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A Conversation with Alafair Burke

Apr 13, 2011 in Books, Fiction, Guest Posts, Writing

BangAlafair Burke is a lawyer-turned novelist and the creator of two of the most memorable female crime fighters on the scene today: NYPD Detective Ellie Hatcher and Portland Deputy District Attorney Samantha Kincaid. Jen Forbus is a tastemaker in the crime fiction community and the force behind Jen’s Book Thoughts. Here, they discuss writing great characters, changing perspectives and the best bulldog on earth: The Duffer.

Jen: Hey Alafair!  I thought I’d start off by asking you how you define a great female character.

Alafair: Thank you for jumping back in, Jen. The greatness of a female character should be the same for any character. I like characters who feel real. Who have backstories. Who have good days and bad. Who have unpredictable and yet fully explained reactions to their environments. Who are flawed but likable. Whose voices ring in your head long after the book is closed.

When we see that kind of greatness in female characters, I think we admire it all the more because we sometimes get used to — and perhaps even expect — female characters to fall into one a handful of stock stereotypes: the supportive wife, the hooker with a heart of gold, the femme fatale. I like to think that the women I’ve created are the kind of women readers can imagine themselves knowing and liking in their own lives.

Jen: So do your characters evolve from women you know and like; do those real life women influence how you create characters? Do you feel other writers have influenced how you create characters? Or are they simply organic to the creation of the story?

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Black Lens

Apr 13, 2011 in Black Lens

Black Lens is currently on hiatus. But it will return.

Do not despair.

1 Comment

The Game’s Afoot

Apr 12, 2011 in Mulholland Authors, Mulholland News

We are proud to announce that Mulholland Books will be the North American publishers of THE HOUSE OF SILK: A SHERLOCK HOLMES NOVEL to be written by Anthony Horowitz, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Alex Rider series. This new story is being written with the full endorsement of the Conan Doyle Estate, the first such time that they have given their seal of approval for a new Sherlock Holmes novel.  The novel will be published on November 1, 2011. For a taste of the book, watch this video. Anthony Horowitz will read to you from the super top-secret pages.

What’s your favorite Sherlock Holmes story or novel?

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The Spaces Between Stars

Apr 11, 2011 in Books, Guest Posts, Mulholland Authors, Mulholland News

Cité interditeMy name’s Warren Ellis.  I’m mostly a science fiction writer.  I’m sometimes also a crime writer.  These are essentially the same thing.

Let me try and explain that.

I don’t think HG Wells and Raymond Chandler ever met.  I don’t know that they would have had a lot to say to each other if they did.  Perhaps Wells might have gloweringly reprimanded Chandler for being mean about his friend AA Milne’s detective novel.  Or perhaps he might have asked for a go on Chandler’s wife, I don’t know.  But I like to imagine that an interlocuter bringing them together – perhaps in 1940, Wells’ twilight and Chandler’s emergence – would have explained why they should talk.

It was HG Wells, in large part, who made science fiction into social fiction.  You can trace back the roots of that movement to Mary Shelley and beyond, but it was Wells who both concretised it and gave it common currency.  Science fiction is nominally about the novum, the new thing that disrupts the world of the story.  But THE INVISIBLE MAN is not about an invisibility process, just as THE TIME MACHINE is not really about a time machine.  The great Wells fireworks were novels about the human condition, the sociopolitical space and the way Wells saw life being lived.

In crime fiction, of course, the story is nominally about the crime: the disruptive event introduced into the world of the story.  But THE BIG SLEEP isn’t about a murder, and FAREWELL MY LOVELY isn’t about a missing person.  Chandler’s great leap – and of course there were antecedents and even peers, but it’s Chandler who is indelible – was to make crime fiction fully an expression of social fiction.

These became the dual tracks upon which our mediation of the 20th Century ran.  Science fiction and crime fiction contextualised, explored and reported on rapidly changing and expanding modern conditions.  And they did it in ways that spoke to the felt experiences of our lives, to our hopes and our fears, in ways that other fictions, or even other reportage, couldn’t approach.  Science fiction and crime fiction explained to us where we really are, and where we might be going.

So when I write science fiction I’m a crime writer, and when I write crime fiction I’m an sf writer.  I’m talking about our lives, and the way I see the world.  I’m writing about the new thing, the disruptive event that enters that world, its repercussions and the attempts to deal with it.  But I’m talking about where I think I am today, and what I think it looks like.

In GUN MACHINE, I’m writing about a disruptive event: a small sealed Manhattan apartment filled with hundreds of guns, each one used in a single unsolved homicide.  But what I’m talking about is money, the acquisition of power, the deals we make in the name of security, the unique soul-killing exhaustion that comes of caring too much for too long, and the faces madness take in our lives.

