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Year End Review: This Land is Noir Land

Dec 27, 2010 in Guest Posts, Year End Review

This week, we’ll be re-featuring our favorite posts by forthcoming Mulholland authors. We’ll be back to our regularly scheduled programming starting in January 2011.

The Devil's HighwayI’ve always wanted to drive cross-country. Would have done it in college, except for two small things: (a) no car, and (b) no money.

But now that I own a motor vehicle (granted, a minivan) and have a little more folding green, I decided to take my family on a cross-country drive this past summer. We spent twelve days trekking from Philly to the Pacific Ocean, stopping at whatever caught our eye.

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Christmas eBooks: It’s no mystery what you should read next

Dec 25, 2010 in eBooks

Merry Christmas, Mystery Readers! If you got an eReader under the tree today, we’re here to recommend have some excellent Little, Brown thrillers that will keep you clicking at a furious pace (because that’s how you turn pages now. Don’t worry, you’ll get used to it).

The Reversal by Michael Connelly
The Reversal, Connelly’s new novel, might be his best: a crackling-good read, smart and emotionally satisfying. It manages to condense decades of time and reams of information into a compelling narrative that adeptly explores various elements of L.A.’s own version of what passes as a criminal justice system.”
— Jonathan Shapiro, Los Angeles Times
BooksonBoard | Diesel | | iBook |Kindle | Kobo | Sony | Nook | Powells |
Pre-order The Fifth Witness for your Kindle app or reader, it will be automatically delivered to your device in April 2011.

Exit Music by Ian Rankin
“This has been one of the best police procedural series ever written.” -Patrick Anderson, Washington Post
BooksonBoard | Diesel | | iBook | Kindle | Kobo | Sony | Nook | Powells |
Love Ian Rankin? Stock up! This week only, Resurrection Men is available for the low price of $2.99 wherever eBooks are sold.
Pre-order The Complaints for your Kindle app or reader, it will be automatically delivered to your device in March 2011.

So Cold the River by Michael Koryta
“A chilling supernatural tale. . . . Michael Koryta’s novel is being compared to the writings of Stephen King and Peter Straub. He lives up to the comparison in this dark novel.” — Carol Memmott, USA Today
BooksonBoard | Diesel | | iBook | Kindle | Kobo | Sony | Nook | Powells |
Pre-order The Cypress House for your Kindle app or reader, it will be automatically delivered to your device in January 2011.

When Will There Be Good News? by Kate Atkinson
“As a reader, I was charmed. As a novelist, I was staggered by Atkinson’s narrative wizardry.” -Stephen King, Entertainment Weekly
BooksonBoard | Diesel | | iBook | Kindle | Kobo | Sony | Nook | Powells |
Love Kate Atkinson? Stock up! This week only, Case Histories is available for the low price of $4.99 wherever eBooks are sold.
Pre-order Started Early, Took My Dog for your Kindle app or reader, it will be automatically delivered to your device in February 2011.

Visit the Little, Brown website, Facebook page and Twitter account for more reading suggestions. Happy Holidays!


Year End Review: How Much Ozarks Is In Me?

Dec 23, 2010 in Guest Posts, Year End Review

Over the next few days, we’ll be re-featuring our favorite posts by forthcoming Mulholland authors. We’ll be back to our regularly scheduled programming starting in January 2011.

Two hours before beginning this essay we had yet another encounter with residents of the meth house on the corner, our nearest neighbor to the west. The lead male over there is a cutter, dozens of little slashes have made risen scars on his arms. He has a ponytail, is known well by all cops in town, and never wears a shirt. He accused us of “eyeballing” him as we passed his house, something we have no choice but to do many times a day. The derelict shack has in the past been home to sex criminals, rapists, and pedophiles, other meth users, and some criminals who would have to be called general practitioners—whatever crime looks easiest tonight is what they will be arrested for tomorrow. Meth-heads are the worst to deal with. They are unpredictable and frequently violent after they’ve been sleepless for a few days. We are dedicated to minding our own business about most things, legal or not so much, but cooking meth releases toxins and is a peril to the whole neighborhood. A decade ago there were several houses much like this operating nearby, but they’ve been weeded down to this, the last one, and these tweakers should start packing.

