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Rogue Review: Angel Baby by Richard Lange

Jun 05, 2013 in Guest Posts

Today we welcome Ro Cuzon, a contributor for The Rogue Reader, as he reviews Richard Lange’s critically acclaimed new novel, Angel Baby.
Angel Baby by Richard Lange
There may be more talented crime fiction authors working today than at any time in history, and I enjoy reading the great varieties of books they produce. Much too rarely, though, do I stumble upon that novel which seems to have been written especially for me. Stories where Voice, Character, Plot, and Setting, all combine to create a perfect, elating cocktail that instantly catapults me to the white-hot center of the narrative, messing with my mind and body as if I was personally involved in the events on the page, triggering heart palpitations, dry mouth, clammy hands, etc.

These novels all tend to be about criminals or people who have committed a crime (there’s a difference, I think), and the intensity of my reactions to their protagonists’ predicaments is always directly related to one thing: the degree of realism that the authors bring to their stories.

Enter Angel Baby by Richard Lange.

The novel opens with Luz, a beautiful Mexican young woman running away from her husband Ronaldo, a powerful and sadistic Tijuana narco known as El Principe. Her plan: cross the border and reunite with her daughter Isabel whom she left behind three years earlier. She crosses paths with Kevin Malone, an alcoholic drifter from San Diego with a tragic past, and together they set out for the border.

After learning of Luz’s escape, El Principe sics one of his most ruthless enforcers on his runaway wife. Jerónimo Cruz, aka El Apache, was planning to go straight and take care of his family once he got out of prison—that is, until El Principe pulls him out and orders him to bring Luz back, making him an offer he can’t refuse. Meanwhile, Thacker, a crooked Border Patrol agent, gets wind of the cash Luz is carrying and wants to steal it from her.

Angel Baby is a straightforward chase story, masterfully executed and beautifully written. It’s the complexity of each character, however, and Lange’s empathy for each of them (even the most depraved), that makes the novel such a unique read, pushing and pulling you in all directions. You root for Luz to be reunited with Isabel, of course, but also, maddeningly, for Jerónimo to catch her, because the alternative for him is simply too horrible to contemplate.

Many Mystery/Thriller/Noir authors’ insights into crime come from other books and movies of the genre, as well as news events and research on the Internet or at the library. And there’s nothing wrong with that. God knows writing is hard and time-consuming enough without having to risk one’s life going on a nature walk across gang territory to scope out a drug corner just to get it right on the page. But we are talking about crime here, so there is something to be said about the value of firsthand interaction with (or at least observation of) certain people and settings, and what the thrill or fear associated with that lifestyle can do for one’s writing.

I was never a violent criminal but I did spend the first half of my adult life gravitating toward trouble and the type of people who caused it. This shaped both the way I write today and the way I read, especially crime fiction. I didn’t know anything about Richard Lange when I opened Angel Baby but his true-to-life writing was instantly familiar to me, as was his vivid portrait of the seedier side of the world we live in, evoked with the dead-on ease of Jim Thompson, Charles Willeford, Richard Price, or George Pelecanos.

While Lange may not have actually served time in Tijuana’s La Mesa—he is a recipient of a Guggenhein Fellowship, after all—he has most definitely roamed the gritty streets of Compton and felt the grimy TJ sun beating down on his back, and interacted with gang members and illegal immigrants alike. His keen observations of Southern California’s have-nots on both sides of the border, combined with a complete understanding of his characters’ motivations, make Angel Baby as brutal and real a novel as you will read this year, a fantastically paced page-turner with prose that both sings and cuts.

Ro CuzonNamed by George Pelecanos as a “rising stars of the new generation of noir novelists,” Ro Cuzon is the author of Under the Dixie Moon, a Library Journal Staff Pick for Best of 2012, and Under the Carib Sun. His third book in the Adel Destin crime series, Crescent City Stomp, will be published later this year by The Rogue Reader. He lives and writes in New Orleans.

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Lauren Beukes’s Writing Music

Jun 04, 2013 in Guest Posts, Music

The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes

It’s publication day for The Shining Girls, and after you tear through Lauren Beukes’s genre- and time-bending thriller, you might ask yourself, How did she do that? We’ll leave the full explanation to Beukes—it involves “murder walls” and a mind-boggling amount of research—but we can share the music that propelled her writing. Below, she tells us what she listened to while writing The Shining Girls. You can listen to some of these songs through the Spotify player above.

