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12 Days of China Miéville

Feb 03, 2011 in Guest Posts

China Miéville famously said that he hopes to write a novel in every genre. With  portal fantasy, detective noir, conspiracy thriller and various forms of “weird fiction” already under his belt, over the past weeks, China has broadened his palette with the online serial of an intricately drawn web comic: London Intrusion. Having previously run in single installments, Mulholland Books is pleased to present London Intrusion in its complete form, from top to bottom, as nature intended.

London Intrusion

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Black Lens: Part III

Feb 02, 2011 in Black Lens, Guest Posts

Story by Ken Bruen and Russell Ackerman

Ken Bruen is one of the most celebrated crime novelists of our time.

Black Lens is his most secret project.

Read on as the unveiling continues.

With art by Jonathan Santlofer.

Fade in…

Missed Part 1? Or Part 2? Read them first.

ROMAN CANDLES

Blade in the Stream.

The movie ended and the great director moved to the screen, peered at the credits, sighed; so many of that illustrious cast had passed.

He thought as often in French as he did in the other languages he had been fluent in. Muttered softly

Quel dommage . . .” (What a pity.)

Sounds from the quiet Parisian street reached him, a woman singing off-key, a street vendor hawking his wares in that defiant tone that only the French could muster. He looked at his watch, a Patek Philippe, a gift from Harrison Ford, when they worked on that piece of cinematic fluff, like the horror of that pirate movie. A small smile touched his thin lips as he thought, peut-être, he was before his time, then along came Pirates of the Caribbean.  Johnny had been in touch a few weeks back to moot the possibility of the bio-pic of his life.

His children would be impressed with Depp playing their boring dad.

The plans for the next movie were on his desk and he wondered if he had the energy needed to regain the ruthless vision of the early wild days. Galliard were pressing him for an answer on his projected memoir.

A slight tremor of dread crept along his spine, reaching his neck and forcing a thin line of perspiration on his small brow. That call. A deeply respected and reliable source warning that his coming trip to Switzerland was a trap. The damn incessant Americans continuing their ceaseless crusade to bring him to their justice.

He snarled

“Guantánamo  Bay.’’

Muttered

Merde.”

A brief montage of stills crossed his mind, black lens, Jack Nicholson’s house, the girl, the dope, the awful screaming, his own included.

Sacré bleu.”’

He exhaled, the camera of his mind lighting the scenes, the scenes that had forced him into exile. Hadn’t he lost enough? And still they came, with their Big Macs and bigger grudges. If, shudder, that extradition was ever to become reality, they’d bring him in chains. He knew, oh he knew, the deal was done, the vigilantes of the Bible Belt, the moneyed majority, who would never rest till he was dying in a cell.

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Literary Throwdown in San Quentin

Feb 01, 2011 in Film, Guest Posts, Writing

San QuentinMichael Tolkin wrote The Player, both the novel and the canonical film directed by Robert Altman.  David Corbett has written some of the most critically acclaimed crime fiction of the past decade. Collectively, they have been nominated for more writing awards than is possible to mention. Recently, Michael and David found themselves on the other side of the fence. Literally. As the judges of a literary competition at San Quentin Prison.  Below, they share their thoughts on the experience.


Michael Tolkin: Every Friday night for eight years, Keith and Kent Zimmerman, whose friendship David and I share, have taught a writing class at San Quentin for inmates with sentences under five years. This spring, they organized a competition between the inmates and a team of Bay Area writers, including David. The brothers asked me to be one of the judges. The Zimmermans were going to select the five or six best pieces from each team, then read them aloud at the next class meeting without identifying which side the piece had come from, and then the judges were given time to rate each piece.

I know that Keith and Kent wouldn’t have put the inmates through the humiliation of a big loss, so I expected to read things that were true to what matters to the brothers, truth expressed directly, and that the flow of truth would be the substance of style. In this way, the professional writers might be at a disadvantage. With only enough time to get down a first draft that would better be called harsh than merely rough, the generally tamer life experiences of the professionals wouldn’t match the inmates’ catalogues of disaster.

I had a sense of what to expect in this way because I once taught a writing class at a Jewish halfway house in Los Angeles. I would come to each class with a phrase they had to use to start writing, and they’d have fifteen minutes to finish. When I gave them “He put,” an Israeli gangster wrote, “He put the rock in my dog’s mouth, and then stepped on his head.” I knew from that class to expect genius at San Quentin, but not art, and that the weakness of the prison writing would be the sentimentality.

As Oscar Wilde, the onetime inmate of Reading Gaol wrote, “All bad poetry is sincere.”

