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Welcome, PW Daily Readers…

Feb 15, 2011 in Mulholland News

It is highly likely that you find yourself here today because you’ve read about Mulholland Books in our dedicated issue of PW Daily. If that is the case, welcome! We hope you will spend some time here, reading about our books, authors and all of the amazing content that we have been posting here since August. We recommend you check out all the posts by Mulholland Authors, our original fiction (notably an original story by Andrew Vachss) as well as the ongoing Popcorn Fiction showcase, a web comic by China Mieville, as well as articles by Nick Tosches, Nelson DeMille, Brad Meltzer, Ian Rankin, and our serialized novel Black Lens by Ken Bruen. Part 5 of Black Lens will post on the site tomorrow. And on Thursday and Friday of this week, we will be featuring a two-part Q&A with Academy Award-winning screenwriter Brian Helgeland.

We’ d like to encourage you to sign up for our eNewsletter so that we can keep you posted about acquisitions, excerpts, reviews, events and everything that is going on here at the website.

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What’s the score . . .

Feb 14, 2011 in Books, Guest Posts, Music

InsideThe theme from The Persuaders. My favourite John Barry pick. Without a doubt. I mean, obviously his arrangement for the Monty Norman 007 theme in Dr No, and then all the subsequent Bonds – the Conneriad – From Russia With Love, Goldfinger, Thunderball, You Only Live Twice, and Diamonds Are Forever. But there was something about the theme to The Persuaders that really just got me – that intriguing split-screen title sequence juxtaposing the early lives of Danny Wilde and Lord Brett Sinclair. I haven’t seen it in (cough) forty years, but it’s alive in my mind right now, and is taking me back . . . back . . . the exciting visuals and that pounding theme . . .

The gift of sound and vision.

The death of John Barry recently sees the passing of one of the great practitioners of a peculiarly modern art form – the composition of music for film. Ever since the days of the nickelodeon, stories told with moving pictures have had music accompanying them. They don’t necessarily need it, of course, as shown very effectively by Hitchcock in The Birds, and more recently by Michael Haneke in such works as Hidden and The White Ribbon. But there’s a certain austerity here that, let’s face it, we mightn’t want to see replicated everywhere. Because a good movie score provides colour and emotional commentary. And what a truly great score does is become an integral part of the movie itself. Works its way into the very fabric and texture of it. Such a score makes the movie it accompanies incomplete – unimaginable without it.

Try to imagine, for example, Vertigo without Bernard Herrmann’s mesmerizing score. This music doesn’t just tell us what to think, it is an objective correlative of what we think – of what we feel and experience at a visceral level when we are watching the movie. Its tones and moods are inextricable from the movie’s layers of emotion, from its colour and depth, from its narrative complexity. In the same way, try to imagine Chinatown without Jerry Goldsmith’s score. To Kill a Mockingbird without Elmer Berstein’s score. The Godfather and Amarcord without Nino Rota. 1970s paranoia without David Shire and Michael Small.

Bond without Barry. Everyone can make their own list.

Sometimes a score can even give a fairly ordinary film a bit of a lift. I watched State of Grace on TV late one night recently, Phil Joanou’s 1990 westies gangster flick. It’s pretty good and has a great cast, but Ennio Morricone’s achingly beautiful score raises the bar considerably and infuses the movie’s themes of regret and lost youth with a poignancy that they might not otherwise have achieved.

An alternative to the original score is the mixtape approach, where a movie co-opts existing music, usually classical, and redefines it with new imagery (and occasionally threatens to spoil it, through overkill, as is the case with the adagietto from Mahler’s 5th used in Visconti’s Death in Venice). The master of this form was surely Stanley Kubrick, who had an uncanny ability to pair existing music with whatever personal vision he was committing to screen at the time. In this regard, my own favourite of his is Barry Lyndon, a film in which music and imagery, lighting and colour, are held in such perfect balance that you are literally transported to a previous century. Okay, not literally. But if feels that way.

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A Conversation with Hilary Davidson and Brad Parks

Feb 11, 2011 in Books, Guest Posts, Writing

Hilary Davidson’s debut THE DAMAGE DONE (Tor Forge) released in September to rave reviews, including from Crimespree’s Jon Jordan, who called it “one of the best debuts I’ve read in years.” Her short story, “Insatiable” won a 2010 Spinetingler Award. An accomplished travel writer whose work has appeared in numerous national publications, Hilary is also the author of 18 non-fiction books.

