voices, too, all conversing in his head, colliding into one cracked and unharmonious symphony. He sat in the stall closest to the wall, a tie tightly wound around his left bicep, his pants down at his ankles, a syringe resting flat on the hard muscle of his thigh. The radiator beside him tapped and echoed. He grasped a spoon in one hand and his lighter in the other, its flame bending bowl-shaped beneath the metal. The noise in his head softened by degrees, and from this quiet he could hear her call out to him, at first muted and distant, and then with clarity: a siren’s voice pulled through a fog. Continue reading ›


Why I Write Thrillers (And, Maybe, Why You Read Them)

Jan 15, 2015 in Guest Posts

Give a big welcome to Gregg Hurwitz! He dropped by our site to share with us an epiphany he had while writing his novel Don’t Look Back, which was published in August by St. Martin’s Press.

OaxacaA friend of mine introduced me to the beautiful Mexican state of Oaxaca, where Don’t Look Back takes place. He gave me access to all the experts and adventures my evil thriller writer mind required. I hiked through ruins. I learned how to drink mezcal properly—with orange slices and salt made with ground-up worms. I ate crickets and desiccated caterpillar. I stepped on giant snakes. I enjoyed some fairly dangerous runs on a Class IV white-water rafting trip through the jungle. Just before we launched the raft, I got stung on the eyelid by a still-not-identified wasp which made my eye swell up to cartoonish proportion. In Mexico, this doesn’t elicit sympathy; it means you get made fun of more. I learned how to make soap and mezcal. I walked (carefully) through crocodile lagoons and got close to a few snaggle-toothed monsters. I went horseback riding across beaches. I dodged a marching line of millions of sweeper ants devouring everything in their path. You can see that this setting has everything a novelist wants. It was a great blend of adventure and manic fun. I always want the reader to have a front-row seat to the action and in order to do that for Don’t Look Back, I had to experience everything myself so I could bring to life the sights, scents, and sounds of this unique part of the world.

As you can see, I loved researching and writing this one. But this book also holds a very personal meaning for me. Smack in the middle of my last tour, my wife was told she had to have brain surgery. I remember exactly where I was when I found out: heading into a literary event in Berkeley where I was expected to address a room full of devoted readers. So the things I was called to do that night—talking to readers (which I love) and being patient (with which I have been known to have my struggles)—were even harder for me.

What was at stake if the surgery went wrong was my wife’s memory—to be precise, her short term memory conversion. So what we were looking at if things went badly was basically Memento (without the tattoos) or 50 First Dates (without Adam Sandler and a ukulele). Though I suppose in the latter instance, if one has to contend with Adam Sandler and a ukulele, one might prefer to have some short-term memory challenges.

My wife’s surgery went as well as it could have. She retained her memory—in fact, her most recent MRI noted that she has an “unremarkable brain,” which I believe is the only context in which that is flattering. I also try to remind her of this when we disagree, though it doesn’t go over quite as well as you might think. But there was a protracted period during which we didn’t know what would happen, so for a while we were really peering into the abyss. That changes you. It made me reconsider the past—how I spent my time, what choices I made and would I make them again. It made me view the present differently—each breath unique, every moment freighted only with the meaning we ascribe to it, good or bad, if we choose to notice it at all. And it made me look at the future differently, as something you can’t wait for, can’t count on, can’t plan for with any measure of confidence. Because at any moment, it can sweep in—a car crash, a hurricane, a cavernous hemangioma—and wipe out any version of your future self.

I get asked all the time why I write thrillers. And why people read them. What’s the allure? Who wants to be scared when there’s so much uncertainty and tragedy in real life? And we get the usual answers—I’ve given them myself: Order out of chaos. Finding meaning in the seemingly pointless. But going through this crisis with my family made me realize that there is something more literal about the relationship we have between the lives we live and the stories we devour.

In thrillers, we meet characters when they’re thrust into crises such that their world hums like a live wire. They, too, are reconsidering their past, the choices they made that landed them here. They are viewing the present differently, breath to breath. They are reimagining a future they hope to survive to see, and they are redefining themselves in the process. And most often, they are fighting to emerge intact for their children, their families, and themselves. Some of us have been through that ourselves. All of us have loved ones who have. And this book is dedicated to my wife for going through it and coming out the other end.

Don’t Look Back features my first female protagonist, Eve Hardaway. She’s recently divorced, is a single mother to a seven-year-old boy, and has recently switched jobs. But the daily grind is wearing her down, and she’s losing track of herself, of who she used to be. She and her ex had long-standing tickets to celebrate their ten-year anniversary, a trip to a small eco-lodge way up in the jungles of Oaxaca, cut off from civilization.

