SIGN UP FOR THE MULHOLLAND BOOKS NEWSLETTER for breaking news, exclusive material, and free books

Sign Me Up

Listen to Ship of Theseus

Jan 02, 2014 in Excerpts, Fiction, Mulholland News

Ship of Theseus by V.M. StrakaExperience V.M. Straka’s Ship of Theseus in a way the author could never have imagined: as a downloadable audiobook. Award-winning actor Grame Malcolm reads the forgotten classic from 1949, in which a mysterious figure, known only as S., struggles to discover, remember, or invent his identity.

Sample the audiobook below—and who knows? Perhaps by listening, you’ll be able to contribute to the conversation about Straka that unfolds in the margins of S., created by J.J. Abrams and written by Doug Dorst.

Download it now: Audible | Barnes & Noble | Downpour | eMusic | iTunes

0 Comments

Top Ten Clichés in Crime Fiction

Dec 04, 2013 in Guest Posts, Writing

Illustration by Bjorn Lie

Illustration by Bjorn Lie

Rob W. Hart—associate publisher of MysteriousPress.com, class director of LitReactor, and all-around friend of Mulholland—knows his crime fiction. We’d wager he’s read a fair bit of it. And when you read a lot within a genre, you begin to notice some familiar signposts… Today on our blog, Rob lists his crime fiction bugbears.

Any cliché can be twisted and reinvented so that it’s fresh and exciting. Clichés can serve as enduring and comfortable tropes that remind us why we love the crime fiction genre.

But that’s not always the case—sometimes they can be tired rehashes of scenarios and traits that have been done to death, resurrected, and then killed again.

Here are, from my vantage point, the top ten clichés that continually pop up in crime fiction.

1. The deep and intense relationship with alcohol.

Has there ever been a private investigator or a hard-boiled protagonist who didn’t drown his or her feelings in a bottle? Bonus points if that alcohol is amber and smoky. Vices are fun, but too often, they’re overused as a defining characteristic.

2. The deep and intense relationship with music.

A lot of authors name-check musicians. In crime fiction it’s almost always jazz or the blues. Again, amber and smoky. Where’s the polka? The Norwegian death metal? It would be great to see some characters with a little range.

3. The uptight female character as potential sex toy.

If a prudish but pretty woman meets the male protagonist in the first 50 pages of a story, you know they’ll end up having sex. It’ll be liberating for her, a moment of vulnerability for him—and the author will get to work out some deep-seated sexual fantasy. Everyone wins!

4. The Sherlock-type figure.

A protagonist who is brilliant, quirky, and seemingly infallible… save his or her inability to relate to people. Usually accompanied by a level-headed but easily-flustered accomplice, who serves the dual purpose of sounding board and conduit to the human race. Sound familiar?

5. All (broken) families are alike…

Cops, private detectives, spies—they’re all haunted. They’ve faced the worst of humanity, and sometimes their own mortality, and it leaves them broken. You’d think they would seek comfort for that breakage in their families—instead they push them away, for dramatic effect.

6. Everyone has daddy issues.

Daddy issues are an easy way to explain away prickish behavior. Got a protagonist with a fresh mouth, or who is quick to throw a punch? Just factor in some abuse by a father figure, and it’s like a free pass—you can’t really blame them right? And thusly, a dark character attribute turns into a storytelling crutch.

7. The snitch as cannon fodder.

You know that joke about how it was always the crewmembers in red shirts who were killed on Star Trek? In crime fiction it’s the snitch. They’re a safe kill—not so virtuous that we really feel bad, not so integral to the main cast that we’re terribly shocked. But they’ve usually got a strong enough relationship with the protagonist that you know some bloody vengeance is coming down the pike.

8. The narrator goes native.

How often do you see this? The protagonist needs intel or supplies, so they go someplace that’s clearly not on their turf. Say, a black or Latino neighborhood. There’s an elder-type figure or gang leader who gives the protagonist a pass, because they have some sort of shared history or mutual respect. And we all learn a valuable lesson about equality.

9. The bad guy gets captured on purpose.

This is especially useful if you want to give the villain a little more time to monologue, on their twisted philosophy or dastardly plan. And when the tables turn—oh, the drama!