David Corbett: My level of expectation was mixed going in. I didn’t know Keith or Kent, but we connected by phone and shared tales of Sonny Barger and Hells Angels (they’d cowritten a book with Sonny, and as a PI I’d worked for Barger and the club when they were indicted in 1987). I also knew most of my cowriters, though only one of them well. But this familiarity, meager as it was, gave me a certain comfort level going in.

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You and Hank

Jan 31, 2011 in Guest Posts, Popcorn Fiction, Short Stories

Hot Rails to HellA Popcorn Fiction selection. Two salesmen see the dark side of Bangkok in this short story from screenwriter Darby Kealey. Oh yeah, and one of the salesmen is: you.

The first thing you notice as you step out of the airport is the heat. It’s hot in Bangkok. Not like LA heat, either. It’s thicker, almost soupy. You feel like you’re walking through the head of steam that affronts you when you open your dishwasher just after the Super-Clean cycle — but this place doesn’t smell like detergent. They probably don’t even have dishwashers here.

Your associate — he’d probably call you a ‘buddy’ — gets right to it: “Whores, buddy.” He’s a simple guy, Hank, which you envy at times; you can see him eternally happy with a bottomless case of lite beer and a ball of twine. That’s why he’s in sales. But right now, all Hank wants to do is buy. He’s heard Thailand is the place to come for prostitutes, the Mecca (your cultural reference, of course). He told you about it the whole damn flight. You would’ve preferred a crying baby.

“So this is Bonehenge, huh?”

“Huh?” Hank says. You catch the glimmer off a string of drool issuing from his mouth; Pavlov would’ve had a field day with Hank. “Whores,” he says again, trailing off at the end of what for him amounts to a sentence. He’s staring through the welter of buses, taxis, cars, and rickshaws clogging the airport entrance, to a back-alley in the distance, which he must think leads to the section of town where all the hookers are hooking. Or maybe there is no Red Light District here. Maybe it’s the whole city — the whole country, even. A Red Light Country. The thought makes you sad for a moment, but you don’t really have time to ponder it, as Hank is ambling off into almost certain death down the random back-alley. It’ll be a miracle if he survives this trip.

“Easy, Hank,” you say, grabbing him by the collar of his Lacoste shirt, which is already drenched in boozy sweat. “Hotel first, man. We gotta drop off our stuff.” Though clearly irked, Hank accedes. Despite the fact that you’re in the Far East now, the fundamentals of civilization still apply: you’re his boss. Well, not his boss, exactly, but his superior. And while you don’t like to assert your authority over anyone, particularly not a guy two years your senior, you believe that a strict adherence to hierarchy, to discipline, is the only thing that keeps foreigners alive in these inscrutable lands. You hail a taxi from the taxi stand, as the almighty Travel Guide told you to do.

Walking AlongDriving in Bangkok isn’t like driving in The States. It’s not even like driving in LA. It’s not even like driving, really. It’s more of an all out Battle of Wills. Right now, you’re sitting at a stoplight, but the semiotics of traffic signals has been diluted to the point of utter meaninglessness. Your driver blares his horn, screams something, then attempts — really tries, you can tell — to bash another taxi next to him. You think of cheap Chinese cars with no airbags and human crumple-zones; of substandard hospitals and poorly trained shamans; of some rich Frenchman with a penchant for champagne and a need for your liver. You know it’s cliché, but at this moment you hate the French.

The light remains red, but you’re off again, swooping through traffic like a bat into hell. A rickshaw sidles up next to you, making you flashback to the chariot-racing scene in Ben Hur; you slide toward the center of the backseat, half expecting a spike to pierce through your door at any moment. You finally understand what Hobbes meant by the State of Nature. And you’re plodding straight through the heart of it now: The Jungle. The thought makes you cringe.

“You seem a little jumpy, dude. You cool?”

“Fine, Hank. Just a little crazy, driving here.”

“Yeah,” Hank says, chuckling with an insouciance that, given the circumstances, indicates one of two things: A profound, Zen-monk acceptance of the comic-tragedy that is life — or mild retardation. And you’re pretty sure Hank doesn’t meditate. “Way I see it, I’m the type of guy who doesn’t worry too much about this kinda stuff, ya know? Fuck it, man.” You hate people who use phrases like ‘I’m the type of guy who…’ It seems so affected, so ersatz heroic, like Hank pictures himself standing atop some jagged cliff, sunset glowing behind him, every time he’s describing himself and his preferences, even if it’s just whether he likes chunky or smooth peanut butter better. Hank probably eats a lot of peanut butter.

