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Making Sense of Nothing and Making Nothing of Sense: A Maundering on the Taxonomy of Writing and I Forget What Else

Aug 09, 2013 in Guest Posts, Mulholland News

Today marks the three-year anniversary of MulhollandBooks.com! To celebrate where we’re going with where we’ve been, we’ll be re-featuring our very first guest posts throughout the day. Some authors we’ve gone on to publish; all of them we’ve continued to admire. What’s next? You never know what’s coming around the curve…

“Fair is where you go to see the pigs race.”
— James Luther Dickinson

We are uncomfortable with works that can not be placed comfortably into a category. The English-speaking literary establishment has embraced the French word genre since the eighteenth century. We would do well to remind ourselves that the term, via the Latin genus, is a cognate of another French word, générique, whence the English generic. And, for example, noir, given generic catch-all meaning by American critics in the 1940s, is but another blanditude that consigns to the supermarket-aisle school of literary values many books whose unique qualities are thus obscured.

As George Eliot said in her 1856 essay on Heine: “In every genre of writing it preserves a man from sinking into the genre ennuyeux.” The “it” refers to wit, and the French phrase displays her own subtle wit: “the boring genre.” And it is true that most books consigned to one genre or another belong to the far-encompassing genre of boredom, even if there are no Boring sections designated as such in bookstores.

Most best-selling books belong to one genre or another—espionage, crime, horror, suspense, romance, mystery, self-help, ghost-written political memoirs that take the genre of boredom to a ghastlier realm. Best-sellers that perfume themselves with a contrived literary air fall short of what good genre writing offers. What, after all, was The Name of the Rose but a bad mystery whose plot-workings could not be believed at any turn? I actually read that one. We speak of putting the wounded out of their misery. I have now long felt the same about semiologists. As for something like The Unbearable Lightness of Being, which was said to far transcend the romance genre, I would never read a book with such a pretentious title so like the whine of a moon-calf. Semiologists and moon-calves aside, even straightforward attempts at genre by real writers of true greatness often fail dismally: William Faulkner’s 1949 volume of mystery stories, Knight’s Gambit, is one of the worst books he did.

I am not saying that any genre writers, be they scriptomanic pulp hacks or masters of their corner of the marketplace, could ever beat out, except maybe financially, the few writers of our time who have doomed themselves, or been doomed, to the lower-paying racket of greatness.

But what of the latter, the great, or of those who walked the edge of greatness, who have been relegated to the ranks of the former? That’s what I want to talk about here.

Specifically I want to talk about Patricia Highsmith and George V. Higgins. Why these two? As I’m not auditioning for a creative-writing teaching job—I’m too old to look up girls’ skirts and fill them with the unbearable lightness of being—I’ll tell you the truth.

Continue reading ›

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Weekly Links: Weaponized Edition, Part II

Aug 02, 2013 in Mulholland Authors, Weekly links

Contrasted ConfinementWhat better way to cap off a great launch week than with a roundup of the fantastic features and amazing content to date for Nicholas Mennuti and David Guggenheim’s Weaponized?

Us Weekly included Weaponized on its Buzz-o-meter of the top five things that have them talking this week! And US Weekly isn’t the only one talking—on Barnes & Noble, one reviewer raves, “Thrilling, exciting, could not put it down. There is one twist after another, and the action never lets up. This has movie potential.” On Amazon, another reader adds, “The fact that I am writing this review so soon after this book came out is saying something! I started it yesterday and literally could not put it down. The action scenes were insane and the story kept throwing curveballs at me. It reads like a really fun action movie!”

Good news for all those reviewers noting Weaponized‘s cinematic quality: as Deadline noted, film rights have been acquired by Universal Pictures, which means Weaponized: the Movie can’t be far behind!

On pub day itself, “11 Movies that Inspired Weaponized went live on the Scott Moyer’s Go Into the Story, the official screenwriting blog of the Black List—if you’re looking for some great film recommendations, look no further.