10. The brilliant serial killer.

Maybe we should call this one Hannibal Lecter-type figure. It certainly goes hand-in-hand with the Sherlock-type figure. Done well once, hammered into the ground after that. Bonus points if the brilliant serial killer is quick to irrational anger, or has some kind of personal history with the protagonist.

Those are mine. What do you think are the biggest clichés in crime fiction? Share in the comments or tweet @robwhart.

31 Comments

Start Reading SEAL Team Six: Hunt the Falcon

Dec 03, 2013 in Books, Excerpts, Fiction, Mulholland News

SEAL Team Six: Hunt the Falcon by Don Mann with Ralph PezzulloToday the newest adventure in Don Mann and Ralph Pezzullo’s SEAL Team Six series featuring Captain Thomas Crocker lands in bookstores, and reviewers are saying it “delivers exactly what fans want” (Publishers Weekly) and “puts the reader in the center of the action—the smells, sounds, savagery of war” (Kirkus Reviews). Below is an excerpt from Hunt the Falcon—enjoy, and don’t blame us if your heart starts racing!

Chapter One

Let me not pray to be sheltered from dangers, but to be fearless in facing them. —Rabindranath Tagore

John and Lenora Rinehart had just watched their thirteen-year-old son Alex dress himself for the first time. It was a special morning. Usually days at the Rinehart house started with a delicate dance, determined by their son’s moods.

Just because his son Alex was autistic didn’t mean he wasn’t smart, John Rinehart reminded himself as his shoes met the uneven surface of the slate walk and he punched the electronic button that opened the door to his dark blue Saab 900. His son was exceptional in the IQ department. But his brain’s ability to control the warp-speed flow of information, and his emotional impulses, was out of whack. When it didn’t work the way Alex wanted it to, the boy got frustrated. And when he got frustrated, he got mad as hell. Screaming, beat-the-shit-out-of-whatever-he-could-get-his-hands-on angry sometimes.

Ask him to find the positive difference of the fourth power of two consecutive positive integers that must be divisible by one more than twice the larger integer? No problem. But little things like buttoning a shirt or fastening a zipper often tripped him up.

“Little things…little victories,” forty-two-year-old John Rinehart said as he reached across the console between the front seats and squeezed his wife Lena’s hand.

She smiled past the straight black bangs that almost brushed her eyes and said, “I credit Alex’s new school. It’s been a major positive.”

“Yes,” John whispered back. His heart felt like it might leap out of his chest with delight.

John felt things strongly. Like his son. Sometimes so strongly that it scared him and he, too, had to fight hard to control himself.

His half-Asian wife was the more emotionally balanced of the two. She understood that tomorrow morning might be completely different; that life with a child like Alex was unpredictable at best.

John found it much harder to let go of the hope that his son would one day lead a normal life. He kept looking for a path, or an unopened doorway in his son’s psyche, that would lead to that result. Which made sense, because part of what he did for a living as the economic counselor at the U.S. embassy was to look for patterns of activity and use them to try to predict future events—Chinese-Thai trade, baht volatility, Thai-U.S. trading algorithms.

He was a brilliant man who studied the world and saw tendencies, vectors, roads traveled, like the one he steered the highly polished car onto now, into the knot of cars, trucks, motorcycles, and bicycles on what the Thais called Thanon Phetchaburi.

He’d learned to expect the eight-mile ride to the embassy to take forty minutes because of the traffic, but he didn’t mind. It gave him and his wife a chance to listen to music and spend some quiet time together.

This morning he didn’t want to think about the embassy where she also worked, as an administrative assistant in the CIA station. Nor did he want to consider the problems he’d deal with when he got there.

Instead he listened as Stan Getz played a smooth, moving “Body and Soul” over the stereo, and he hummed along, feeling unusually optimistic and calm. He even entertained the possibility that when his tour in Thailand ended in a year, he would return to teaching. Maybe even accept the position on the faculty of University of California, Berkeley that had been offered him a little while back. Lena would like that.

The sky above was a murky, almost iridescent yellow. Bangkok was a surreal blend of staggeringly beautiful and disgusting, rich and poor, spiritual and depraved, all living pressed together. He found the yin-yang dynamic of the city fascinating.

Adjusting the air-conditioning, he turned to his wife. “I’m proud of you, darling,” he said.

“I’m proud of you. And Alex, too.”