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Year End Review: Guns to Shape the Future

Dec 22, 2010 in Guest Posts, Year End Review

Over the next few days, we’ll be re-featuring our favorite posts by forthcoming Mulholland authors. We’ll be back to our regularly scheduled programming starting in January 2011.
bulletsThe sensation, if you allow yourself experience it, is that of pressing your face up against the glass right at the rushing tip of the present as it plows headlong into the future. There is no wind, only a thrum of momentum from somewhere deeply hidden; yet the sense of speed is nauseating, teetering on the edge of elation and dismay. Morale flicks back and forth, threatening to fall definitively to one side or the other, as each blurred impression of what the world is becoming blips onto the horizon, looms suddenly, and plunges behind us into the immediate past. With no time to understand.
Is it any wonder that we only climb into the nose of the present to face this overwhelming aspect on rare occasions?
I mean, I like a roller coaster, but not every minute of every day.
Of course, the biggest difference between a roller coaster and the future is that one runs on tracks, and the other does not. That’s what makes the terrors of a roller coaster enjoyable, and the terrors of the future a source of dread. Corkscrewing while pulling 3G’s can be an exhilarating sensation with a padded steel bar locked over one’s torso. Hurtling through the radically mutating implications of shattered financial systems, looming ash clouds, gouting oil leaks, combusting religious extremists, mushrooming mega-urban sprawl, radicalized weather systems, and your choice of today’s lesser headlines, all without the benefit of a lap belt, let alone an air bag, is something more akin to being caught in the head, your pants around your ankles, when the airbus goes into a tailspin: pinned to the wall by incomprehensible forces, half naked and helpless, with shit flying everywhere.

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My Favorite Crime Novels of 2010

Dec 21, 2010 in Books, Guest Posts

Our friend Sarah Weinman was generous enough to allow us to re-print her favorite crime novels of 2010, originally posted on Off on a Tangent.

SAVAGES, Don Winslow

This more than any other book was my “shout from the rooftops” pick. I read the book 3 times and I could easily have read it another 3 more. That in a way made it hard for me to review SAVAGES, but I gave it my best shot in describing the book as “both a departure and a culmination, pyrotechnic braggadocio and deep meditation on contemporary American culture.” In other words, it’s funny and sad, very rooted in today’s culture while also a damning indictment, and oh yeah, the ending is amazing and absolutely perfect.

THE SINGER’S GUN, Emily St. John Mandel

Widespread and rapturous praise for the book, and for Mandel, is wholly justified. As I wrote in my “Dark Passages” column when THE SINGER’S GUN was first published in May, “The beauty of the novel is that its key truths are those the reader arrives at on his or her own, without the help of a straight-line narrative or a dominating perspective. Instead, Mandel feeds off of our need to make connections, even when the pattern they form doesn’t really exist. We start with anxiety and end with it, thrumming in the background for us to listen in – or ignore, at both cost and reward.”


If SAVAGES was my summer rooftop shout book, CROOKED LETTER, CROOKED LETTER occupied that same perch for the fall. I’ve been a huge Franklin admirer for years and have awaited a new novel from him for a long time. Boy, did he deliver with this standout tale of race, boyhood friendship gone wrong, past secrets exposed to the cruel light of the present, and what have you.

From my LAT column: “[Franklin’s] larger aim is to comment on how misunderstandings multiply into easily averted tragedy; how generations-old racism is a scourge that only needs a few small souls to stamp it out, whether they know it or not; how small gestures are full of loaded meaning; and how childhood thoughtlessness — the good and the bad — can be amplified with the greater context of adulthood.”

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Impulse Kill

Dec 20, 2010 in Popcorn Fiction, Short Stories

DrivenA Popcorn Fiction Selection. A small-town sheriff has trouble disposing of a dead body in this twisted tale from screenwriter/editor John Patrick Nelson.

It had been an impulse kill.

Sheriff Dunne mentally kicked himself as he steered his beast of a squad car down the desert road, sweat dripping down his ass crack. Stupid, he thought, pulling the trigger like that. Just plain dumb. You’d think it would’ve at least given him a little bit of satisfaction, just the tiniest bit, but no, even when he drew his gun and fired, he’d known it was a major fuckup.

And here he was, cruising on the outskirts of his little desert town, with a body in the trunk, looking for a place to dump it. Another in a long list of stupid moves.