Right here on MulhollandBooks.com, we’ve had the pleasure of hosting Mennuti in conversation with Alan Glynn, author of Graveland and Limitless, adapted into the film of the same name. It’s a true meeting of the minds as two of our best paranoid thriller writers come together for one epic conversation.

For more, check out the WEAPONIZED Spotify playlist, or start reading the novel right here. And if you’ve got questions for Nick on Weaponized or anything else, ask him at the discussion group on Goodreads!

More: The Lineup: Weaponized Edition, Part I

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Tune In to Weaponized

Aug 01, 2013 in Guest Posts, Mulholland Authors, Music

Weaponized by Nicholas Mennuti with David Guggenheim

Nicholas Mennuti and David Guggenheim’s globe-trotting suspense novel about a government contractor in exile went on sale this week, and if you were one of the book’s early readers, you know why Universal Pictures snapped up the film rights so quickly: Weaponized is a lush, rollicking tale, just as much immersed in the exotic cities of Cambodia as it is in the troubling consequences of government surveillance gone awry. It’s a story that begs to be seen as much as read. But what would the soundtrack for that movie be? Here to offer a playlist is none other than Nicholas Mennuti himself. You can listen to some of these songs through the Spotify player above.

Depeche Mode – “Barrel of A Gun”
Depeche Mode has always been one of my top five bands and their Violator album has exalted status on my list of desert island discs. “Barrel of A Gun” actually comes from their Ultra album—which, in my humble opinion, is their best after Violator, and may also be their darkest album overall (which means it’s dark). “Barrel of A Gun” will put you in the right frame of mind for Weaponized before you even crack the spine.

UNKLE – “Lonely Soul”
One of the greatest songs about isolation ever recorded. The beat is all jangly electro and the vocals by The Verve’s Richard Aschroft are haunting. One refrain sums up Weaponized better than I ever could: “I’m gonna die in a place that don’t know my name.”

Planningtorock – “I’m Your Man”
Planningtorock is actually just Janine Rostron, an experimental British musician who distorts the vocals in her songs to play around with gender identity and to better suit the mood of each individual track. It sounds heavy—it isn’t; you can dance to it. She’s done some softer beats, but “I’m Your Man” is pure paranoia all the way. It’s not easy listening, but neither is Kyle’s journey in Weaponized, and this track helped me set the mood for his inner monologues.

Jerry Goldsmith – “Basic Instinct – Main Title Theme”
After Bernard Herrmann, Jerry Goldsmith—to me—is the greatest Hollywood composer of all time, and Basic Instinct has one of his signature scores. If Robinson ever had theme music, this would be it: slinky, seductive, and dangerous as hell. Also, bonus points to this score for having the second greatest simulated orchestral orgasm after Wagner’s “Tristan and Isolde”.

Chemical Brothers – “Container Park”
Film music has undergone many metamorphoses over the years, but hiring Daft Punk to score Tron:Legacy was a big one. Hollywood has never known what to do with electronic music, even when it embraced the synthesizer in the 80’s, but Daft Punk changed that. Since then, Orbital, Hybrid, M83, and others have made excursions into film scoring—but none with the force of The Chemical Brothers in the score for Joe Wright’s Hanna. Try listening to “Container Park” and not feel the danger.

Muse – “MK Ultra”
I don’t want to call Muse a guilty pleasure, but I kind of have to. It’s the best arena rock of the 2000s. I unabashedly love this song and can’t decide whether it’s because of the song itself or just the title—but either way I listened to it fairly regularly while writing the CIA sections in Weaponized.

David Bowie – “I’m Afraid of Americans”
Earthling was Bowie’s big late-90’s comeback album wherein he fully embraced electro, sort of like Madonna’s William Orbit–stamped “Ray of Light.” No playlist I construct would lack Bowie, but this song’s special even for the master himself and really contributed to the paranoid lost soul quality of Kyle in Weaponized.