Rather than cancel the trip, she decides, nine exhausting months after her husband has left her for a younger woman, that she’s going to go anyway. She’s going to leave her son in the care of his beloved nanny for a week, travel alone, and rediscover herself in the jungle.

Now because I’m me, I can assure you: This will not go smoothly for her. On her first day, she strays from the group into the jungle and sees something she’s not supposed to see. And it involves A Very Bad Man.

He clues in to the fact that she saw him. Just as he starts to zero in on her and this small band of tourists at their eco-lodge, a tormenta blows in—a tropical storm that can dump up to a meter of rain a day. When you’re in one, it’s hard to find the air in the air. And Eve, single mother and nurse from the suburbs, finds herself pursued through the jungle in the middle of a storm by a brutal man who can outflank, out-fight, and overpower her. She realizes that if she ever hopes to get back home and see her son again, she is going to have to find that unbreakable part of herself, outlast, and prevail. As I said above, at different times in our own lives, we’re all called to do that in less obvious and more commonplace ways. But for now, I’m content to leave it to Eve Hardaway.

Gregg Hurwitz is the New York Times bestselling author of fourteen thrillers, most recently, Don’t Look Back. His novels have been shortlisted for numerous literary awards, graced top ten lists, and have been translated into twenty-two languages. He is also a New York Times bestselling comic book writer, having penned stories for Marvel (Wolverine, Punisher) and DC (Batman, Penguin). Additionally, he’s written screenplays for or sold spec scripts to many of the major studios, and written, developed, and produced television for various networks. Gregg resides in Los Angeles. Find him on Twitter at @gregghurwitz


Visiting Inspector of the Dead: The Killing Ground of Constitution Hill

Jan 03, 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.

Almost every day for many years, Queen Victoria’s schedule included a carriage ride at 6 p.m. Her timetable was printed in London’s newspapers. Her route was usually the same. The carriage left Buckingham Palace, turned left onto Constitution Hill, rode up to Hyde Park, veered left into the park, came back to Constitution Hill, and returned to the Palace.


This is Constitution Hill as it appears today. Buckingham Palace is to the left, out of sight.


In the 1840s, four men took advantage of Queen Victoria’s predictable schedule and shot at her from this approximate spot. In fact, one of them (Edward Oxford) shot at her twice, and another (John Francis) tried to shoot at her two days in a row. All told, from 1840 to 1882, seven men tried to attack her.

Continue reading ›


Visiting Inspector of the Dead: Mayfair and Belgravia

Dec 22, 2014 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.

Much of Inspector of the Dead takes place in London’s wealthy Mayfair district. Ironically, in the 1600s, it was a disreputable field where drunken May Day (or May Fair) celebrations were held. By the 1700s, as London expanded westward, Mayfair became a fashionable area, its impressive residences acquiring a uniform look because of the Portland stone that was used to construct them.


This is Half Moon Street, off a major street known as Piccadilly. In the novel, several shocking murders occur in one of these magnificent buildings.

Continue reading ›


Start Reading The Convert’s Song by Sebastian Rotella

Dec 09, 2014 in Excerpts

The Convert's Song by Sebastian RotellaWe were first introduced to Valentine Pescatore as a rookie Border Patrol agent in Sebastian Rotella’s Triple Crossing, which the New York Times named its favorite debut crime novel of 2011. His hazardous stint in U.S. law enforcement behind him, Pescatore has started over as a private investigator in Buenos Aires, where, like anywhere, justice is a malleable concept, and one learns there are several sides to a story. Read the opening of the first chapter of The Convert’s Song below.

Chapter One: Cafetín de Buenos Aires

The whole mess started ten years later on a sunny fall day when Valentine Pescatore was feeling at home in Buenos Aires.

He got up and put on a warm-up suit. He took a quick cab ride on Libertador Avenue to the sports club in Palermo Park. At eight a.m., he had the red rubber track to himself. His breath steamed in the morning chill; May was November in Argentina. He was not as fast or strong as he had been while serving as a U.S. Border Patrol agent. Yet he was healthier than during those crazy days at the Line. He had lost the weight he’d acquired eating home-cooked Cuban meals while living in San Diego with Isabel Puente. Arroz con pollo, ropa vieja, fried plantains. Washed down with drama and heartbreak.

Leaving the club, he caught a whiff of horse smell on the river wind. A nearby compound of the Argentine federal police housed the stables of the mounted division. Facundo had told him the compound was also the headquarters of the police antiterrorism unit.

Pescatore reclined in the cab, invigorated by the run. The driver was a grandfatherly gent with well-tended white hair encircling his bald spot. His shoulders in the blue sweater-vest moved to the tango classic on the radio, “Cafetín de Buenos Aires” (“Little Café of Buenos Aires”). The cab stopped in front of Pescatore’s building on a side street as the song ended in a flourish of bandoneon and violins. It was an homage to a neighborhood café—the best thing in the singer’s life except his mother.