Also quite a lot of people get shot.

I just have to trust that the good people at Mulholland Books will catch me when I get confused and give my New York City police detective rocket pants and a ray gun.

[Editor’s Note: We are proud to announce today that Warren Ellis is joining Mulholland Books for two books, the first of which will be GUN MACHINE and will be published in Fall 2012. Warren Ellis is more than just a writer. He is a movement. We are thrilled to be the publishers of GUN MACHINE.]

Warren Ellis is the award-winning creator of graphic novels such as TransmetropolitanFellMinistry of Space and Planetary, and the author of Crooked Little Vein. The film Red, based on his graphic novel, was released in October 2010. He has written a number of graphic novels under option for film and TV. He is personally adapting his series of Gravel graphic novels into a screenplay for Legendary Pictures. He lives in south-east England.

Mulholland Books will publish GUN MACHINE in Fall 2012.

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Stay tuned

Apr 11, 2011 in Mulholland News

Your regularly scheduled Mulholland Books column will post here shortly. It will announce some very exciting news that we can’t wait to tell you. In the meantime, follow us on Twitter to find out the minute it posts and read some Popcorn Fiction to get your mind off the wait.

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Chapter 1 of Guilt By Association by Marcia Clark

Apr 08, 2011 in Excerpts, Guest Posts, Mulholland Authors

Keep reading GUILT BY ASSOCIATION by Marcia Clark as we prepare for the book’s publication on April 20th. If you missed the Prologue, catch up here.

1

“Guilty? Already? What’d they do, just walk around the table and hit the buzzer?” Jake said, shaking his head incredulously.

I laughed, nodding. “I know, it’s crazy. Forty-five-minute verdict after a three-month trial,” I said as I shook my head. “I thought the clerk was kidding when she called and told me to come back to court.” I paused. “Now that I think about it, this might be my fastest win ever on a first-degree.”

“Hell, sistah, that’s the fastest win I done heard on
anythang,
” Toni said as she plopped down into the chair facing my desk. She talked ghetto only as a joke.

“Y’all gotta admit,” I said, “homegirl brought game this time.”

Toni gave me a disdainful look. “Uh-uh, snowflake. You can’t pull it off, so don’t try.” She reached for the mug I kept cleaned and at the ready for her on the windowsill.

I raised an eyebrow. “You’ve got a choice: take that back and have a drink, or enjoy your little put-down and stay dry.”

Toni eyed the bottle of Glenlivet on my desk, her lips firmly pressed together, as she weighed her options. It didn’t take long. “It’s amazing. For a minute there, I thought Sister Souljah was in the room,” she said with no conviction whatsoever. She slammed her mug down on my desk. “Happy?”
I shrugged. “Not your best effort, but they can’t all be gold.” I broke the small ice tray out of my mini-fridge, dumped the cubes into her cup, and poured the equivalent of two generous shots of Glenlivet.

Toni shot me a “don’t push your luck” look and signaled a toast.

I turned to Jake and gestured to the bottle. “Maybe a token?” I asked. He was a nondrinker by nature, but he’d occasionally join in to be sociable.

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Start Reading The Bayou Trilogy by Daniel Woodrell

Apr 07, 2011 in Books, Excerpts, Guest Posts, Mulholland Authors

This month we are re-publishing Daniel Woodrell’s three Rene Shade novels, Under the Bright Lights, Muscle for the Wing, The Ones You Do in one beautiful package called THE BAYOU TRILOGY. We will be excerpting the first chapter of each of the 3 novels here over the next few weeks. We begin with Under the Bright Lights, a novel which  Washington Post Book World praised for its Poetic prose and raw dialogue” and which the San Francisco Examiner called “a flawless novel.”

1

JEWEL COBB had long been a legendary killer in his midnight reveries and now he’d come to the big town to prove that his upright version knew the same techniques and was just as cold. He sat on the lumpy green couch tapping his feet in time with a guitar he scratched at with sullen incompetence.

It was hard to play music in this room, he felt. There was a roof but it leaked, and great rusty stains spread down the corners of the apartment. The walls were hefty with a century’s accumulation of layered wallpaper bubbled into large humps in their centers. The pipe from the stove wobbled up to and through a rip in the ceiling where some industrious derelict had tried to do a patch job by nailing flattened beer cans over the gaps. It was altogether the sort of place that a man with serious money would not even enter, a man with pin money would not linger in, but a man with no money would have to call home. For a while.

