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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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Start Reading Guilt By Association by Marcia Clark

Apr 01, 2011 in Books, Fiction, Mulholland Authors, Mulholland News

April is the month we’ve been waiting for here at Mulholland Books. We finally get to bring our books into the world. Since this is the first day of our launch month, we thought we’d bring you a prologue from our debut novel GUILT BY ASSOCIATION by Marcia Clark. The book that James Ellroy called “a damn, damn, good thriller” and David Baldacci said was “as sharp as they come in the genre.”


He snapped his cell phone shut and slid it into the pocket of his skintight jeans. The last piece was in place; it wouldn’t be long now. But the waiting was agonizing. Unbidden, the memory of his only ride on a roller coaster flooded over him, like a thousand tiny needles piercing his face and body: eight years old, trapped in that rickety little car with no escape, the feeling of breathtaking terror that mounted as it click-click-clicked its slow, inexorable climb to the top of the sky.

He shook his head to cleanse his mind of the memory, then abruptly grabbed his long brown hair and pulled it tightly into a ponytail behind his head. He held it there and exhaled again more slowly, trying to quiet his pulse. He couldn’t afford to lose it now. With the lift of his arms, his worn T-shirt rode up, and he absently admired in the little mirror above the dresser the reflection of the coiled snake tattooed on his slim, muscled belly.

He started pacing, the motel carpet crunching under his feet, and found that the action helped. Despite his anxiety, he moved with a loose-hipped grace. Back and forth he walked, considering his plan yet again, looking for flaws. No, he’d set it up just right. It would work. It had to work. He stopped to look around at the dimly lit motel room. “Room” was using the term loosely—it was little more than a box with a bed. His eyes fell on a switch on the wall. Just to have something to do,he went over and flipped it on. Nothing happened. He looked up and saw only a filthy ceiling fan. The sour smell of old cigarettes told him that it hadn’t worked in years. There were stains of undetermined origin on the walls that he thought were probably older than he was. The observation amused him. Neither the stains, nor the foul smell of decay, nor the hopeless dead-end feeling of the place fazed him at all. It wasn’t that much worse than a lot of the places he’d lived during his seventeen years on the planet.

In fact, far from depressing him, the ugly room made him feel triumphant. It represented the world he’d been born into, and the one he was finally leaving behind… forever. For the first time in a life that had nearly ended at the hands of a high-wired crackhead while his so-called mother was crashing in the next room, he was going to be in control. He paused to consider the memory of his early near demise—not a firsthand memory since he’d been only two months old when it happened, but rather a paragraph in the social worker’s report he’d managed to read upside down during a follow-up visit at one of the many foster homes where he’d been “raised” for the past sixteen or so years. As it always did, the memory of that report made him wonder whether his mother was still alive. The thought felt different this time, though. Instead of the usual helpless, distant ache—and rage—he felt power, the power to choose. Now he could find her… if he wanted to. Find her and show her that the baby she’d been too stoned to give a shit about had made it. Had scored the big score.

In just a few more minutes, he’d say good-bye to that loser kid who lived on the fringes. He stopped, dropped his hands to his hips, and stared out the grimy window as he savored the thought of having “fuck you” money. He planned to extend a vigorous middle finger to the many foster parents for whom he was just a dollar sign, to all the assholes he’d had to put up with for a meal and a bed. And if he did decide to find his mother, he’d show up with something awesome for her, a present, like a dress or jewelry. Something to make her sorry for all the years she’d let him be lost to her. He pictured himself giving her whatever it was in a fancy, store-wrapped box. He tried to picture the expression on her face, but the image wouldn’t resolve. The only photo he had of her—taken when he was less than a year old—was so faded, only the outline of her long brown hair was still visible. Still, the thought of being able to play the Mac Daddy puffed him up, and for a moment he let himself go there, enjoying the fantasy of his mother really loving him.

The knock on the door jolted him back to reality. He swallowed and struggled for a deep breath, then walked toward the door. He noticed his hands were shaking, and he quickly rubbed them on his thighs to make them stop. He slowly released his breath and willed his face to relax as he opened the door.

“Hey,” he said, then held the door open and moved aside to let in his visitor. “What took you so long?”

“Lost track of the time, sorry.” The visitor stepped inside quickly.

“You have it all?” the boy asked, wary.

The visitor nodded. The boy smiled and let the door close behind him.

Keep reading.

Marcia Clark is a former LA, California deputy district attorney, who was the lead prosecutor in the O.J. Simpson murder case. She wrote a bestselling nonfiction book about the trial, Without a Doubt, and is a frequent media commentator and columnist on legal issues. She lives in Los Angeles.