“That was great,” Pescatore said. “What was that last line? ‘In the café I learned philosophy, dice and . . . ’?”

The cabbie studied him over his spectacles. He recited crisply: “ ‘The cruel poetry of thinking of myself no more.’ ” Continue reading ›


Mulholland Books at Bouchercon 2014

Nov 11, 2014 in Industry News, Mulholland Authors, Mulholland News

Bouchercon 2014 Bouchercon has always been one of the highlights of my year, but this year, I’m especially excited because 1.) it’s November 2.) Bouchercon will be beachside 3.) …in southern California, where it’s currently sunny and 70 degrees. SOLD!

I’m also excited about the wonderful programming lined up for this year. Mulholland’s authors are on panels that touch upon every corner of the mystery world: comics, noir, cyberspace, film and TV, political thrillers…you name it, one of our favorite authors is talking about it. You can find a handy list of our authors’ events below.

But first, a little advice: on Saturday morning, between 7:30am and 12:30pm, head to the Bouchercon hospitality suite in the Seaview Rotunda, because coffee and pastries are on us. If you time it just right, you’ll walk away with a free galley of a forthcoming Mulholland book!


11:30-12:30 Crime Goes Visual: Graphic and Comic Novels with Duane Swierczynski, author of the Charlie Hardie series and Canary (Regency B)

4-5 Noir Comes in Many Flavors with Chris Holm, author of The Killing Kind (Regency C)

5:30-6:30 Noir at the Bar with Duane Swierczynski and Chris Holm (Regency C)


10-11 Masters of Suspense in Conversation with David Morrell, author of Murder as a Fine Art and Inspector of the Dead (Promenade 104B)

3-4 Keep Them in Their Places or Let Them Steal the Scenes: The Importance of Sidekicks with Marcia Clark, author of the Rachel Knight series (Seaview)

3-4 Murder in Cyberspace with Matthew Quirk, author of The 500, The Directive, and an forthcoming title for Mulholland Books (Regency B)


Mulholland Books Bouchercon 2014

click to enlarge

Come by the hospitality suite to join Mulholland’s authors for coffee and pastries! We’ll be giving away free advance copies of new books by Sebastian Rotella, David Morrell, Richard Lange, Malcolm Mackay, C.J. Sansom, Duane Swierczynski, and Thomas O’Malley and Douglas Purdy. Follow us on Twitter or Instagram @mulhollandbooks to find out when specific books will be given away…or take a chance and come by the Seaview Rotunda to see what’s on offer! You won’t walk away empty-handed…or empty-bellied.

8:00-8:30 Duane Swierczynski will sign and give away galleys of his forthcoming novel, Canary, in the Seaview Rotunda hospitality suite. We’ll also have some extremely limited edition Canary pins to hand out.

8:30-8:50 Author Focus on Ralph Pezzullo, co-writer with Don Mann of the Hunt series of SEAL Team Six novels (Harbor C)

8:30-10:30 Men of Mystery with David Morrell and Matthew Quirk (Promenade 104BC)

11:00-11:30 Sebastian Rotella will sign and give away galleys of his forthcoming novel, The Convert’s Song, in the Seaview Rotunda hospitality suite.

11:30-12:00 David Morrell will sign and give away galleys of his forthcoming De Quincey novel, Inspector of the Dead, in the Seaview Rotunda hospitality suite.

1:30-2:30 Ordinary Guys Driven to Extraordinary Lengths with Richard Lange, author of Angel Baby and Sweet Nothing (Regency C). We’ll be giving away free advance copies of Sweet Nothing at Lange’s post-panel signing!

4:30-5:30 A Conversation with Michael Connelly and Sebastian Rotella (Promenade 104BC). Rotella is the author of Triple Crossing and the forthcoming novel, The Convert’s Song.

4:30-5:30 Make Ours Noir: Why We Love the Genre with Duane Swierczynski (Seaview)

4:30-5:30 Screen to Prose with Derek Haas, author of The Right Hand (Regency D)


8:30-9:30 Cross-Cultural Crimes with Sebastian Rotella (Seaview)

8:30-9:30 Close Enough for Government Work with Derek Haas (Regency BC)

10-11 Editors & Agents with Mulholland marketing director Pamela Brown (Shoreline)


Mulholland Books at New York Comic Con: Join Us for Discounts and Giveaways!