“Our Alex,” he added.

Through the windshield John noticed a battered blue truck squeezing into the little space between his front bumper and the Nissan taxi four feet to the right. He applied the brake, hit the horn, then turned to his wife.

He noticed the way the light accentuated her cheekbones, then out of the corner of his right eye glimpsed a motorcycle near the back bumper. Two helmets, both black with mirrored visors. The driver and rider looked like aliens.

Past the soaring saxophone solo and through the soundproof door panels, he heard a metal click. Seconds later the motorcycle roared past, narrowly avoiding a bus.

He was thinking about the first time he had seen Lena, standing near the entrance to the Georgetown University library. She was a sophomore; he was pursuing a master’s degree in economics.

He remembered how he had stopped to ask her for directions to White-Gravenor Hall even though he knew where it was. And how when she turned, he was struck by her beauty, and the strength and intelligence in her eyes.

John Rinehart opened his mouth to tell Lena how he had felt at that moment, how certain he had been that something important was happening. But before he could get the words out, the small but powerful explosive device that had been magnetically attached to the car’s rear fender exploded, tearing through the chassis, igniting the high-octane fuel in the gas tank and causing the car to burst into flames.

John and Lenora Rinehart were dead within seconds. Another eight poor souls riding bicycles and motorbikes in the vicinity also died. Twenty-three were seriously injured.

Continue reading ›

0 Comments

S. Cipher Contest Winner

Nov 25, 2013 in Mulholland Authors, Mulholland News

S. from J.J. Abrams and Doug DorstTo celebrate the publication of S., created by J.J. Abrams and written by Doug Dorst, Mulholland Books hosted a very special contest: if someone was able to decrypt the hidden message within the following poem, he or she could win lunch with Abrams and Dorst in New York City. Here were the instructions and the message:

Follow these lines, from first to last, and play fair—the bearded sailor sees all:

Midnight in the Old Quarter of a city where river meets sea. Hypnotic

fog caresses stone, glides over water, pulses in the dark beyond the harbor.

Never cry out when you’re shoved from the dock; never fear the sharks, the storms, the depths. This is the closest thing to freedom.

Swim like you still have power. Swim like they fear you’re able. Swim with

xebec swiftness through chop and wind, through blistering sun and frigid gloom.

Cherish each stroke, each breath, each gulp of ocean–the music of a mortally beautiful waltz, ever to ring through seas and skies.

Our winner, Kristopher Zgorski, not only decrypted the poem’s hidden meaning—STRAKA LIVES—but also presented his explanation as an acrostic spelling out the name of his book review blog, BOLO BOOKS:

Begin with the directions.
Obviously they provide cipher clues.
Luckily playfair was the encryption method and
Of course sailor Maelstrom was the keyword.
But digraphs came from the poem itself.
Oddly important, each lines first and last letters.
Omit “Z”.
Kindly read vertically to
See who wishes to dine.

For more detail on how the playfair cipher can be applied to the poem above, visit the contest page. And thank you to all who entered! If you’d like to read how Kristopher’s lunch with Abrams and Dorst went, check out this post on BOLO BOOKS.

1 Comment

The Lineup: Links for J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst’s S., Part II

Nov 22, 2013 in Mulholland Authors, Weekly links

Contrasted ConfinementIn the weeks since its October publication, the hits have just kept coming for S., created by J.J. Abrams and written by Doug Dorst. J.J was on PBS in an amazing, extensive interview with Tavis Smiley that you can watch right here, in which J.J. finally lays out some of the groundwork of the many layers of S., and in which a live unboxing of S. takes memorable shape.

If you live near New York City, this Saturday, November 23rd, at Symphony Space, is your chance to hear J.J. and Doug discuss S. and be introduced by Sarah Vowell of This American Life. More general info and ticket information can be found here. For more, see Time Out New York‘s Critic’s Pick coverage of upcoming event. (This week’s issue has a fantastic column on the book’s design as well.)

For more on S., check out CNN.com’s interview with Abrams and Dorst, Niall Alexander’s excellent review of the novel at Tor.com, and a great breakdown on Bookish on what fans of Abrams’ many projects will find to love about S. This Buzzfeed post has some great pics of S. and some great conversation about the novel in the comments.

