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Black Lens: Part VI

Feb 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 2, Part 3, Part 4 and Part 5.


2 Years Later

The wolf was a flurry of activity.

The word had finally come through from on high.

He had to stop,

packing that is,

take a deep breath,

then a line………..

or two.

Fifteen months ago several men who Romanski called on

For certain kinds of tasks had,

Been in touch.

Representatives of

A secret society.

A CABAL, if you will.

Men of mystery most of the world would find


But to say that Wolfgang had hoped for a personal appearance from the maestro himself was

Putting it lightly.


The totality of the situation made up for it.

At least for the moment.

They had given him:




Forged identity papers.

And finally,



Like how to be a CNN talking head.

He had it down.


Who were they fucking kidding?


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1 Comment

Ten Crime Books To Help Cure Your Hangover

Feb 22, 2011 in Books, Guest Posts

StormPaul D. Brazill is among the most frequent commenters on  Here, we salute Paul with a column of his own, an engaging best-of list with medicinal properties.

It’s a gloomy morning. Outside your window, dark malignant clouds fill the sky. The residue of the weekend’s fun and frolics is draining away like dishwater down a plug hole. And work – the ultimate four letter word- is hanging over you like a hawk ready to strike its prey. Just when you thought nothing could get you going, here are ten shots of crime writing medicine that will work as more than a little eye opener.

1. Deadfolk by Charlie Williams

Royston Blake is god. Well, in his own mind he is. The head bouncer at Hopper’s Wine Bar is the king of Mangel, a dead end town somewhere in the north of England. In the first of a cracking series of books, Royston is dragged by his lapels into a series of wickedly funny and increasingly violent scrapes. This book will change your life in a way Paolo Coelho never will.

2. One Fine Day In The Middle Of The Night by Christopher Brookmyre

Die Hard An On Oil Rig. Like the pitch? In One Fine Day In The Middle Of The Night a school reunion is held on an oil rig that has been converted into a luxury hotel. But when an inept bunch of terrorist mercenaries gate crash the party only Scotland’s answer to Bill Hicks can save the day. Yes, really.

3. The Mexican Tree Duck by James Crumley

The eponymous tree duck is Private Eye C.W. Sughrue’s Rara Avis and it’s part of a wild ride that is cluttered with multi-coloured characters and vivid, lurid even, scenes. You have bikers and obese twins and ‘Nam and stolen fish and booze. And a tank. This is a book for someone who, like C.W. Sughrue, thinks that ‘life is a joke so make it a funny one.’

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A Conversation with Brian Helgeland Part II

Feb 18, 2011 in Books, Film, Guest Posts

Brian Helgeland is the Academy Award-winning screenwriter of a number of films including L.A. Confidential, Mystic RiverGreen Zone, The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, Man on Fire, and Payback, which he also directed. In part two of Brian’s conversation, he discusses the origins of his career,  the inner-Fellini of 80’s franchise horror, his favorite director collaborations and five crime novels worth smuggling into prison.

Your career as a screenwriter began with work on several horror franchise projects, then quickly expanded to include some of our era’s biggest spec scripts and adaptation assignments.  How did you get started as a screenwriter and how did you make the jump to bigger and better material?

When I first arrived in Los Angeles, the Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th franchises had reignited an interest in horror movies.  At that time, no established writers really wanted anything to do with them.  Except for the fact they were making money, they were the red-headed step children so to speak.  They were also therefore a great opportunity for young writers to get noticed and to make a living.  Making a living is an important factor in life even if people like to pretend you don’t take it into consideration artistically.  The joke being there is really no genre more suited for film than horror.  Nowhere is the visual more important.  Nowhere do you reach that connection to the dream state that Fellini made his living on.  So be careful what you look down on.  It may be your own nose.  That said, at a certain point, I wanted to do other things.  Having quickly been branded a horror writer, I wrote a series of spec scripts to break out of that mold.  The first one that really clicked was a script called The Ticking Man that I wrote in 1990 with my best friend Manny Coto.  We were both determined to reinvent ourselves and we did it with pen and paper.  We literally wrote ourselves out of a locked room.  The film never got made, but the door was opened and there was really no looking back after that.

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At Her Feet He Fell

Feb 18, 2011 in Popcorn Fiction, Short Stories

Bank HeistA Popcorn Fiction Selection. Three lives intersect during a bank heist. Then proceed to betray each other.

Let the bank rob the bank. That was the plan. Arbogast had come up with it all, but that only made sense. He was the thinker, the planner. “Einstein” they used to call him back in the neighborhood. You had a problem? You needed a solution? You went to see Arbogast. Not that he wanted to help. Not a chance in hell of that. It was just he was so damn proud of his own thought process. He’d help you out just to show he could. Just to rub your face in your own stupidity. Be a thinker not a stinker. He never got tired of saying that. Whether it was to a kid on the corner or to himself while picking up spent shell casings, it always applied. That’s not to say thinking didn’t have a downside. Sometimes the facts you turned up weren’t so great. And as Valentine’s Day approached, Arbogast had been considering two things. One? All the red is to hide the fact that love is really blue. And two? The muse is, was, and always would be a slut.