Talking Titles

Mar 31, 2011 in Books, Guest Posts, Writing

It’s either one step above or one step below judging a book by its cover, but say what you will – titles matter. They matter a whole lot in the noir fiction world since back when the stands used to be filled with the salacious come-ons of pulp fiction femme fatales in lace brassieres and a bold-type title announced the goings on inside, and they matter just as much today.

The old titles didn’t hold much back – Say It With Bullets, Dig Me A Grave, Kiss My Fist – and they succeeded in convincing people to lay out a dime for the tale that went with it. Quite often the book inside the lurid cover couldn’t deliver on the promise and therefore the pulps are littered with titles that are better than the 30 – 40,000 words that followed. There’s a reason not many of those books are around anymore and it ain’t the cheap paper.

Film Noir also loves a good title and they often follow the same rule of thumb that the more outrageous the sales pitch, the worse the movie. Double Indemnity isn’t as sexy as, say, I Wouldn’t Be In Your Shoes, but which is a better film? You guessed correctly. (not that I don’t have a sot spot for any movie based on a Cornell Woolrich story and starring Regis Toomey)

Speaking of James M. Cain, in addition to Indemnity he proved himself a really dull title-maker despite writing some of the best books of the era. I, for one, have never quite gotten the appeal of the title The Postman Always Rings Twice, even though I love the book. Mildred Pierce is just a name, and the name Mildred at that. Quite possibly the least alluring name in history. But I sure as hell would recommend it over something like A Dame Called Murder or Dames Can Be Poison.

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Black Lens: Part XI

Mar 30, 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 and Part 10.

The Proposal.

The actor was summoned to Cromwell’s penthouse on the top floor of Browns’.

Rhatigan, his stage name, suited him, it was



Had that Brando ring to it.

He’d been a struggling bit part player when Cromwell came to visit him in the piss poor bungalow he was renting at the foot of The Hollywood Hills.

Rhatigan looked like a young second choice Jimmy Woods and the operative word for his career was


Only that would imply it had once been on a trajectory.

It hadn’t.

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The Drowned Man

Mar 29, 2011 in Guest Posts, Mulholland Authors

they dont make them like this anymoreIn our early 20s, my wife and I didn’t have any money or real jobs. We were going to college and doing day labor in Nacogdoches. What we didn’t have was a house we owned. The one we were living in rented for very little, but it had some drawbacks. One was an outhouse. The outhouse was a favorite hangout for snakes so big they looked as if they belonged in a Tarzan movie, not to mention spiders large enough to wear multi-legged pants. Every trip to the privy became worthy of an Indiana Jones adventure. Another drawback was no inside water. There was a pump to a well outside and a water hose, but stripping off and taking a bath with the hose in freezing weather was, to put it mildly, uncomfortable. Our heat was firewood I chopped to burn in two large fireplaces. There was a small electric heater that whined like a small child and might have blown up had we tried to warm a marshmallow in front of it.

So we wouldn’t starve, we decided to move to Starrville, where my parents lived, and stay with them while we worked and Karen went to school part-time at Tyler Junior College. So in my oil-guzzling old Ford and Karen’s truck, we headed out, like two leftover Joads from The Grapes of Wrath, and went north to Starrville, which is about the size of a postage stamp. Actually, we ended up on its outskirts, so we can’t claim actual residence there.

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A Series of Complaints

Mar 28, 2011 in Books, Film, Graphic Novels, Writing

X-ray LightbulbsWhen John Rebus retired at the end of Exit Music, I was free to experiment.  I spent the next eighteen months or so writing my first graphic novel (Dark Entries), some lyrics for an Edinburgh band called St Jude’s Infirmary, a novella for people with literacy problems (A Cool Head), and a serial for the New York Times (which would eventually be published as Doors Open).  Oh, and I also set to work on my first film script, an adaptation of James Hogg’s novel Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner (ongoing as I write this).

But then I read a newspaper article about the Complaints and Conduct department of a UK police force.  That article got me interested.  It seemed to me that to work as a member of The Complaints, basically spying on your own kind, would take a certain mindset.  You’d have to be a very different kind of cop from Rebus.  You’d be slow and methodical, a stickler for the rules, and somewhat of a voyeur.  So I used my contacts and was granted an interview with an officer who worked at one time for the Complaints department of a Scottish police force.  It was a fascinating experience and whetted my appetite for writing something.  I wanted to take a cop from The Complaints and turn their life inside out, goading them into action  –  no longer a voyeur, no longer someone who abides by the letter of the law.

At the same time, everyone in Edinburgh seemed to be voicing some complaint or other.  This was the winter of 2008/9.  Work was ongoing to reinstate a tram system in the city.  A lot of people couldn’t see the point of trams and many more disliked the disruption.  Streets were closed off.  There was almost a sense of ‘apartheid’ as the roadworks made it difficult to move from New Town to Old Town and vice versa.  Added to which, the weather was fairly grim.