Brad Parks’ debut, FACES OF THE GONE (Minotaur Books), became the first book ever to win both the Shamus Award and Nero Award. The next in the series, EYES OF THE INNOCENT, released last week and has been called “as good if not better” in a starred review by Library Journal. A former journalist for The (Newark, N.J.) Star-Ledger and The Washington Post, Brad is now a full-time author.

Hilary and Brad are mutual fans and Twitter buddies; and Hilary has already volunteered to be Brad’s gun moll, should he ever need one. They recently had this discussion. It actually did not happen near a fireplace, but they thought the imagery made for a nice headline. Onward…

HD: When I was reading your first novel, FACES OF THE GONE, one question kept running through my mind: How much do you hate Cory Booker? Don’t get me wrong, as mayor of Newark, he’s done a lot of great work to clean up that city. But how different is Booker’s Newark from what you encountered as a reporter at The Star-Ledger, and do the changes affect how you write about the city in EYES OF THE INNOCENT?

BP: Newark is striving to improve itself, but it isn’t going to turn into Green Acres just because the mayor goes on Oprah. Trust me, the Newark portrayed in my books is very familiar to Cory. He lived in Brick Towers — one of the city’s worst high-rise housing projects — for a decade. And I’m sure he’ll remember one time I visited him there. It was during the 2006 campaign, and there was a rumor out that he wasn’t really living in Newark, that he was crashing at a posh place in Manhattan. So around 10 o’clock one night, I did a bed check. I walked up 20 flights of stairs (the elevator was busted), past piles of human feces (no public bathrooms), and rang his doorbell. No answer. I rang again. No answer. So I left him a note, explaining my errand and saying I would appreciate a phone call as soon as he received the note. Sure enough, at 6:15 the next morning, I got a voice mail. First thing he said: “Did you really have to ring the doorbell twice? I was trying to get some sleep.”

So, yeah, Newark still has a seamy side. But so does any city. You certainly didn’t have a tough time finding that in Manhattan with THE DAMAGE DONE. Drugs. Prostitution. Organized crime. Where did a nice girl like you learn so much about such nasty stuff?

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A Conversation with Michael Koryta

Feb 10, 2011 in Books, Guest Posts, Writing

Michael Koryta is the author of many award-winning crime novels and of late, several highly praised novels of supernatural suspense published by Little, Brown. In the wake of the recent publication of The Cypress House, Michael Koryta took time out from his tour schedule to talk about the ins and outs of genre classification, the origin of ideas, and the kind of dark prose necessary to write a character who sees death before the fact.

He reads today at Mysteries to Die for and Book Carnival in Los Angeles. This Friday, February 11thMichael will continue this discussion with a reading at Book Passage in San Fransisco, at M is for Mystery on Saturday February 12th, also in San Fransisco, and at Books Inc in Berkeley on Sunday February 13th. Visit Michael’s website and Facebook page for further tour dates.


How did the idea for
The Cypress House come to you?

I first had the thought of writing about a man who experienced premonitions of death while on the battlefield. It intrigued me – everyone in combat understands that men around them may die, but if you saw who would die, before it happened, that seemed to me to be an intensified and unique horror in a land of horrors. It also occurred to me that for someone who had the gift of premonition, there would be no worse place than the battlefield, no place so painful. With all that said, I didn’t want to write a war story, and I was determined to return to the detective novel form after So Cold The River. Best-laid plans, and all that.

There was a moment – Sunday morning, I was at home in Indiana; I recall this one quite vividly for some reason – that the first scene of the novel sprang into my mind. I had been grinding away on a different book for a few months, and suddenly I had this vision of my clairvoyant soldier, now years removed from his service days, on a train rattling through Florida. He’d been sleeping and woke to see that the eyes of the men travelling with him had turned to smoke. I knew where they were headed – the Florida Keys ahead of the devastating hurricane of 1935 – and I could imagine the scene quite clearly, and even though I was in the midst of another book, I couldn’t let that idea go. I wanted to write it immediately. So I did, and by the time I had the first chapter done, I knew that was the book I needed to be writing.