Janey was what the arsonists like to call ‘an accelerant.’ She didn’t necessarily start the fire, but she sure as shooting made it burn a whole lot brighter, faster and hotter. She was so far from home when Arbogast found her, that she couldn’t remember where home was. About the only thing she could remember was she was never going back. Somewhere along the way she had rejected a literal suicide for a philosophical one. She had fooled herself into thinking it was possible to escape. And the Route 66 to follow always seemed to involve a guy. She’d ridden mean guys, tough guys, and plenty that couldn’t get out of their own dumb dead-end way guys. At first the trick was knowing when to get off, but she quickly learned that they always let you know way ahead of time. Arbogast was different. Arbogast was a genius. This ride had been longer and truer than all the others combined. Scarier, too. But Janey meant to ride it as long as it didn’t kill her. She just hoped she’d know when that was.

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A Conversation with Brian Helgeland

Feb 17, 2011 in Film, Guest Posts

Brian Helgeland is the Academy Award-winning screenwriter of a number of films including L.A. Confidential, Mystic RiverGreen Zone, The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, Man on Fire, and Payback, which he also directed.  One of the preeminent filmmakers in the world, today on Helgeland discusses the age-old question of inspiration, the art of killing a hero, the enduring power of 70’s crime films, and the endless drama inherent to staring down the barrel of a loaded gun.

From L.A. Confidential and Mystic River to Man on Fire and Payback, you have written (and in the case of Payback, directed) some of the most impactful crime and suspense films of the past fifteen years.  Where did your interest in the genre begin?

For me, everything started at least subliminally the first time I saw Cool Hand Luke. It’s not a crime movie, per se, but everyone exists in it because of either a crime they committed or because their job is to keep the men incarcerated or because they have to visit those men.  Whether Luke’s eating fifty eggs or digging his own grave, it had a profound effect on my creative life.  As for crime itself?  As the sinew of things, I like it because it strips people down to their basic elements.  It gets to the hunting-gathering heart of the matter.  I don’t want to write about the ennui rich people feel.  I don’t want to write about how fun it is when groups of couples get together for laughs.  I could care less.  I want to write about what’s in people’s heads, hearts and between their legs when they either are in prison, might go to prison, have a gun in their face or are pointing one.  You live or you die, literally or figuratively,  depending on a few pressured choices you make.  It is my firm belief that people only reveal themselves when things go wrong and crime and its cousin suspense make things go very wrong indeed.  And like in Luke the guy with the code wins.  It doesn’t mean he’ll live; it just means he wins.  And the code isn’t a moral one.  It’s just the way a character makes certain rules for themselves, has drawn lines within themselves, and then we get to watch and see if they’ll cross them or not.  There’s nothing like a saint without a god as far as I’m concerned.

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Veronica Majeure

Feb 17, 2011 in Popcorn Fiction, Short Stories

Show me the way to the next Whisky BarA Popcorn Fiction Selection. A contract killer gets stuck in Dublin after a job in this crime piece from screenwriter Brian Helgeland.

The first round hits the guy higher than I thought I was aiming. In the chin to be precise. I want to blame it on him swiveling over in his chair as he clocks me coming through the door, but the truth is, this one’s on the Jameson. It took three shots of it to get me up here. Guts bolstered at the expense of accuracy. Irish whiskey for Dutch courage here in the heart of Dublin. But don’t mistake me for a mick. Nothing against them, I just happen to be Polish German. Except for maybe my liver; that’s Irish all the way. As far as the Irishman I’m shooting at, his now missing chin is an unfortunate marring of an otherwise remarkable face. It’s also a violation of my contract, an express point of which was I kill him from the neck down. In other words, no head shots, leave him looking whole and pretty for an open casket funeral. So that part of the deal is a wash. And now he’s getting up from that chair, but the Jameson courage is still coursing through me and the stirring words in Latin found on every label: Sine Metu. Without fear. Although fear is about the only thing I feel as I pull the trigger again and the man goes down. Shot through the heart. Ceased to be. Sounds so much better than deceased. Like there’s a difference, huh?

I’m supposed to turn around and walk out the door, but I step to the desk instead. He was writing something when I walked in and that messed up little part of me needs to know. There are notes everywhere. Scribbles over type. But there by his fallen pen, the last words he would ever commit to paper are these: “I have a theory about love and it goes something like this—” As I stare down at the unfinished sentence, I suddenly wish I’d come in twenty seconds later.

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Black Lens: Part V

Feb 16, 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, Part 3 and Part 4.


The call came at the strangest time.

Standing in the door to their bedroom, Romanski’s wife had just given him


………………that allure that he had spent forty years attempting to catch on camera.

He muttered


At his age, the farther reaches of his body slowly creeping toward decrepitude.

Though the mind indeed was willing, Bien Sur mais,

the form,

Quelle dommage.

Jack…………..The days of Chinatown, Jack had always worn toute le monde with such style.

And had also introduced Romanski to his completely whack-o neighbor.

Hunter S.

Who got off most on guns.

A true lunatic in The French meaning of the word,

A buffalo of the legendary endangered species.

Took the way of the warrior, ate his gun.

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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.

You might also want to follow us on Twitter and Facebook, become our friend on Goodreads or Librarything, and if you really want up-to-the second Mulholland news, text the word Mulholland to README.

1 Comment

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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