And the banks looked ready to implode.

Banking is in Edinburgh’s blood-stream.  Many jobs depend on financial services.  If the likes of the Royal Bank of Scotland caught a cold, we would all be infected.  Major players who had been national heroes in years past now suddenly became pariahs, in a reversal that could have come from Shakespeare or Greek tragedy.  I didn’t want to write about these figures per se, but I did want to explore the potential knock-on effects of economic uncertainty.  With any luck, the plot would allow me to use characters from the Complaints and Conduct department, too.

Now that I’d decided to write another police novel  –  and one set firmly in contemporary Edinburgh  –  I needed to be sure that no one would see the protagonist as a thinly-disguised version of Rebus.  I needn’t have worried: from the outset, Malcolm Fox was very much his own man.  Then I introduced him to Jamie Breck  –  dynamic, charismatic, racing up the promotion ladder.  If the two men seemed chalk and cheese, they would soon start to see common ground.  Both would become suspects.  And in Fox’s case, he would have to turn from gamekeeper to poacher.

As I say, he doesn’t really remind me of Rebus.  He’s actually more like Miles Flint, the hero of ‘Watchman’, one of my early non-Rebus novels.  Flint was a quiet, fastidious London-based spy who had to become proactive in order to find an enemy set on destroying him.  He shares a strand of DNA with Malcolm Fox, while Rebus remains somebody Fox is more likely to have under his microscope.

Oh yes, I’ve been mulling over that idea.  There must be a few skeletons lurking in Rebus’s closet, and who knows when one of them might come rattling to the attention of Complaints and Conduct….

Ian Rankin is a #1 international bestselling author. Winner of an Edgar Award and the recipient of a Gold Dagger for fiction and the Chandler-Fulbright Award, he lives in Edinburgh, Scotland, with his wife and their two sons. Visit him online at, download the Ian Rankin’s Edinburgh iPhone app and visit his publisher Reagan Arthur Books for a list of all the amazing coverage Ian has received for The Complaints


Science Fiction Noir

Mar 25, 2011 in Books, Film, Guest Posts

One could argue until the cows came home about the definition and origins of noir, and many have been known to do so. From the moment that German expressionist movies and cinematographers moved that extra inch into darkness or crime writers combined their vision of cities at night with the despairing existential angst overwhelming their hapless anti-heroes, noir has been with us in many forms. A concept which is also a mood and an emotion.

These days the many faces of noir are bandied about with reckless abandon: we’ve had neo noir, blue collar noir, country noir, retro noir, political noir, urban noir, and so on and so on. And in most cases, these variations work and do encompass a territory which is familiar to all of us fans of atmospheric crime writing (and I say this as someone who has committed a handful of cities noir collections…).

But I would argue that another genre altogether lends itself with admirable efficiency to harbouring the very essence of noir: science fiction!

As strange as it may initially appear, SF is fertile ground for harvesting the tropes of noir and the disconnect between every day reality and the fully imagined alien environment the speculative genre offers is an ideal breeding ground for all that is best about noir.

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Skinny Dog Bites Dictator

Mar 24, 2011 in Guest Posts, Mulholland Authors

Monument to the Unknown SoldierThe words military junta do not generally fill ama people with hope for the future.

And they shouldn’t.

Armies have very narrow fields of expertise.  They are constituted exclusively for the purposes of killing people, threatening to kill people, giving the appearance that they could at any moment kill people, and supporting the efforts of those in their ranks whose specific mission it is to kill people.  To the extent that they are also good at things like engineering, medicine, IT, food service, community outreach, disaster relief, etc, is due to the fact that these skill sets may be required in pursuit of killing people.

A peacekeeping mission is a mission in which an army makes its presence known and drags behind it an explicit threat that if anyone gets out of line they will start killing people in a manner far more efficient and professional that any of the locals could hope to aspire to.

Historically, armies are bad at governance.

That’s why most citizenries don’t care to hear that their army has dissolved parliament and suspended the constitution.

But if you’re angry enough, and, literally, hungry enough, revolution becomes it’s own imperative and you kind of stop giving much of a fuck who takes over next as long as the fuckers who made you so angry and hungry in the first place are shoved the fuck out the fucking door.

Here’s a short list of potentially radicalizing forces:




I’m lumping poverty in with hunger because there tends to be a correlation there.

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Black Lens: Part X

Mar 23, 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 and Part 9.

Having delivered his ultimatum Cromwell paused.

Watched his flock

Some calm


Some on edge

Clearly nervous

Steeling  themselves for

The foreordained

A collective bloodletting.

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