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Black Lens: Part IV

Feb 09, 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 2 and Part 3.

“FAME”

–DAVID BOWIE

The director was back in his study, his kids safely in bed.

He gave a rueful chuckle, “SAFE!”

In this fucked-up psycho world where Ransom got more hits on Facebook than Brad Pitt.

He permitted himself a small shot of amber Glenfiddich, the ultimate whiskey first introduced to him by Johnny Depp.  Allowing himself the rare privilege of an Americanism.

Depp was his kind of actor, no interest in fame, only the work. And the suggested bio-pic of his own self, with Johnny in the lead.

Mais non.

He wasn’t ready for the final chapter yet.

Cochons . . . the nightmares, still they came.

Merde.

Shit and fuck.

And then some.

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Outlaw Fiction: To Romanticize or Not to Romanticize?

Feb 08, 2011 in Guest Posts, Mulholland Authors, Writing

Today marks the paperback publication of Thomas Mullen’s critically acclaimed The Many Deaths of the Firefly Brothers, an impeccably-researched journey across the storied era of public enemy gangsters…with a twist, that the LA Times called arip-roaring yarn that manages to be both phantasmagorical and historically accurate.” As the new edition of his novel hits the shelves, Mullen reflects on the balancing act between right and wrong and using  a generous helping of both principles to entertain, shock and amaze.

Writing a book in which the main character is a criminal poses some tricky dilemmas for a writer. How likeable should your outlaw be? If he or she is too likable, are you being unrealistic?  Worse, are you romanticizing crime, trying to make palatable for a mass audience a thing which, in real life,is actually pretty rotten and harmful?

I found myself wrestling with this when I was writing my second novel, The Many Deaths of the Firefly Brothers, which tells the tale of two fictional bank robbers in the 1930s, the era of famous real-life hoods like John Dillinger, Bonnie and Clyde, and Pretty Boy Floyd. Even back when those desperadoes were still alive and still robbing banks (and still, let’s not forget, killing a lot of people), the public debated how they should be represented in newspapers and pulp magazines, in dime novels based on their lives, in newsreels, and in the films that Hollywood quickly cranked out to capitalize on J. Edgar Hoover’s wildly popular “War on Crime.” Were they Robin Hoods or maniacs?  Heroes or villains?  Good people pushed too far by a crooked system, or just plain rotten to the bone? John Dillinger was said to be a charmer, putting his arm around a prosecuting attorney for a photo op after he was arrested.  Bonnie Parker wrote poetry and took dashing photos of herself and her lover Clyde with cigarettes in their mouths and guns in their hands. Floyd was called a decent family man caught into an impossible position due to the Depression and some missteps as an adolescent. But is any of that true, or was that just the way journalists and filmmakers portrayed them to better package their stories for a public that was hungry for white-knuckle stories and was yearning, in the dark days of the Depression, for hope?

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Writers and Food

Feb 04, 2011 in Guest Posts, Writing

Day 095/365: Burn Baby, Burn!A recent conversation with Jeffery Deaver revealed details of a survey he had undertaken. Whereas I had found a strong link between writing and music (and hence a great number of writers also turn out to be musically inclined), he had discovered that a great number of writers like to cook. I have to count myself among that happy crew, being both writer, musician and cook.

Count Orsino, beginning Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night with the words “If music be the food of love, play on…” perhaps best summarizes the relationship I now perceive between food, writing, music, even art in general.

When considering the subject of food, I thought immediately of home, of the large stone-floored kitchen, the marble island that centers it, the wide black cooking range. It is here that I prepare food for friends, for transient visitors. Most of all, it is here that I now prepare food for my family, and rare is the day when I am not to be found there in the early evening. There are times, of course, when touring and literary engagements take me away for a few days, sometimes a week or two, and always I am eager to return, not only to the company of my family, but to my familiar ground: the kitchen.

Orphaned at an early age, I did not know a family kitchen in the house. My brother and I—separated when he was eight and I was seven—stayed apart and away from home until we were teenagers, and even then—returning from school as teenagers—we suffered the loss of our maternal grandmother, the woman who had raised us. My mother and father already gone, my maternal grandfather dead many years before in a drowning accident, we were left to fend for ourselves.

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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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