Number one being marrying Jean. Everyone warned him about her — hell, she even tried to warn him not to do it. And maybe she tried to be faithful, those first few years, when things were good and he was climbing from deputy to sheriff. But soon as he pinned that star on his chest, she was out the door, chasing after whatever she could get between her thighs. He couldn’t count the times he’d have to bust into some good ol’ boy’s house (or truck, or meth lab) and drag her out, usually butt naked. But he’d always managed to restrain himself, never to blow away her boyfriends, no matter how bad he wanted to.

And yet here he was, looking for a good place to dig a hole.

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All About the Bad Guy

Dec 17, 2010 in Books, Guest Posts, Television

western cowboy still lifeA couple of weeks ago, I started watching The Sopranos. I never watched it when it was on television, because at the time everyone else in the world was so over the moon about it. I hate things that other people tell you you should see. It’s the reason I never saw Avatar, and why The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is known to me as The Book That Sits on My Shelf. I have no good reason to avoid The Sopranos, James Cameron’s masterpiece, or the tattooed Swede. For no good reason, I just lose interest when the bandwagon fills up. It’s sort of the way George Carlin felt about Lance Armstrong and Tiger Woods. He refused to get on board with either, because he was “tired of being told who to admire.”

The only flaw in being stubborn and judgmental is that occasionally you end up trailing the bandwagon and looking like an idiot. I walked into the staff room at my school last week and said, “Hey, you know, The Sopranos is pretty good.” I got a look that told me what I had said was about as groundbreaking as “Fire good.”

Indeed, The Sopranos is a good show. I should have tried it sooner, really, because the concept is right up my alley. The show is all about the bad guy.

The three books I have had published so far, and the other three that are still on my hard drive, have all been about a bad guy. It’s never intentional. For some reason, every time I put pen to paper, what comes out of me is never about anyone who is getting into heaven. I don’t think I’m alone in this. Crime fiction is all about the bad guy. But what is it about the bad guy that people love so much?

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Dec 16, 2010 in Guest Posts, Short Stories

bloody snowThanks to the kind editors of Needle Magazine, we’re publishing a short story by Sophie Littlefield. This story, and many others like it, can be found in Issue 3 of Needle Magazine. Visit to subscribe.

Frank and me, we meet for happy hour every month or so. Last time was in March, when the crocuses were coming up through the rim of dirty snow at the edge of the yard, crocuses RoseMarie planted the year we bought the house. I stomped the shoots into a pulpy green mass with my work boots, and still some of the stubborn fuckers came back, opening their purple throats to the sun.

Now it’s May, and it’s irises rising up out of the ground to send me backward, only there’s been a new development and I don’t mess with RoseMarie’s flowers. Instead, I think of Frank. It’s time to call that old bastard, even if I didn’t have this other thing. But Frank owes me. After I think it through for a while, I see a way that Frank can fix my problem.


Frank shows up and right off I can see he’s doing fine. Looks to have taken off a few pounds, got a nice haircut and a new jacket, maybe pig suede, maybe the expensive stuff. Frank can afford it, ever since the Schapper boys put him in a half-million dollar house for free, contingent on him making it through that medically-induced coma with his head more or less glued back together after Josh Harrick took a bat to it.

Since he’s got no mortgage payment, Frank’s pension from the Toyota plant leaves more than enough to throw around. Still, you got to hand it to him: he never throws it in your face. Lets me buy a roundSoft & Sharp when it’s my turn. A little thing that means something to me, on my cop salary.

“Fuck me, you’re prettier every time I see you,” I say, as Frank hugs me. It’s a full-on hug, with no back slapping. That’s all the therapy for you, the twelve step shit. I know it well enough for what it is – I’ve lost two partners to extended AA sabbaticals, which is another way of saying they’re drinking themselves to death on the installment plan.

But Frank’s no backslider. He’s one who found a way to make it work.

I get my beer, he gets his club soda, we order one of those piles of fried onions, he looks at me long and hard and he gets down to it:

“You got troubles, Gil?”

Shit yeah, I got troubles. If it was someone else sitting across the table, I might try all night and never get it out. But there’s Frank for you. I tell him the whole story. When I mention RoseMarie he winces like it’s him who can’t breathe the air as good ever since she left, even though it’s been two and a half years. When I tell him about that fucking Stroker she’s taken up with, about the “save the date” card – the long sleeves she wore the last time we had coffee, the bluish bruise on the bit of cleavage I managed to see – yeah, I was looking, sue me – anyway Frank listens to the whole thing.