John Murphy – “Mercado Nuevo”
In my opinion, Michael Mann’s Miami Vice is the most underrated film of the 2000s, and by extension, so is John Murphy’s propulsive score. Murphy’s done memorable work for Danny Boyle—28 Days Later and Sunshine—but his work for Mann really shines. “Mercado Nuevo” is the perfect music for driving into denied territory, exactly what Kyle and Lara spend a lot of time doing in Weaponized.

Public Image, Ltd – “The Order of Death”
Public Image Ltd was John Lydon’s (Johnny Rotten) first band after the Sex Pistols ended and is considered by many—me included—to be the first and potentially the best “post-rock” band. This particular track may be their crowning achievement and sets the mood for the last few chapters of Weaponized—that’s all I can say.

Tangerine Dream – “Thru Metamorphic Rocks”
I’ve got a serious spot in my heart for 70s and 80s Krautrock, and it doesn’t get much more epic than Tangerine Dream. This track is close to fifteen minutes long—my favorite part comes in at around five minutes in. I listened to it obsessively while writing the first time Kyle and CIA agent Tom Fowler encounter each other in a hotel room. Read the chapter and you’ll see why…

Thievery Corporation – “The Forgotten People”
Choosing a Thievery Corporation track is as much about celebrating how much all their music contributed to Weaponized as it is a public service announcement. No band has gotten me laid more consistently than Thievery Corporation (maybe Massive Attack did, too, I have to think). So listen to this track, which I did, while writing the early Phnom Penh scenes in Weaponized, or just buy the whole album Radio Retaliation and thank me later.

Wang Chung – “City of the Angels”
This is another epic action track, over nine minutes; my favorite part kicks in just over one minute in. This was Lara’s theme music for me, particularly when it came time for her to start shooting people. Also To Live and Die in L.A., directed by William Friedkin, is one of my favorite films ever. Don’t let the 80s prejudice you or the fact it’s by Wang Chung dissuade you—this is film scoring of the highest order.

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In Conversation with Nicholas Mennuti and Alan Glynn

Jul 31, 2013 in Fiction, Film, Mulholland Authors, Writing

Weaponized by Nicholas Mennuti and David GuggenheimThe wide-ranging conversation below between Nicholas Mennuti, one of the authors of Weaponized, and Alan Glynn, whose novel The Dark Fields was adapted for the film Limitless, covers such topics as globalization, espionage fiction, Cambodia, literary influences, and film influences—a veritable “arterial spray” of allusions (their words, not ours!). You’ll definitely want to make time to dive into this fascinating exchange.

Alan Glynn: Nick, I thoroughly enjoyed reading Weaponized and was struck by several things in it. One is the fact that it is packed—action-packed and packed with ideas, which is pretty unusual, I think, and unlike anything I’ve read in recent memory. The highest compliment I can pay it is to say that the book feels like North by Northwest meets Apocalypse Now. Anyone who reads the book will know immediately what I mean: the Cambodian setting, the existential end-of-American-empire angst, the assuming and trading of identities, the espionage, the cat-and-mousing around, the playfulness, the darkness, the betrayals, the reversals, the fun and the horror (x2). Perhaps those movie references betray my age, because the thing is Weaponized is also bang up-to-date in its concerns. In a way, it’s like a primer on globalization. You leave nothing out: resource wars, pipelines, corporations, big data-driven surveillance, private security firms, the outsourcing land grab, the Chinese, the Russians, and you also debate, or pose questions about, the individual’s place and responsibility in all of this. But despite packing these themes into the novel, you don’t ram them down the reader’s throat—it’s not a didactic or polemical book. Instead, you deflect and entertain with car chases and explosions, with tense checkpoint confrontations and with the occasional spurting artery. I suppose my first question is, how important was this balance for you, and how conscious were you during the writing process of trying to strike it?

Nicholas Mennuti: First off, I’m thrilled you enjoyed the book. Means a ton coming from you. I’ve been “borrowing/inspired” by you for a while. That’s one of those jokes-not jokes.