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Alone in a Room

Jan 28, 2011 in Guest Posts, Writing

Not long ago I found myself alone in San Francisco with some of the most famous paintings in the western world. One entire room was devoted to Van Gogh: Starry Night Over The Rhone, The Bedroom at Arles, Portrait Of The Artist, some of Van Gogh’s most famous works. Paul Gauguin’s self portrait (right), was also on display. And I have to admit, it reminded me of myself, his defensive expression — OK, I’ve been known to wear it, and probably for the same reasons!

I’d seen some of these paintings before, in Europe, but as they are always mobbed by the public they are hard to really experience, in the way the artists intended. But that night, because of a fluke, I got to see them up close and alone. I had a strange sense of intimacy, as if Van Gogh were standing next to me wondering what I thought. It was an unbelievable experience, and quite a moving one.

That night reaffirmed something I already knew. Art, whether in the form of paintings, music, or novels, doesn’t rely on money-worth to be valuable to humanity. In fact, Van Gogh’s work would not have reached my generation if not for his brother Theo’s intervention and love of art. It bears repeating: Van Gogh’s paintings had no market to speak of. They were worth zero francs at the time of his death, as gallery owners in Paris were unwilling to hang work they considered ugly, and certainly not fashionable.

The “Marketplace” held in such high esteem today, the Marketplace that has been elevated to the right side of God in importance, failed humanity in the most serious way in the case of Van Gogh. It has failed us before (the slave trade), and most certainly is failing humanity again as millions of people are unable to find jobs because bankers were profligate and now need our help to insure their future… blah, blah, blah. How many great works of art have been lost because they had no “cash value,” tossed into the trash by indifferent landlords looking for the real loot? Van Gogh gave the world something beautiful and important, which he could never “monetize.” Now, ironically, his work is priceless. The Marketplace is, of course, a false God, which I was reminded of that evening.

Every morning I wake up, pour my coffee, turn on my computer and get set to work. More often than not, I find an email solicitation from a well-known company in Los Angeles that sells stuff to writers. Below is an example. (I’m not sure they are your friend, by the way, as they claim in their ad.)

A new year brings a fresh start, so now’s the time to get your creative plan in motion. Fortunately, fill in the blank Store has the experience and the services you need to help you achieve your artistic aspirations. From the top screenwriting tools like (fill in the blank) to novelist’s programs like (fill in the blank), there’s something to ignite every imagination. Another great way to get those creative juices flowing in the New Year is through a writing course. Our current line-up of classes covers a vast amount of interests, and many are available to take in-store, or online for our friends who live outside of Los Angeles.

This store is part of a huge industry that preys on young writers — and older writers, for that matter — and it bothers me. Most of the stuff they sell is not going to help you with problems you’ll face when starting out as a writer of novels or screenplays. Writing novels or screenplays is not about the size of your hard drive!

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Rachel Knight’s Los Angeles

Jan 27, 2011 in Books, Guest Posts, Mulholland Authors

Los Angeles at nightWe’re gearing up for the release of Marcia Clark’s Guilt by Association in April 2011 which is getting amazing advance reviews, including the following:

“Marcia Clark’s debut novel showcases her experience and knowledge of the legal system. The pace, plot and dialogue are as sharp as they come in the genre. Her character of Rachel Knight bleeds real blood, sweat and tears on the page. Guilt is a four-bagger for Clark and her many new fans will eagerly await her next step up to the plate.” -David Baldacci

“You must read this book: it is wildly and complexly plotted, ebulliently witty and filled with riotous humor; it details the inner workings of the L.A. legal system with unprecedented accuracy and verve – and to top it off, it is a damn, damn, good thriller.” -James Ellroy

Named one of the Best Mystery/Thrillers of Spring 2011 by Publishers Weekly.

Marcia’s main character LA District Attorney Rachel Knight describes many favorite places in Los Angeles in Guilt by Association. Check out Rachel Knight’s LA:

Historic Biltmore Hotel, Gallery Bar, Downtown Los AngelesThe Biltmore Hotel: Rachel Knight’s glamorous home. “The sheer beauty of the hotel lobby struck me afresh: the stained glass set into the soaring dome ceiling, the ornately cut Lalique chandelier, the plushness of the huge oriental rugs spread over dark henna-colored marble floors. Walking into the lobby always felt like I’d been enfolded in the embrace of a Rubenesque duchess. “

Engine Company Number 28: Location for Rachel’s illicit lunch with the coroner’s investigator. “An LA staple for over twenty years, the restaurant in a restored firehouse is still a popular spot. The original firehouse that had stood on the same spot in 1912 was now restored with mahogany booths, brick floors and pressed tin ceilings – and the original fireman’s pole. “

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Black Lens: Part II

Jan 26, 2011 in Black Lens, Guest Posts

Story by Ken Bruen and Russell Ackerman

Ken Bruen is one of the most celebrated crime novelists of our time.