Hey, you know who’s a fan of S.?Anthony Bourdain, who tweeted: “Just got my hands on JJ Abrams and Doug Dorst’s crazy, brilliant book/object of desire: “S” . Amazing.”

How do best approach reading S.? Redditors have some ideas.

Thanks to everyone out there reading and enjoying S.! We’re all so proud here of this New York Times bestseller’s amazing reception. More soon!

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.

 

0 Comments

Start Reading The Lost Girls of Rome

Nov 20, 2013 in Excerpts, Mulholland Authors

This week, Donato Carrisi’s THE LOST GIRLS OF ROME, a “powerful psychological drama” (Kirkus, starred review), reaches bookstores across the country and is also available from your favorite e-tailer. Below is an excerpt from this amazing Publishers Weekly Pick of the Week. Enjoy! And don’t blame us if you end up running out to grab a copy of your own after reading this!

8:56 p.m.

The third lesson that Sandra Vega had learned is that houses and apartments have a smell. It belongs to those who live in them, and it’s always different and unique. When the occupants leave, the smell vanishes. That was why every time Sandra got back to her apartment on the Navigli, she immediately looked for David’s smell.

Aftershave and aniseed-flavored cigarettes.

She knew that one day she would come home, sniff the air and not smell it. Once the smell had gone, David really wouldn’t be there anymore.

That thought made her despair. And she tried to be out as much as possible. In order not to contaminate the apartment with her presence, not to fill it with her own smell.

At first, she had hated the cheap supermarket aftershave David insisted on buying. It seemed to her aggressive and all-pervading. In the three years they had lived together, she had tried many times to find him a replacement. Every birthday, Christmas or anniversary, in addition to the official gift there was a new scent. He would use it for a week, then put it away together with the others on a shelf in the bathroom. Each time he would attempt to justify himself with the words: “Sorry, Ginger, but it’s just not me.” The way he would wink as he said this was intensely irritating.

Sandra could never have imagined that a time would come when she would buy twenty bottles of that aftershave and sprinkle it around the apartment. She had bought so many out of the senseless fear that one day they would take it off the market. And she had even purchased those terrible aniseed-flavored cigarettes. She would leave them, alight, in ashtrays around the rooms. But the alchemy hadn’t worked. It was David’s physical presence that had linked those smells indissolubly. It was his skin, his breath, his mood that made that union special.

After a long day’s work, Sandra closed the apartment door behind her and waited a few seconds, motionless in the darkness. Then, at last, her husband’s smell came to greet her.

She put the bags down on the armchair in the hall: she would have to clean the equipment, but for now she was putting everything off. She would see to it after dinner. In the meantime she ran herself a hot bath and lay in the water until her fingers became wrinkled. She put on a blue T-shirt and opened a bottle of wine. It was her way of escaping. She couldn’t bear to switch on the television anymore, and she didn’t have the concentration necessary to read a book. So she spent her evenings on the sofa, with a bottle of Negroamaro in her hands and her vision gradually blurring.

She was only twenty-nine, and found it hard to think of herself as a widow. Continue reading ›

0 Comments

The Lineup: Weekly Links, Lost Girls of Rome edition

Nov 19, 2013 in Mulholland Authors, Weekly links

Contrasted ConfinementHappy publication day to Donato Carrisi’s THE LOST GIRLS OF ROME! Following in the footsteps of the “brilliant” (Ken Follett) debut THE WHISPERER, but with a vibrant international setting, Carrisi’s second thriller has been receiving great press.

THE LOST GIRLS OF ROME was named a Publishers Weekly Pick of the Week and is included in a round-up of recent releases from the Denver Post.

LOST GIRLS also received a starred review from Kirkus, who wrote of the novel: “Carrisi writes beautifully [and] intimately appreciates Rome, its chapels, its narrow alleyways, its fountains and gardens [with] references to the Monster of Florence…A powerful psychological drama.”

Library Journal also proclaims: “With a lot of separate subplots, intricate details, and twists, this novel has plenty for readers to follow…those who can keep up will be rewarded.”

Looking for more to whet your appetite? Strand Magazine features an essay by Carrisi on the intriguing inspirations for his newest.