Then we figure out how to fix it.

I was counting on that. There’s been that offer on the table all these years. The quid pro quo. We’re friends. But our friendship kicked off with the balance on my side. I’m forty-six this spring, old enough to know you can pretend all day long that the past doesn’t matter – but owing is owing. And Frank’s owed me since that day twelve years ago when I walked into the Harrick house with my Sig drawn and found him lying in his own blood, gasping like a trout on a June dock in the morning sun.

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My Friend Robin

Dec 15, 2010 in Books, Guest Posts

I will leave it to more rigorous and measured commentators and critics to assess the legacy of Derek Raymond’s fiction and his place in the crime and mystery canon. I would rather remember my friend Robin.

The good mate who had to change his name, except in France.

Born into the British upper-middle class, educated at Eton, and something of a black sheep in his family circle, Robin Cook (formally, Robert William Arthur Cook), had written a half dozen well-received novels in the 1960s about the London demimonde of petty crooks and class war before his personal life came badly untangled and he flirted with petty criminality himself, eventually being obliged to leave the country and begin a decade of wandering across Europe—through Italy, Spain, and France, principally—during which time survival became more important than writing. He smuggled stolen cars over borders, became foreign minister for a commune in Italy that had seceded from the rest of the country, and toiled in the fields as a manual laborer in rural France. Add to this a failed marriage and semi-abandoned offspring before the pieces of his life finally began coming together again.

His return to writing in the second half of the 1970s saw him pen the first in a series of books featuring a nameless detective who was based around a police station on Poland Street in London’s Soho, He Died with His Eyes Open (1976). However, when it came time to get the book published, he was informed that he could no longer use his own name. During his absence from the bookshelves, an American writer sporting the same moniker, now best known, of course, for medical thrillers, had emerged to considerable success. Thus Robert William Arthur Cook became Derek Raymond, and this is how the world now knows him. Apart from the French public, who were only aware of him as Robin Cook—his American counterpart never was a hit there, and local publishers were willing to issue Cook’s books under his real name. Actually, abetted by the fact that he still lived in France until 1989, in the Dordogne, and that he had become well known as a popular presence in the local literary and crime scene—with his plum British accent, eternal black beret, and skeletal appearance—he quickly established himself as something of a cult figure there, where his sales were quite noteworthy in contrast with those in the United Kingdom and the United States, where he was still something of an unknown.

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The Fall (and Rise) of the Crime Comic

Dec 14, 2010 in Comic Books, Guest Posts

It's Time for Us to GoThe crime comic has a rich and long history. You wouldn’t know it to look at the comic landscape today, but at one time crime comics ruled. While I freely admit that I’m not the guy to write about the history and golden age of the crime comic, I also recognize the need to cover one portion of it in order to set the stage and place the modern crime comic in its proper context. The Comics Code was established in 1954 to regulate the contents and covers of comic books. It effectively killed off the crime and horror comic books while ushering in an age of rampant censorship in the industry. To imagine how difficult it was to produce a crime comic at that time, it’s instructive (and eye-opening) to take a look at some sections of The Code that applied to the genre.

-Crimes shall never be presented in such a way as to create sympathy for the criminal, to promote distrust of the forces of law and justice, or to inspire others with a desire to imitate criminals.

-Policemen, judges, government officials, and respected institutions shall never be presented in such a way as to create disrespect for established authority.

-If crime is depicted, it shall be as a sordid and unpleasant activity.

-Criminals shall not be presented so as to be rendered glamorous or to occupy a position which creates a desire for emulation.

-In every instance good shall triumph over evil and the criminal shall be punished for his misdeeds.

-Scenes of excessive violence shall be prohibited. Scenes of brutal torture, excessive and unnecessary knife and gunplay, physical agony, gory and gruesome crime shall be eliminated.

-The letters of the word “crime” on a comics-magazine cover shall never be appreciably greater in dimension than the other words contained in the title. The word “crime” shall never appear alone on a cover.

-Although slang and colloquialisms are acceptable, excessive use should be discouraged, and wherever possible, good grammar shall be employed.

-Illicit sex relations are neither to be hinted at nor portrayed. Violent love scenes as well as sexual abnormalities are unacceptable.

Those are all real parts of The Code that the crime comic was subjected to. It was so stifling that practically overnight the genre was crippled and it would take decades for the effects to wear off.

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