Oct 10, 2014 in Books, Booksellers, Mulholland News

I’m thrilled to be representing Mulholland Books at this year’s New York Comic Con. Find us at the Hachette Book Group booth (#2218). We’re selling a handful of our favorite new books, and all purchases will get you a free Mulholland Books tote bag:

Mulholland Books tote bag

Free with the purchase of any Mulholland book

Is that all? NO, that is emphatically not all! If you buy a copy of The Cuckoo’s Calling or The Silkworm, written by Robert Galbraith (a pseudonym for J.K. Rowling), you’ll get a free Strike! t-shirt:

Silkworm t-shirts

Free with the purchase of any Galbraith book

If you’re looking for a terrifying horror novel to read for Halloween, Booth 2218’s got you covered. When you buy Brood, the new book by Chase Novak, we’ll throw in a paperback of Novak’s Breed. If you haven’t read the first book in Novak’s series, here’s your chance to get both books with a single purchase. If you’ve already read Breed, this is your chance to spread the scares around by giving your free copy to a friend.

Breed and Brood by Chase Novak

Buy one get one free!

And finally, here’s one killer promotion that requires no purchase for entry. If you come to Booth 2218 and say “BIG IN JAPAN” to one of the on-site booksellers, you’ll receive free copies of two Japanese thrillers in translation: Genocide of One by Kazuaki Takano and Confessions by Kanae Minato. Both novels are international bestsellers and deserve a wider, rapturous readership here in the U.S.

Genocide of One by Kazuaki Takano and Confessions by Kanae Minato

Say “Big in Japan” at Booth 2218 and get these books for free!

All items are available while supplies last…so don’t drag your feet! Drop by the Hachette booth (#2218), and let’s talk books.


Start Reading one of October’s Scariest Books: Brood by Chase Novak

Oct 07, 2014 in Books, Excerpts, Mulholland Authors

Brood by Chase NovakPoor Adam and Alice Twisden. Those twins have been through a lot—the death of their parents, the decimation of their childhood home. Years have passed since the events of Breed, and the twins’ aunt, Cynthia, wants to make things right, starting with the cleanup of the Twisdens’ Manhattan townhouse. Only, as you’ll read in Brood’s opening pages below, cleaning up is a tall order.


They were not here to clean up a crime scene. That grisly work had been accomplished two years ago by RestorePro, when the town house on Sixty-Ninth Street was closer to hell’s ninth circle than it was to its former incarnation—a stylish, impeccable, historically correct Upper East Side town house, one of the few left in New York City that had remained in the same family since its construction. Its last owner had been Alex Twisden, who had lived there his entire life, first as a child, then as a playboy, then as a corporate lawyer obsessed with his work, then as a somewhat reclusive bachelor, then as the newly wed husband of a beautiful younger woman named Leslie Kramer, then as the father of twins, and, finally, stemming from the fertility treatments he and Leslie endured in order to procreate, as a kind of beast for which neither science nor folklore has a name.

RestorePro’s workers, decked out in muck boots, respirators, and HAZMAT suits, had swooped in. Of course, the worst
thing about the cleanup was the blood, the hair, the fur, the bones, and the teeth, the parts of bodies for which neither Alex nor Leslie had a taste—they both eschewed ears, and found feet as a rule inedible. But there was a lot more to do than simply remove the evidence showing that for a time the elegant old house had been an abattoir. There was disinfecting to be done. There were odors to be dispelled and others that could only be covered up. There were scratches in the plaster, claw marks deeply grooved into the wooden floors. There were piles of smashed furniture—it looked as if crazed vandals had gotten into the storeroom of Sotheby’s before an antiques auction. Once-precious Blackthorn wallpaper, brought into the house by William Morris himself, hung in long drooping curls. Sconces had been torn from the walls; sofas had become public housing for all manner of rodents. RestorePro’s motto was No One Will Know, but though the workers did their job diligently, and did not stint on labor or time, the house they left behind when they finally got to the end of their contract still bore the ineffable marks of a place where something hideous had happened. You did not have to believe in the spirit world to sense that an aura of misery and doom hung over the place, even after it had been scrubbed clean. Continue reading ›


What Do You Do With A Pile Of Jim Thompson Books?

Oct 03, 2014 in Guest Posts, Mulholland Authors

We sent Rob Hart, the associate publisher of, all 25 of the Jim Thompson paperbacks that we reissued in August. He wrote in to report on what he did with them.

Working in publishing comes with a few perks.

Say, for example, you’re grabbing breakfast with a pal and you profess your love for Jim Thompson. Turns out, that pal masterminded the re-release of a good portion of Thompson’s oeuvre in paperback and eBook.

Then one day you come home from work to find this pile of beauties sitting on your doorstep: Pile of Jim Thompson books

That is a lot of Jim Thompson. And it begs the question: What exactly does one do with such a giant pile of books? Not wanting to miss an opportunity, I came up with a couple of ideas… Continue reading ›