Your question is kind of a bouillabaisse of interesting things to talk about, so if I get a bit circular I hope that’s okay.

I’m kind of an espionage thriller binger and had come to the conclusion that the model hadn’t really changed in years. You either had the sort of fussy-frilly Le Carré model (that of course started with Greene and Buchan) that Olen Steinhauer, Jeremy Duns, David Ignatius, and Charles Cumming have dragged into the 21st century. Or you get the military-jingoistic version of it with Brad Thor, Andy McNab, Lee Child. And I just felt neither of these styles felt like the right way to deal with the chaos of the 21st century.

The world had changed, but espionage fiction still felt very 1989. All of those authors (many of whom I do like) still seemed locked into talking about a world that has kind of ceased to exist. A unipolar world that one man can save from destruction. So I really wanted to talk about topics/places that I felt were being underserved/underutilized by contemporary espionage fiction. Which of course leads you into privatized spying and the third-world. Now, that’s all analytical, and I probably became more aware of that as I went through writing/editing the book. But this desire to break the paradigm was there all along.

Jack Nicholson in The PassengerBut where Weaponized really started was with my enduring obsession with Antonioni’s The Passenger. Do you know that one? It’s with Jack Nicholson. It’s all about identity switching and existential ennui in the guise of a thriller. Only problem is that it’s Antonioni—who had no interest in making a thriller. So I started thinking: what if you made an actual thriller out of this art-movie?

North by Northwest and Apocalypse Now have been obsessions of mine since I was a teenager, so they’re just part of my creative DNA at this point. I’m sure they’re going to be present in whatever I write. If I were writing a romantic comedy, I’m sure there’d be at least one spy and one third-world setting.

Apocalypse Now in particular fascinated me. It reminded me of Graham Greene’s fiction in that the topography of the novel seemed like the perfect literal manifestation of the lead character’s interior. With Apocalypse, I’ve never been sure whether Vietnam looked that crazy, or if it just looked that crazy to Martin Sheen. And that subjectivity runs through Weaponized. I wanted people to feel Cambodia through Kyle. Just like how you feel Vietnam through Willard. That’s also something you got a lot of mileage out of in Dark Fields (Limitless). Just how subjective/expressionistic can I get with this narrator without pulling this out of genre territory. Would you agree?

And what both North by Northwest and Apocalypse Now have in common is that they’re genre movies of the highest order that managed to pack a ton of subtext into the genre without weighing it down.

I mean I could write a page just on how fascinating it is in North by Northwest that Cary Grant’s middle initial “O” literally stands for NOTHING. It’s zero as a place-holder. Is that why he could be mistaken for Kaplan on a metaphysical level in the first place—there’s no one there to start with. It’s no mistake I think that Hitchcock had him working in advertising.

In terms of what I’ll refer to “ideas balanced with mayhem,” I was definitely conscious of it. I wasn’t interested in writing a deconstructivist thriller, where I hollow out all the genre gambits, and turn it into a formal-polemicist kind of thing. The Europeans do that really well, but I don’t.

I set a rule for myself early on that any ideas, either political or philosophical, have to come out of a character, or be on the action line. For example, if I want to talk about French colonialism, it’s going to be during a chase scene at Robinson’s hotel. Or if I want to talk about Russian oligarchy, it’s going to be in a scene where Kyle’s got to pick up a gun.