Black Lens is his most secret project.

Mulholland Books is proud to present the unveiling of Black Lens.

One chapter a week.

A read you’ll never forget.

With art by Jonathan Santlofer.

Fade in…

Missed Part 1? Read it first.

Wolfgang

A figment of your own imagination.

He knew that.

Sweet fuck, he’d been told often enough.

Mainly by ex-wives.

Some others too but as he wasn’t paying them alimony, did they count?

Like fuck.

Not in the Wolf’s world.

And what a world it was.

He was fifty-five now and if fifty was the new thirty, no one had told him. He was what they politely term

“Rotund.”

Fat.

Very.

He knew.

Did he ever.

Did he care?

A lot.

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A Conversation with Brian Koppelman

Jan 25, 2011 in Film, Guest Posts, Writing

As the co-writer (along with his writing partner David Levien) of movies like Rounders, Ocean’s Thirteen, Knockaround Guys, Runaway Jury, and Solitary Man (which he also co-directed with Levien), it’s safe to say Brian Koppelman knows a thing or two about making criminals and con-men spark for wide audiences. As his film Solitary Man blazes a path across the DVD shelves, Koppelman talks about the indelible aspects of his writing process and the eternal appeal of a dangerous man dressed in black.

“Not a Poe Fan” explodes off the page with much the same wildly clever, expansive dialogue you’re known for writing in the screenplays for films like Ocean’s 13 and Rounders. Plus or minus a few lines of description, is writing prose really that different from writing scripts?

Thanks for the kind words. Truth is, I love to read writers talking about this stuff—process, intention, technique—but when I am writing, I never think about any of it consciously and certainly not when putting out the first draft. I just try and let whatever is below the surface come out onto the page. And then, when I rewrite, I try as hard as I can to clean it up without fucking it up. In that way, the screenwriting and prose writing are the same, I guess. The work that happens before the writing begins is different, though, for me. There are such specific time constraints in film that you sort of need a roadmap before you start. A plan. When writing this story, as I am sure reading it will tell you, I had no map or plan at all. Continue reading ›

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Not a Poe Fan

Jan 25, 2011 in Popcorn Fiction, Short Stories

Edgar Allan Poe

A Popcorn Fiction selection. A bookmaker’s heavy haggles with a degenerate sucker who can’t make his payments in this crime story from top screenwriter Brian Koppelman.

“…No shit!  Really?  You’re saying they put this cafe on the very spot Edgar Allan Poe used to live?  Well.  Well!  If I were the sort of guy who gave a fucking shit about Edgar Allan Poe, I guess I’d give a fucking shit that he fucking lived here. But since I am the opposite of the kind of motherfucker who gives a fucking shit about where Edgar Allan Poe dined, shat and slept, excuse me if I do not strike an impressed pose.  Instead, why don’t you impress me.  Go into your pocket and take out the money you owe.  And then, why don’t you put it on the table where I can proceed to pick it up and move towards the door in one fluid and easy motion, leaving you here to appreciate the ambiance and heavy portents of the illustrious haunting author’s former haunt.”

Wow, I thought, this guy has either done way too much coke, seen way too many Tarantino movies or done a whole lot of coke while watching Tarantino movies. But he was the guy Block sent to collect.  So he was the guy I was going to have to deal with. I forced a smile and dove in.

“Mr…Mr…You never told me your name–” Continue reading ›

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A Writer’s Life

Jan 24, 2011 in Guest Posts

154/365A writer’s life is often considered to be a life of ease. Apparently there was a survey last year of the British public, and following on from “professional footballer” as the most favored profession, “writer” came second. I think somewhere there must be a viewpoint that a writer rises late (he would have to following the quantity of alcohol consumed at last night’s lavish launch party, surrounded by adoring fellow celebrities, the red carpet rolled out, assistants and attendants on hand to cater to every whim), and while fielding telephone calls from Hollywood producers vying for movie rights, the hosts of popular TV culture and arts shows offering ever-increasing quantities of money to feature in a prime-time documentary, our writer would breakfast on scallops and quails’ eggs, smoke a packet of Lucky Strikes, down three cups of Blue Mountain hand-ground coffee, and then type a handful of words on his battered Underwood or Remington before retiring to the club for an afternoon of witty repartee and good cognac with the likes of Norman Mailer and John Updike.

Sorry to have to let you down, but a writer’s life is not quite this way. Continue reading ›

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