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A Soundtrack for The Killing Kind

Sep 21, 2015 in Guest Posts, Mulholland Authors, Music

The Killing Kind by Chris Holm

In a recent interview for The Life Sentence, I was asked (by an interviewer who knows damn well that I’m a music geek, on account of she’s my wife) what Michael Hendricks’s theme song would be. Here’s what I answered:

First of all, Michael would never pick himself a theme song; he’s way too self-serious for that. So I envision that question being fielded by his partner in crime, Lester Meyers, who’s a little more playful about their endeavor of killing people for money. Lester would choose James Brown’s “The Payback.” It’s a bouncy revenge tale. It’s funky. It’s interesting. If Hendricks were forced to choose his own theme song, it’d be darker, more morose. Jimi Hendrix’s “Machine Gun,” maybe. It’s a menacing, sinuous anti-war tale. I also think Massive Attack’s “Protection” wouldn’t be a bad theme song for him. In fact, if The Killing Kind were a movie, you could put “The Payback” over the opening credits and “Protection” over the closing credits, since the latter’s built around a sample of the former.

Ever since, I’ve been wondering what a soundtrack for The Killing Kind would sound like. Its antagonist, Alexander Engelmann, takes pleasure in his bloody work, and demands something arch. Its action scenes require propulsive, energetic tracks. Special Agents Thompson and Garfield deserve a nod, at least. Our damaged antihero, Hendricks, longs for a woman whose love he feels he no longer deserves, so songs of heartbreak and longing are a must. And, of course, I need something gut-wrenchingly sad for that scene in which… well, you’ll see.

Chris Holm is an award-winning short-story writer whose work has appeared in a number of magazines and anthologies, including Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Needle: A Magazine of Noir, and The Best American Mystery Stories 2011. His Collector trilogy, which blends fantasy with old-fashioned crime pulp, wound up on over forty Year’s Best lists. David Baldacci called his latest, the hitman thriller The Killing Kind, “a story of rare, compelling brilliance.” Chris lives in Portland, Maine.


Mulholland Books at Bouchercon 2015

Sep 18, 2015 in Industry News, Mulholland Authors, Mulholland News

Bouchercon 2015The annual mystery reader extravaganza known as Bouchercon will take place in Raleigh in just three weeks, and our calendars are filling up with riveting panels, award ceremonies, and my personal favorite: “meetings” over BBQ and beers.

Once again the Bouchercon programmers have outdone themselves with the convention programming. Mulholland authors will appear on panels about thrillers, horror, psychopaths, and character development. Even our own editorial director, Joshua Kendall, has a panel! You can find a full list of Mulholland’s events below.

Here’s one event to underscore, circle, star, or however it is you draw attention to important things: on Saturday morning between 7:30 and 12:30, we will be offering free coffee and pastries at the Bouchercon hospitality suite in the Sheraton gallery. If you time your visit just right, you’ll walk away with a free galley of a forthcoming Mulholland book!


11:30-12:30 Changing Face of Publishing for Writers & Readers with Joshua Kendall, editorial director of Mulholland Books (Marriott: University AB)


2:30-3:30 The “Masters” that influenced the “Masters” in Crime & Mystery with Lawrence Block, author of Hit Me (Sheraton, Oak Forest AB)



Visit the hospitality suite to join Mulholland Books’s staff and authors for coffee and pastries! We’ll be giving away free advance copies of new books by Matthew Quirk, William Shaw, David Swinson, Joe Lansdale, and Michael Robotham. 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 Sheraton gallery to see what’s on offer! You won’t walk away empty-handed . . . or empty-bellied.

8:30-9:30 Where “Crime & Mystery” meets “Horror & The Weird” with Chris Holm, author of The Killing Kind, and David Morrell, author of Inspector of the Dead (Marriott, State AB)

10-11 Human Nature: Our fascination with law breakers & law enforcers in fiction with Lawrence Block, author of Hit Me (Sheraton, Oak Forest AB)

1-2 Psychopaths, Serial Killers, Sociopaths & Human Monsters within Literature with Michael Robotham, author of Life or Death (Sheraton, Oak Forest AB)

4-5 The Facets of ‘Character’ that remain in a Reader’s psyche with David Swinson, author of The Second Girl (Marriott: State AB)

4-5 International Thriller Writers [ITW]: The first Decade & Beyond with David Morrell, author of Inspector of the Dead (Sheraton: Oak Forest AB)


Kermit Roosevelt on America’s History of Illegal Detention

Aug 18, 2015 in Guest Posts

Allegiance by Kermit RooseveltWe look to the past to understand the present. In 2007, when newspapers highlighted the illegal detentions at Guantanamo and the extent of federal authority in wartime, author Kermit Roosevelt thought back to World War II—specifically, the internment of Japanese-Americans on American soil. This dark period of our country’s history informs Allegiance, Roosevelt’s sophisticated legal thriller from Regan Arts, which lands in bookstore on August 25th. How could our government have supported illegal detentions not once, but twice? Read on for Roosevelt’s take.