Bloggers, too have been loving LOST GIRLS as well. My Bookish Ways includes it on a list of the Top Ten Must Reads of November 2013. Tor.com ran a popular giveaway for the novel, and IE Mommy raves: “I have not read a thrilling and more captivating novel than THE LOST GIRLS OF ROME in a long time…an incredible read!”

THE LOST GIRLS OF ROME is now available in bookstores across the country and from your favorite e-tailer!

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.

0 Comments

The Amazing Noir Books You Have To Read

Nov 11, 2013 in Fiction, Guest Posts

This wonderful list of top noir novels comes to Mulholland Books courtesy of Reed Farrel Coleman. Tell us in the comments how many of these books you’ve read…and let us know of any omissions!

Red Cat by Peter SpiegelmanRed Cat by Peter Spiegelman

From one of the great underappreciated writers in the crime fiction genre. Red Cat has it all, including the sexiest cover image ever. But the real magic is in the writing. The best dovetailing of plot and subplot I have been fortunate to come across. A masterful PI story of blackmail, performance art, sex, and dysfunctional families.

The Shanghai Moon by SJ Rozan

The Shanghai Moon by SJ Rozan

Sometimes the best books about the Holocaust are not set in Europe. That is surely the case in The Shanghai Moon, a novel set in today’s New York Chinatown and in Shanghai’s Jewish Ghetto circa WWII. It is a heartbreaking tale of murder, robbery, romance, and myth drawn with Rozan’s deft and evocative hand. Why this book didn’t garner more attention is a mystery worthy of Lydia Chin and Bill Smith. Continue reading ›

3 Comments

The Nightrunners by Joe Lansdale is Back in Print!

Nov 04, 2013 in Mulholland Authors

The Nightrunners by Joe LansdaleIs your copy of The Nightrunners falling apart? Or have you—gasp—not yet had the pleasure of reading one of Joe Lansdale’s earliest horror novels? Fortunately for all of us, this book is back in print, thanks to the efforts of Behooven Press.

In The Nightrunners, a ’66 Chevy hurtles through the countryside, bearing a carful of vicious teenagers and evil of Biblical proportions. It’s a morality tale of sex and violence that showcases all the hallmarks of Lansdale’s evocative storytelling that I loved in his later novels like Edge of Dark Water and The Thicket.

Scott Montgomery of BookPeople in Austin, Texas (and one of Muholland’s favorite people) has this to say: “I forgot who said it, but there was an author who claimed there was no such thing as a horror novel, just novels with horror elements, because a writer cannot sustain mood and terror at book length. The Nightrunners challenges and defeats that thought. So glad this is back in print.”

Click here to read more about this exciting reissue, and order your copy today. As Tim Bryant of Behooven wrote me, “You haven’t completed your Lansdale Merit Badge until you’ve read this one.”

1 Comment

The Take Shelf

Nov 01, 2013 in Uncategorized

Ship of TheseusThe take shelf is as magical as it sounds. In the world of publishing, most companies have shelves of extra books, open to anyone for the taking. Sometimes the take shelf goes beyond books. I have seen DVDs, food, and even a baby—alright, that was a prank—on shelves, up for the taking. It is like a library with an extended group of friends. If you love a book, you might put it on the shelf for one of your friends to discover. But what would happen if an old library book, full of notes littering the margins and stuffed with post cards, newspaper clippings, and letters ended up on a take shelf. What would you do? Would you try to return it to its owner, to the library stacks from which it fled, or pick it up a read along?
Ship of Theseus
A copy of S., conceived by J.J. Abrams and written by Doug Dorst, recently appeared on a take shelf without the slipcase explaining the interior of the book. It became, simply, the Laguna Verde High School Library copy of the Ship of Theseus by V.M. Straka. Published by the Winged Shoes Press in 1949, stuffed with notes and ephemera from students Jen and Eric. An anonymous report has it appearing on a take shelf and disappearing on the same day. Now, someone else has it.

Do they know what it really is? I hope not. I hope they have a similar experience to J.J. Abrams. When he was at LAX, 15 years ago, he found a novel sitting on a bench. Inside someone had written on the title page, “to whomever find this book please read it and take it somewhere and leave it for someone else to read.” That event never left him and inspire S., a book that is more about the experience of reading it than anything else.

I hope whoever found the book reads along, follows the clues, keeps pursuing answers, and returns the book to a take shelf. For someone else to discover.

0 Comments