I have a lot of love for the genre, particularly when it’s really working, so I wanted (and David Guggenheim was so crucial in helping me getting a frame for it) to make sure the book worked as a thriller first, and then go about layering this other stuff in. That said, even before we had the story I knew I wanted Weaponized to feel like the 21st century: fractured, neon, lonely, and set in a series of geographical non-places. I wanted to write a thriller that didn’t feel embalmed. Continue reading ›

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Now On Sale: Weaponized by Nicholas Mennuti with David Guggenheim

Jul 30, 2013 in Books, Fiction, Live Chat, Mulholland Authors

Weaponized by Nicholas Mennuti with David GuggenheimThe white-hot suspense novel of the summer is now available on bookshelves around the country: Weaponized by Nicholas Mennuti with David Guggenheim. We’ve shared with you the book’s raves from Publishers Weekly and Kirkus Reviews, but as readers finally pick up their copies of the book, the response is no less effusive. A few of our favorites from Goodreads:

And we have a special treat for those readers who are quickest to pick up and read Weaponized: author Nicholas Mennuti is answering all questions and comments about the book on Goodreads until August 6th. Come join us in this digital book club! We’ll keep an eye out for you.

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Won’t You Like Us?

Jul 24, 2013 in Mulholland News

Facebook LikeFacebook: Mulholland Books is on it. But if you follow us on this site, or even on Twitter or Tumblr, you might ask yourself, “Why should I also like your Facebook page?” Here are three reasons:

1. Often we give away books there.
Probably the #1 reason to like us on Facebook is that we’re frequently hosting sweepstakes to give away our latest titles—sometimes well before they’re available in bookstores. If you’re a mystery fan, and especially if you’re a fan of being ahead of the curve, you’ll want to like our page to receive updates about our new giveaways, many of which are only open to fans of our page.

2. Often we reveal excerpts there.
Our genius IT team has developed a way for us to showcase exclusive excerpts on our Facebook page, available only to our fans. This is a great way for you to sample our books before committing to them, and the excerpts are quite ample—often the first few chapters of a book. Right now we’re showcasing the first nine chapters of Weaponized by Nicholas Mennuti and David Guggenheim.

3. Sometimes we reveal covers there.
We’ve all wasted too much time looking at photos on Facebook. However, it’s justified when those photos are the first look at the cover of Charlie Huston’s or Joe Lansdale’s new book. Be sure to like our page to see new covers and leave a comment telling us what you think!

If you’re a fan of Mulholland Books in real life, make it official on the internet: head over our Facebook page, like us, leave us a message, and share us with your friends.

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Amazing Reviews for The Cuckoo’s Calling

Jul 23, 2013 in Mulholland Authors, Weekly links

 THE CUCKOO’S CALLING, by J.K. Rowling writing as Robert Galbraith, is now landing in bookstores across the country! Fantastic review for Galbraith’s novel have been pouring in so frequently of late, we thought we might gather them together into one handy post for our devoted readers to peruse.

“The master is back!” USA Today declared, proclaiming THE CUCKOO’S CALLING  “one of the books of the year.”  Michicko Kakutani raved about the novel in the New York Times, calling Galbraith’s novel “highly entertaining,” and remarking on its “appealing protagonist and “propulsive suspense,” closing with the prediction that Cormoran Strike and Robin Ellacott “a team whose further adventures the reader cannot help eagerly awaiting.”

Meanwhile, People magazine will give the novel 3.5 out of 4 stars in its July 29th issue, writing that “Rowling switches genres seamlessly” and calling CUCKOO “a gritty, absorbing tale.” Slate compliments Rowling’s ability to create  “an extravagant, alien, fascinating world for its characters to explore,” remarking on the novel’s many “great pleasures.” “I couldn’t stop myself from thoroughly enjoying THE CUCKOO’S CALLING,writes Carole E. Barrowman in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel,” going on to say: “The book’s real magic is in Rowling’s distinctive descriptive prose.”

A new and robust site for THE CUCKOO’S CALLING is now up and running featuring an FAQ section that is both revealing and enlightening in equal measure. Check it out right here!

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The Lineup: Links for Weaponized by Nicholas Mennuti with David Guggenheim

Jul 19, 2013 in Mulholland Authors, Weekly links

Contrasted ConfinementWEAPONIZED by Nicholas Mennuti with David Guggenheim will be published on July 30th and Nick has been all over the internet this week, discussing the latest in the Snowden case and his and Mennuti’s prescient novel.