In 2007, two years after the publication of my first novel (In the Shadow of the Law), my editor said to me that he wanted my next one to be set in the Supreme Court. I told him I wasn’t sure I could do it. I’d love to write about the Court, but I didn’t want anyone to think I was revealing secrets from my time working there. (I clerked for Justice Souter in 1999-2000, and he’s a very private person.) My editor said, “No problem! Set it ten years in the future when there are nine new Justices.”

That also seemed like an unpromising idea to me, because it would require me to invent nine new Justices and predict the pressing legal issues of a decade hence. I told my wife about the dilemma, and she had a simple answer: set it in the past.

And that seemed like a great idea. No one would think I was writing about the current Court, and instead of inventing nine new Justices I could just research them—something my day job as a law professor has made me quite familiar with. Also, of course, setting the novel in the past would let me scan the whole history of the Court for an era and a set of cases with relevance to the present day. So I started looking…

What I was thinking about in 2007 was the response to 9/11, and more particularly the Guantanamo detentions. I had just recently received a call from a tax lawyer (more on that later) asking me to serve as a constitutional law consultant on a Guantanamo case, and I’d accepted. So I wanted to write something about what we do in times of national insecurity.

The parallels, at a high level of generality, were obvious. There was a shocking attack, striking us in a way we didn’t think possible. There was a President expanding the power of the federal government, asserting he could do whatever was necessary to protect the nation. There were Supreme Court cases about the limits of governmental authority in wartime.

So I thought that mostly what I would be doing was taking these broad parallels and layering current concerns onto a roughly similar history. And I did some of that. I have Supreme Court Justices and other government figures as significant characters in the book. Much of their dialogue is true to life—I read biographies, autobiographies, diaries, and correspondence—but some of it is taken from recent events. “We should look forward, not back.” “We shouldn’t criminalize policy differences or condemn actions taken in good faith to protect the nation.” “You have to remember what it was like then.” “We feared another attack.” Those are contemporary lines about the CIA torture program, but they fit very easily into the mouths of people discussing the detention of Japanese-Americans. (That program, which uprooted over 100,000 mostly birthright citizens, ended up being a large part of Allegiance.) Continue reading ›

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An Excerpt from Crooked by Austin Grossman

Jul 28, 2015 in Excerpts

Crooked by Austin GrossmanWith the publication of his new novel, Crooked, Austin Grossman gives Richard Nixon the chance to finally set the record straight about his presidency, the Cold War, Watergate, and even our starry-eyed notions about the Founding Fathers. This dazzling confession has been called “captivating” by Entertainment Weekly and “a cantering hodgepodge of American history, black magic and political satire” by the Washington Post. Below is a snippet from Crooked in which Grossman sets us straight about our country’s origin story.

Everyone thinks of the Enlightenment as the end of superstition, the breakdown of religion and magic and the beginning of a new and rational order. The United States is the standard-bearer of that order, a nation founded not on superstitions about bloodlines and myths of swords in stones but on sound civic principles and contracts rationally entered into.

Everyone is wrong. The dawn of modernity wasn’t the end of enchantment, only the beginning of a new and more terrible one. The Plymouth elders made a bargain and brought forth nothing less than a new American sorcery, the casting of a vast invisible spell great enough to bind the darkness of the New World. The settlers lived, and prospered, and over time their work was given the name by which we now know it—the Constitution, the thing that opened the way for the master enchanters of the nineteenth century, Lincoln and Whitman, and for the obscene magical forces that would one day push us all the way to the Pacific.

The Pilgrims’ bargain bought them a continent, and we were the inheritors of a contract bound into our land and our nation and infused again and again into the flesh of its principal executive, the president of the United States.


An Excerpt from White Crocodile by K. T. Medina

Jun 30, 2015 in Excerpts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Joe Lansdale on How He Came to Write Paradise Sky

Jun 15, 2015 in Guest Posts, Mulholland Authors

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

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

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


Six Historical Murders That Would Make for Great Crime Fiction

May 28, 2015 in Guest Posts

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

Wano De Grier Walsh

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

ArnoldRothsteinArnold Rothstein

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

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


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

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

President James Garfield

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


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

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

“Bible John”

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


Christa Lehmann

Christa Lehmann in court (Corbis)

Christa Lehmann in court (Corbis)

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

Hugo Betthauer and Otto Rothstock

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


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


An Excerpt from Written in the Blood by Stephen Lloyd Jones

May 26, 2015 in Excerpts

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

Oxford, England

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


An Excerpt from The Doll Maker by Richard Montanari

Apr 28, 2015 in Excerpts

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

Chapter 1

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

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

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

Continue reading ›


An Excerpt from When We Were Animals by Joshua Gaylord

Apr 21, 2015 in Excerpts, Mulholland News

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

Do you want to know who I am?

Do you want to know what I do?

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

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

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

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

I was an excellent student.

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

Do you know what else I do? Continue reading ›