“Suze,” Jewel called. “Bring me a cup of coffee, will ya?”

“What?” Suze yelled. “I can’t hear you, I’m in the john.”

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Black Lens: Part XII

Apr 06, 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.

Every Wednesday on Mulholland Books.

With art by Jonathan Santlofer.

Fade in…

Read Part 1, Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6Part 7Part 8, Part 9, Part 10 and Part 11.

BLACK LISTED

Sundance was wonderful, the starlet’s flocked round him.

Back of his mind was the niggling thought,

Cabal.

But fuck ‘em.

He was a

STAR.

Redford even said hello.

Chugging Tequila’s, listening to The White Stripes, he figured

‘Top of the freaking world Ma.’

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A Conversation with Michael Connelly

Apr 05, 2011 in Books, Guest Posts, Writing

Michael Connelly’s new legal thriller starring Mikey Haller, The Fifth Witness, hits bookstores today. Here, Connelly discusses the perils of writing about a defense attorney, the source of his courtroom knowledge and the connection between Mikey and Matthew McConaughey.

Question: Michael, in The Fifth Witness, we learn that times have been tough for criminal defense attorney Mickey Haller causing him to expand his law practice into foreclosure defense. One of his foreclosure clients gets accused of killing the banker she blames for trying to take her home. Why did you decide to tackle the tricky subject of foreclosure in this book?

Michael Connelly: Two reasons. First, I am always looking for a story that reflects a little bit of what is happening in society at the moment. And this, of course, is happening. Millions of homes have been foreclosed on in the last couple years and probably millions more to come. The second reason is that I sort of fell into it. One of the attorney’s I research the Haller books with has done the same thing. Because the economic downturn has resulted in fewer clients being able to hire private defense counsel, he moved into foreclosure defense. He told me some stories about this side of the legal trade and I knew there was a story there.

Q: Here is a Mickey quote from the book: “When you come from the criminal defense bar, you are used to being despised.” Do you find it hard to create and maintain a series character who works in a profession that some people just don’t understand and often find sleazy?

MC: Absolutely. But it’s a two-sided coin. On one side there are readers who love watching a guy who is good at gaming the system. On the other, there are readers looking for a hero. So the difficulty is finding stories and situations where Mickey sort of speaks to both of these constituencies. Reading to me is about creating an empathic connection with a character. The challenge in accomplishing this as a writer is more difficult when that character, as you say, is often misunderstood and generalized as sleazy. It is so much easier to build a connection between the reader and a detective like Harry Bosch.

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The Invisible Hero: A Conversation between Zo&#235 Ferraris and David Corbett

Apr 04, 2011 in Books, Uncategorized, Writing

mosaic gate, marrakech moroccoDavid Corbett is a former private investigator the acclaimed author of four novels, including the most recent Do They Know I’m Running?. Zoë Ferraris is the award-winning author of Finding Nouf and City of Veils. Here, they discuss how fiction can break down cultural stereotypes, making “strangers” recognizable and the role of the hero in crime fiction.

David Corbett: When I first read Finding Nouf , I was bowled over by how insightful it was about what damage a culture premised on male superiority could inflict on not just women but men. The psychological and emotional limitations were brought to light so specifically and poignantly in that book that I was just mesmerized.

One observation in particular I remember vividly—when Nayir reflects on what a joy it would be to have a sister, a woman with whom he could actually have meaningful, personal conversations without fear of impropriety. That was just heartbreaking.

But the other thing that made me take notice was the timing. The book came out in 2008, with America still in the throes of post-9/11 Muslim-bashing. Muslim men in particular were often viewed as terrorists until proven otherwise.

I thought you were incredibly brave, hoping readers would see as human someone so many Americans had already stigmatized, demonized or dismissed.

And yet I didn’t get any sense of a political agenda on your part, though I did sense an artistic one, a desire to lend a voice to one particular type of voiceless—or invisible—character. Am I correct in that?

Zoë Ferraris: Thanks, David. And yes, there wasn’t so much a plan as a general disbelief. I’ve been hanging around Muslims for twenty years. At some point I took stock of all the Arab men I knew and asked myself how many of them are similar to anything I’ve seen of Arab men in the news, on TV, or in modern fiction. I ran through the checklist: terrorist, rock-thrower, fully-bearded fundamentalist, sleazy souq merchant, wife-beater, oil baron, or billionaire sheikh. The only one who fit any of the above categories was an American I knew who had converted to Islam. His idea of being Muslim was culled from old National Geographic photos; he became a fundamentalist and grew the craziest beard I’ve ever seen.

Same goes for Muslim women. Checklist: any belly dancers out there? Nope.

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