Nick’s got not one, but two Op-Eds up at The Huffington Post right now–The Thriller and the Mirror, on the eerie life-imitating-art effect at work in thinking about WEAPONIZED in the post-Snowden era and pragmatism vs. idealism in counterintelligence, and Jay-Z and Samsung Are Not the NSA, which argues, well, just that. (Not as straightforward as you might think.)

Elsewhere, on Medium.com, Mennuti espouses on the modern surveillance state. And don’t miss Nick’s interview at RAWIllumination.net, or the great content right here on MulhollandBooks.com. And the announced on Deadline that Mennuti and Guggenheim’s novel has been optioned for the screen by Universal and producer Scott Stuber has been met with quite a bit of buzz–no surprise, given the arresting conceit and Guggenheim’s prior credits as the screenwriter of the #1 box office smash hit Safe House and many other projects.

What do the critics think of WEAPONIZEDPublishers Weekly gave the book a starred review, calling it an “excellent first novel . . . The authors have their fingers on the pulse of contemporary life . . . The rare suspense novel that will genuinely surprise jaded genre readers,” and Kirkus raved of the book: “Applying postmodern polish to the foreign intrigue of Graham Greene and Eric Ambler, WEAPONIZED leaves an imprint with its lively cast of characters, pungent locale and dizzy plotting.”

Nick’s conversation with Atlantic reporter Joshua Foust follows…

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Take a Sneak Peek at Lauren Beukes’s Fairest Volume 2

Jul 18, 2013 in Comic Books, Excerpts, Mulholland Authors

Lauren Beukes is a writer of many talents. You may know her from this site as the author of the brilliant, chilling novel, The Shining Girls. But did you know she also writes comics for Vertigo? Fairest Volume 2: The Hidden Kingdom collects issues 8-14, in which Lauren Beukes tells the tale of Rapunzel. Preview the beautiful spreads below, with the cover by Adam Hughes and art by Inaki Miranda. Fairest Vol. 2 will be available in comics stores on July 24th and in bookstores everywhere July 30th.

Fairest Volume 2

Fairest Issue 8 Page 1

Fairest Issue 8 Page 2

Fairest Issue 8 Page 3

Fairest Issue 8 Page 4

Fairest Issue 8 Page 5

Bonus image! From the issue featuring Rapunzel and Jack in Tokyo:
From Fairest Issue 8

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Who Said It: Edward Snowden or Kyle West?

Jul 17, 2013 in Uncategorized

Weaponized by Nicholas Mennuti and David GuggenheimWe’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: Weaponized, the debut novel by Nicholas Mennuti and David Guggenheim, bears an uncanny resemblance to the front page headlines we’re reading about Edward Snowden and his NSA leaks. So, for your guessing pleasure, we’ve rounded up some quotes from Snowden’s recent interview in Spiegel and lines of dialogue spoken by Kyle West, the programmer-on-the-run in Weaponized. Can you tell the difference between fact and fiction? Highlight the space after “Answer:” to reveal the source.

“Civil liberties were supposed to improve under Obama. It was supposed to be hope and change. And we were doing thirty, forty percent more domestic wiretaps under his administration.”
Answer: Kyle West

“The target’s machine doesn’t belong to them anymore; it belongs to the US government.”
Answer: Edward Snowden

“As a general rule, US-based multinationals should not be trusted until they prove otherwise.”
Answer: Edward Snowden

“Countries, nations—all outmoded terms now. We’re talking about corporations. Corporations taking the place of nation-states. Corporations paid to watch you, because they’re better at it than the government.”
Answer: Kyle West

“An investigation found the specific people who authorized the warrantless wiretapping of millions and millions of communications, which per count would have resulted in the longest sentences in world history, and our highest official simply demanded the investigation be halted. Who ‘can’ be brought up on charges is immaterial when the rule of law is not respected. Laws are meant for you, not for them.”
Answer: Edward Snowden

What else from Weaponized is playing out in real life? You’ll have to preorder a copy of the book to find out.

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