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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 www.ianrankin.net, 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

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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:

Hunger.

Violence.

Education.

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

Resolved.

Some on edge

Clearly nervous

Steeling  themselves for

The foreordained

A collective bloodletting.

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Seven Things Screenwriters Should Know About Writing Novels

Mar 22, 2011 in Film, Guest Posts, Writing

After the unprecedented success of yesterday’s column, I decided I would flip it around and provide you the converse list of things screenwriters should know as they switch from Final Draft to MS word to scratch that prose itch.

1.  Publishers Want To Sell Books. It’s a common misperception that screenwriting is for commercial aspirations while novel writing is a place to pen esoteric ideas and ramblings.  The truth is:  publishers want commercial books.  They want to reach a wide audience.  The same forces that drive a spec script sale drive a spec novel sale.  Will this book attract a large number of readers?  You have to write a novel the same way you would write a movie:  with compelling characters, surprising plot twists, strong dialogue, and a unifying theme that encompasses all.  Sure, you don’t have to worry about set pieces and budgets and casting, but you’re going to have a hard time if you write for a very narrow niche.

2.  The Money Is Not The Same (At First). When I received my first book contract, I called a novelist friend of mine in London.  “How do novelists make a living?” I asked.  Her reply:  “They don’t!  They all want to be screenwriters!”  Unless you are one of those amazingly successful novelists:  King or Connelly or Grisham or Clancy, the money just isn’t the same as you would get for writing and selling a screenplay.  So don’t write a novel thinking you can quickly switch careers and won’t have to deal with studios and producers anymore but will make the same money.  Unless you write THE FIRM… then you can.

3.  Publishers are Your Friends. You know how, as a screenwriter, you’re constantly wary of your status on your own project?  Like at any moment, you can be fired for seemingly no reason?  How every word you write can be changed at the whim of a junior executive fresh out of film school?  It takes a little while to get used to, but your publisher actually likes your opinions on your work.  They treat you deferentially as they suggest… key word “suggest”… edits.  They consult you on everything from chapter breaks to the book covers.  And they are pulling for you and your book to do well.  I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop but so far, it hasn’t.  Not one word gets changed without your permission.  Somebody slap me.

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Seven Things Novelists Should Know About Screenwriting

Mar 21, 2011 in Film, Guest Posts, Writing

ScreenplayI was thinking about creating a Top Ten list of things novelists should know about screenwriting because everyone loves Top Ten lists. However, since I’m contrarian by nature, I decided to come up with seven. Also, less work. So here they are… the seven things you should know as you make the switch.

1. You Give Up the Copyright. This is the number one thing you should realize if you want to be a screenwriter. As soon as you sell your screenplay to a studio, you give up the copyright on that screenplay. They can change anything and everything they want. Remember how your main character had a wife? Well, they changed it to a plucky teen-age sister to bring in the younger audience. Remember that pivotal scene when the main character hanged himself? Now, he has a change of heart and swears off alcohol and rides off into the sunset. And you have zero control over it.

2. You Can Be Fired From Your Own Project. This goes hand-in-hand with number one, but once you sell a script, you can be fired at any time. Understand, there are many reasons you can be fired from your own script that have nothing to do with your merits as a writer. The lead actor might have a screenwriting buddy who has helped polish all of his scripts. The studio might want to go in a different direction you resisted. The director might want to write it himself. You might simply be too expensive. Screenwriting is a far greater collaborative experience than novel writing and if you resist collaboration, they’ll replace you with someone who is more agreeable. If you think the subsequent writer will come in and tell them, “this is great! Don’t touch it! Don’t do these ridiculous notes!” you are wrong.

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An Excerpt from The Lincoln Lawyer: Chapter 3

Mar 18, 2011 in Books, Film, Guest Posts

The Lincoln Lawyer, the film based on Michael Connelly’s bestselling novel arrives in movie theaters today. As Connelly wrote on The Huffington Post,” it has been a ten-year journey from inspiration to book to film and the miles along the way have been replete with serendipity and good luck.” Here, we present Chapter 3 of the book that inspired the movie. (Missed Chapter 1 or Chapter 2? Read them first.)

THREE

In the hallway outside the courtroom I turned my cell phone back on and called my driver to tell him I was coming out. I then checked voicemail and found messages from Lorna Taylor and Fernando Valenzuela. I decided to wait until I was in the car to make the callbacks.

Earl Briggs, my driver, had the Lincoln right out front. Earl didn’t get out and open the door or anything. His deal was just to drive me while he worked off the fee he owed me for getting him probation on a cocaine sales conviction. I paid him twenty bucks an hour to drive me but then held half of it back to go against the fee. It wasn’t quite what he was making dealing crack in the projects but it was safer, legal and something that could go on a résumé. Earl said he wanted to go straight in life and I believed him.

I could hear the sound of hip-hop pulsing behind the closed windows of the Town Car as I approached. But Earl killed the music as soon as I reached for the door handle. I slid into the back and told him to head toward Van Nuys.

“Who was that you were listening to?” I asked him.

“Um, that was Three Six Mafia.”

“Dirty south?”

“That’s right.”

Over the years, I had become knowledgeable in the subtle distinctions, regional and otherwise, in rap and hip-hop. Across the board, most of my clients listened to it, many of them developing their life strategies from it.

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A Conversation with Limitless author Alan Glynn and screenwriter Leslie Dixon

Mar 17, 2011 in Film, Guest Posts

Leslie Dixon is the screenwriter/producer who made the novel The Dark Fields happen as the film Limitless. Here, Leslie and Limitless author Alan Glynn discuss the project’s long road from book to screen. And everything in between.

Leslie Dixon: Alan, my attempts to get this movie up and running took soooo long — was there ever a point during which you suspected I might just be another Hollywood bullshitter?

Alan Glynn: Not really, no, and there are two reasons for this. One, you wrote a great script, and It’s been there from the beginning – standing, as far as I’ve always been concerned, as a bulwark against the bullshit. It was your script, you wanted it produced as well, so we were more or less in the same boat. If you had just been a producer, then maybe I might have been worn down and wracked with doubts and tempted to look elsewhere. But no other producer – and I met with quite a few over the years – would have had that killer script under their arm. The producers I met with – always at their request, and usually approaching option renewal time – were enthusiastic and persuasive and generally convinced that they could make things happen. They had good ideas, too, but I’d always walk away thinking, there’s already a great script there, what are the chances of any of these guys coming up with something better? Continue reading ›

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An Excerpt from Limitless: Part III

Mar 17, 2011 in Books, Film

In 2002, Alan Glynn wrote the celebrated suspense novel The Dark Fields. On March 18, The Dark Fields will come to theaters as the film Limitless, starring Bradley Cooper, Robert DeNiro and Abbie Cornish.  Below is the final installment in our three-part series excerpting the book (generously provided by Picador from their Limitless movie tie-in edition), accompanied by stills from the film. Limitless, the author’s cut.

Missed Part 1? Part 2? Read them first.

3

Outside on the street it was noticeably cooler than it had been. It was also noticeably darker, though that sparkling third dimension, the city at night, was just beginning to shimmer into focus all around me. It was noticeably busier, too—a typical late afternoon on Sixth Ave, with its heavy flow uptown out of the West Village of cars and yellow cabs and buses. The evacuation of offices was underway as well, everybody tired, irritable, in a hurry, darting up and down out of subway stations. Continue reading ›

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