Working with words means I can’t listen to music that has words. I like up-tempo electronica with a dark, lush verve and the capacity to surprise you. Nothing too glitchy or doef-doef or monotonously predictable. These are albums rather than individual songs and I know I’ve left off a whole bunch, not least because Pandora isn’t available in South Africa, so I’m stuck with the albums I’ve bought. These were the ones that were on heaviest rotation while I was writing the book.

  • Amon Tobin: Foley Room
  • Markus Wormstorm: Not I, But A Friend (by my friend Markus Wormstorm)
  • The Parlour Trick: A Blessed Unrest (by my friend Meredith Yayanos)
  • Aperture Science: Portal 2 Soundtrack
  • The Chemical Brothers: Hanna Soundtrack
  • Haezer: Yazi
  • Massive Attack: 100th Window
  • The Real Estate Agents: 1
  • Sibot: In With The Old

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The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes to be Adapted for TV by MRC and Leonardo DiCaprio’s Appian Way

Jun 03, 2013 in Mulholland News, Television

The Shining Girls by Lauren BeukesMulholland Books is thrilled to announce that MRC (House of Cards) and Leonardo DiCaprio’s Appian Way will team up to adapt Lauren Beukes’s The Shining Girls for TV. As reported by The Hollywood Reporter, “The project marks a rare but splashy foray into TV for Appian, which previously made the environmental reality show Greensburg.” The Shining Girls, a stunning thriller about a time-traveling serial killer, is garnering remarkable praise as this summer’s must-read book, and it is the third novel from South African writer Lauren Beukes. Julian Friedmann at Blake Friedmann and Michael Prevett at the Gotham Group negotiated the deal.

Mulholland Books will publish The Shining Girls in the U.S. tomorrow, Tuesday, June 4, but critics around the world have already emphatically praised the book: the New York Times’s Janet Maslin calls it an “expert hair-raiser” and a “strong contender for this summer’s universal beach read,” and the New York Post says The Shining Girls “has got everyone
talking…and some say it’s this summer’s answer to last year’s mega-hit Gone Girl.” The book is already a London Times Top Ten Bestseller.

Josh Kendall, Editorial Director of Mulholland, said, “I haven’t been this excited about a thriller since first reading The Silence of the Lambs or dazzled by an author’s feel for character and plot since first reading Margaret Atwood. The Shining Girls reimagines what great commercial fiction can do.”

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As I Lay Dying

May 16, 2013 in Guest Posts, Mulholland Authors

Angel Baby by Richard Lange
A number of characters die in my new novel, Angel Baby. Ooops! Was that a spoiler? Well, it’ll be the last one, I promise.

Anyway, from the beginning I knew that I wanted one particular death in the book to stand out, to resonate, to hurt. For inspiration, I returned to a few literary “last moments” that had moved me over the years.

Savage Night by Jim ThompsonSavage Night by Jim Thompson
Probably my favorite Thompson novel. The final chapters are particularly hair-raising and, at the same time, heart-rending.

The darkness and myself. Everything else was gone. And the little that was left of me was going, faster and faster.

I began to crawl. I crawled and rolled and inched my way along; and I missed it the first time – the place I was looking for.

I circled the room twice before I found it, and there was hardly any of me then but it was enough. I crawled up over the pile of bottles, and went crashing down the other side.

And she was there, of course.

Death was there.

Warlock by Oakley HallWarlock by Oakley Hall
A “literary Western,” if you’re one of those who must label. I think it’s just a great damn book, period, and Tom Morgan’s last gasp is one of the reasons why.

He fell forward into the dust. It received him gently. One arm felt a little cramped, and he managed to move it out from under his body. In his eyes there was only dust, which was soft, and strangely wet beneath him. ‘Tom!’ He heard it dimly. ‘Tom!’ He felt a hand upon his back. It caught his shoulder and tried to turn him, Kate’s hand, and he heard Kate sobbing through the swell of a vast singing in his ears. He tried to speak to her, but he choked on blood. The dust pulled him away, and he sank through it gratefully; still he could laugh, but now he could weep as well. Continue reading ›

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You Are Here: Mapping Richard Lange’s Angel Baby

May 15, 2013 in Guest Posts, Mulholland Authors, Uncategorized

In my new novel, Angel Baby, Luz, the beautiful, young wife of a Mexican drug lord, makes a mad dash for freedom that takes her from Tijuana, Mexico to Compton, CA. The story unfolds in actual locations, and I’ve called out some of the more interesting sites on the map below. Body armor recommended if you’re visiting some of them.

(Tip: Zoom out on the map to view the pins. Click on the pins for Lange’s descriptions.)


View Richard Lange’s Angel Baby in a larger map

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Start Reading Angel Baby

May 14, 2013 in Excerpts, Mulholland Authors

Happy publication day to Richard Lange’s ANGEL BABY! In Guggenheim Fellowship recipient Lange’s explosive new thriller, a woman on the run, a brutal crime lord, and three desperate men collide. Praised in Mystery Scene as  “a truly great read [with] the momentum of rolling thunder,” raved in Kirkus as “sharply calibrated and affecting,” and hailed by Ron Rash as “suspenseful and surprisingly moving,” Lange’s newest is a major step forward for the already much-lauded author. But don’t take our word for it–take a sneak peek at the opening pages of ANGEL BABY below…

1

Luz didn’t think things through the first time she tried to get away. It was a spur-of-the-moment decision. One night Rolando beat her so badly that she peed blood, and the next morning, as soon as he and his bodyguards left the house, she limped downstairs and out the front door, across the yard, and through the gate in the high concrete fence that surrounded the property.

Barefoot and wearing only panties and a black silk robe, she stumbled down the street, trying to hail a taxi. The drivers slowed and stared, but none would stop. Tears of frustration blurred her vision. She tripped and fell but got quickly back to her feet. Scraped knees and skinned palms wouldn’t keep her from Isabel’s third birthday party. She was determined to be there, no matter what. She’d appear at the front door with a giant pink cake and an armful of gifts and, oh, wouldn’t Isabel be surprised to see her?

Maria, the housekeeper, stuck her head out of the gate and shouted for her to stop. Luz tried to run, but the pills that got her through the day back then made her feel like she was slogging through mud. Maria caught up to her before she reached the corner and grabbed her by the hair. Luz fought back, kicking and clawing, but then El Toro, the house guard, was there too.

“Help me,” Luz called to a man on a bicycle. “Please,” to a woman pushing a stroller, but they, like the taxi drivers, ignored her. This was Tijuana, see, and if you valued your life and the lives of your family, you minded your own business. El Toro and Maria dragged her back to the house. They locked her in her room and laughed at her vows to get even.

Rolando killed her dog when they told him that she’d run away. He stormed into the bedroom and yanked Pepito from her arms, placed the heel of his boot on the toy poodle’s head, and crushed its skull. Then he forced Luz to the floor, twisted her arms up behind her back, and raped her there on the white shag carpet.

“Why do you make me do these things?” he screamed at her when he finished. “Why do you make me hate myself?”

It will be different this time. In the year since she last made a run for it, Luz has been putting together a plan, and now, finally, she’s ready. Isabel turns four next Tuesday, and Mommy will be there to watch her blow out the candles on her birthday cake, or Mommy will die trying. Continue reading ›

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Marcia Clark’s Trouble in Paradise

May 10, 2013 in Uncategorized

Hoping to get a taste of Rachel Knight’s world before Clark’s newest, KILLER AMBITION, hits bookstores June 18th? Try out this digital short featuring Rachel Knight and her “besties” Bailey and Toni!

It’s the perfect way to gear up for the upcoming Rachel Knight novel, already acclaimed in starred reviews from Publishers Weekly (“suspenseful and gripping…. the best yet in the series”) and Booklist  (“Legal thrillers don’t get much better than this…KILLER AMBITION finds Clark at the top of her game”).

So what are you waiting for? It just might be the best 99 cents you ever spend!

Kindle | Nook | iTunes

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The Lineup: Links for David Morrell’s Murder as a Fine Art

May 09, 2013 in Mulholland Authors, Weekly links

David Morrell’s Victorian thriller MURDER AS A FINE ART features Thomas De Quincey and his irrepressible daughter, Emily, matching wits with a killer the likes of which London has never before seen. With less than a week on sale, Morrell’s newest has been raking in amazing reviews.

Tina Jordan raved of the book in Entertainment Weekly: “MURDER AS A FINE ART is masterful . . . brilliantly plotted . . . evokes 1854 London with such finesse that you’ll hear the hooves clattering on cobblestones, the racket of dustmen, and the shrill call of vendors.” Janet Maslin of the New York Times Book Review remarked of the book: “Morrell writes action scenes like nobody’s business.” And in a rave Associated Press review that ran far and wide, Waka Tsunoda praises the novel as “shockingly real…Morrell’s thorough and erudite research of the people and culture of the British Empire’s heyday informs every page. A literary thriller that pushes the envelope of fear.”

For more MURDER AS A FINE ART, check out the lushly rendered book trailer below, created from original artwork by Tomislav Tikulen, an interview with Morrell on the writing of his Victorian thriller, and an illuminating conversation between Morrell and De Quincey biographer Robert Morrison. You’ll doubtless encounter more great reviews—and in the meantime, visit Morrell’s website to find out when the author will be reading near you!

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An Excerpt from Murder as a Fine Art

May 07, 2013 in Uncategorized

Happy publication day to David Morrell’s Victorian thriller MURDER AS A FINE ART! A critical darling raved by Douglas Preston, Dan Simmons, and featured in Entertainment Weekly, Morrell’s newest features notorious essayist Thomas De Quincey and his irrepressible daughter, Emily, matching wits with a killer the likes of which London has never seen before. Enjoy an excerpt right here–more on MURDER AS A FINE ART later this week!

From the Journal of Emily De Quincey

Sunday, 10 December 1854

This morning, I discovered Father again pacing the back courtyard. Once more, he had wakened much earlier than I, probably before dawn. Last night, I am certain that I heard his footsteps creaking past the door to my room, descending the stairs so that he could roam the dark streets. He claims that this is the only way he can avoid indulging in laudanum—by distracting himself with the effort of walking as much as fifteen miles each day.

Father’s short stature emphasizes how thin he has become. I worry that his obsessive exercise will harm him more than help. The way he talks also worries me. Before we left our home in Edinburgh to journey here to London and promote his newly collected writings, his practice was to waken groggily no earlier than noon. For a long time, he refused to make the trip at all. Then abruptly he called it essential and surprised me by filling his hours with walking to prepare himself. Soon he wakened at nine. In a matter of weeks, he backed to eight o’clock, to seven, to six. On the train bound for London, he walked in place, his cheeks red from exertion.

“To avoid the laudanum,” he kept insisting, although I know that he hasn’t abandoned it entirely. Two decanters of the wretched liquid are among the clothes and books that he packed.

I was especially troubled when he said, “As my waking hour retreats from five to four to three, I fear that I am backing into yesterday.”

Yesterday, though, is what I am convinced he wants to back into. His journey to London seems about his past more than his collected writings—or perhaps the two are disturbingly intertwined.

Our income from Father’s work is too little for us to afford the splendid town house in which we are staying. A middle-aged woman who serves as maid and cook has been supplied to us as well. Father claims that he doesn’t know who pays the bills, and I believe him. Perhaps one of his old acquaintances secretly provided the means for us to make this journey, although I can’t imagine whom, since so many of those acquaintances, Wordsworth and Coleridge, for example, have passed over, or as Father says, “have joined the majority,” since far more people died over the centuries than are currently alive.

Our lodging is near Russell Square, and after we arrived four days ago, Father puzzled me by asking me to walk with him before we unpacked. Within a few blocks, we reached the Square, where I was delighted to find a wonderful park in the middle of the tumultuous city. A breeze had chased the fog away. In what Father told me was rare December sunlight, he surveyed the grass and the bare trees, the intensity of his blue eyes indicating his memories.

“When I was seventeen,” he said, “I lived on the streets of London.”

I knew that, of course, because Father had included some of those terrible events in his Opium-Eater book.

“I lived on the streets for the entire winter,” he continued.

I knew this, too, but I have learned to let Father say what is on his mind.

“In those days, cows wandered this square. Many nights, a companion and I slept here, a rag that could barely be called a blanket wrapped around us. I’d been lucky enough to find an old bucket. When the udders on the cows were full, I did my best to milk one of them. The warmth of the milk helped us not to shiver.”

Father spoke without looking at me, his attention focused totally on his memories. “So much has changed. Coming from the train station, which didn’t exist then, I hardly recognized much of the city. There are so many places I need to see.”

His tone suggested that he didn’t want to see some of those places, even though he needed to.

“Ann,” he murmured.

My mother’s name was Margaret. Mine is Emily.

“Ann,” he repeated. Continue reading ›

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Karin Slaughter’s Story from Vengeance Anthology Wins Edgar Award

May 06, 2013 in Fiction, Mulholland News, Short Stories

Mystery Writers of America Presents VengeanceWe were beyond thrilled to hear that Karin Slaughter’s propulsive story “The Unremarkable Heart” won Best Short Story at last week’s Edgar Awards. This story appears in our anthology, Mystery Writers of America Presents Vengeance, which is just out in paperback.

In the spirit of Short Story Month—which is, you guessed it, May—we’d like to give you a chance to win this star-studded story collection. Simply comment below with your favorite mystery story for a chance to win. See below for our terms and conditions.

While you’re waiting to the sweepstakes to close, we encourage you to visit our mystery story advent calendar, which recommends a chilling new story every day in May.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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