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Mystery Writers of America Presents Vengeance: An Introduction

Editing this anthology was a lot of fun—not least because Mystery Writers of America’s invaluable and irreplaceable publications guy, Barry Zeman, did all the hard work. All I had to do was pick ten invitees. And write a story. And then later on read the ten winning stories chosen by MWA’s blind-submission process. Piece of cake. Apart from writing my own story, that is, which I always find hard, but that’s why picking the invitees was so much fun—I love watching something difficult being done really well, by experts.

It was like playing fantasy baseball—who did I want on the field? And just as Major League Baseball has rich seams of talent to choose from, so does Mystery Writers of America. I could have filled ten anthologies. Or twenty. But I had to start somewhere—and it turned out that I already had, years ago, actually, when I taught a class at a mystery writers’ conference in California. One of the after-hours activities was a group reading around a fireplace in the motel. A bit too kumbaya for me, frankly, but I went anyway, and the first story was by a young woman called Michelle Gagnon. It was superb, and it stayed with me through the intervening years. So I e-mailed her about using it for this anthology—more in hope than in expectation, because it was such a great story, I was sure it had been snapped up long ago. But no—it was still available. Never published, amazingly. It is now.

One down.

Then I had to have Brendan DuBois. He’s a fine novelist but easily the best short-story writer of his generation. He just cranks them out, one after the other, like he’s casting gold ingots. Very annoying. He said yes.

Two down.

And I had Twist Phelan on my radar. She’s a real woman of mystery—sometimes lives on a yacht, sometimes lives in Switzerland, knows about oil and banks and money—and she had just won the International Thriller Writers’ award for best short story. I thought, I’ll have a bit of that. She said okay.

Three down. Continue reading “Mystery Writers of America Presents Vengeance: An Introduction”

The Lineup: Edge of Dark Water Edition

Contrasted ConfinementHoping to discover more about EDGE OF DARK WATER and Joe’s signature style, or find fresh ways to talk up the novel with friends and fellow readers? We’ve got you covered!

You could try the recent reviews–in last Sunday’s New York Times Book Review, Marilyn Stasio offered high praise for Joe R. Lansdale’s newest, proclaiming EDGE OF DARK WATER: “A charming Gothic tale….as funny and frightening as anything that could have been dreamed up by the Brothers Grimm–or Mark Twain.” At New York Journal of Books, Sam Millar raves that EDGE OF DARK WATER “has all the potential of becoming a classic, read by generations to come.”

Prefer your Youtube account? With Joe’s help and including on-location footage of the setting of his novel and the East Texas region that gives his work such vibrancy, we’ve put together two video clips about Joe’s newest and his inspirations:

More audio-inclined? Don’t miss these killer podcasts that feature some of Joe’s contributions to the storytelling tradition:

The Bomb:

Write Something:

East Texas Christmas:

And if you’re new to the site this week, don’t miss Dan Simmons’ essay that compares and contrasts EDGE OF DARK WATER to the classic that’s come up so often in reviews of the novel, Joe Lansdale and Andrews Vachss’ epic conversation on EDGE OF DARK WATER and Vachss’ THAT’S HOW I ROLL (Part I and Part II), and our own conversation with Lansdale (Part I and Part II).

Share away!

Continue Reading Joe R. Lansdale’s EDGE OF DARK WATER

Joe R. Lansdale’s EDGE OF DARK WATER is now on its way to bookstores around the country…but we’re so excited to be publishing this amazing book, we’ve decided to share part of it with you now. Read on for more of the novel that had Dan Simmons raving: “the strongest, truest, and most pitch-perfect narration since Huck Finn’s….real genius….a masterpiece.”

Missed the first excerpt? Start reading here.


May Lynn didn’t have a mama anymore, cause her mama had drowned herself in the Sabine River. She had gone down with some laundry to soak, and instead wrapped a shirt around her head and walked in until the water went over her. When she came up, she wasn’t alive anymore, but she still had that shirt around her noggin.

May Lynn’s daddy was someone who only came home when he got tired of being any other place. We didn’t even know if he knew his daughter was missing. May Lynn used to say after her mama drowned herself her daddy was never the same. Said she figured it was because the laundry around her mother’s head had been his favorite snap-pocket shirt. That’s true love for you. Worse, her brother, Jake, who she was close to, was dead as of a short time back, and there wasn’t even a family dog to miss her.

The day after we found her, May Lynn was boxed up in a cheap coffin and buried on a warm morning in the pauper section of the Marvel Creek Cemetery next to a dried patch of weeds with seed ticks clinging to them, and I suspect some chiggers too small to see. Her mother and brother were buried in the same graveyard, but they hadn’t ended up next to one another. Up the hill was where the people with money lay. Down here was the free dirt, and even if you was kin to someone, you got scattered—you went in anyplace where there was room to dig a hole. I’d heard there was many a grave on top of another, for need of space.

There were oaks and elms to shade the rest of the graveyard, but May Lynn’s section was a hot stretch of dirt with a bunch of washed-down mounds, a few with markers. Some of the markers were little sticks. Names had once been written on them, but they had been washed white by the sun and rain.

The constable ruled on matters by saying she had been killed by a person or persons unknown, which was something I could have figured out for him. He said it was most likely a drifter or drifters who had come upon her by the river. I guess they had been carrying a sewing machine under their arm. Continue reading “Continue Reading Joe R. Lansdale’s EDGE OF DARK WATER”

Start Reading Joe R. Lansdale’s Edge of Dark Water

Joe R. Lansdale’s EDGE OF DARK WATER will be in bookstores later this month…but we’re so excited to be publishing this amazing book, we’ve decided to share part of it with you now. Read on for one of the best first sentences you’ll ever read, the beginning of the novel that had Dan Simmons raving: “the strongest, truest, and most pitch-perfect narration since Huck Finn’s….real genius….a masterpiece.”


Part One

Of Ash and Dreams


That summer, Daddy went from telephoning and dynamiting fish to poisoning them with green walnuts. The dynamite was messy, and a couple years before he’d somehow got two fingers blown off, and the side of his face had a burn spot that at first glance looked like a lipstick kiss and at second glance looked like some kind of rash.

Telephoning for fish worked all right, though not as good as dynamite, but Daddy didn’t like cranking that telephone to hot up the wire that went into the water to ’lectrocute the fish. He said he was always afraid one of the little colored boys that lived up from us might be out there swimming and get a dose of ’lectricity that would kill him deader than a cypress stump, or at best do something to his brain and make him retarded as his cousin Ronnie, who didn’t have enough sense to get in out of the rain and might hesitate in a hailstorm.

My grandma, the nasty old bag, who, fortunately, is dead now, claimed Daddy has what she called the Sight. She said he was gifted and could see the future some. I reckon if that was so, he’d have thought ahead enough not to get drunk when he was handling explosives and got his fingers blown off.

And I hadn’t ever seen that much sympathy from him concerning colored folk, so I didn’t buy his excuse for not cranking the phone. He didn’t like my friend Jinx Smith, who was colored, and he tried to make out we was better than her and her family, even though they had a small but clean house, and we had a large dirty house with a sagging porch and the chimney propped up on one side with a two-by-four and there were a couple of hogs wallowing out holes in the yard. As for his cousin Ronnie, I don’t think Daddy cared for him one way or the other, and often made fun of him and imitated him by pretending to bang into walls and slobber about. Of course, when he was good and drunk, this wasn’t an imitation, just a similarity.

Then again, maybe Daddy could see the future, but was just too stupid to do anything about it. Continue reading “Start Reading Joe R. Lansdale’s Edge of Dark Water”

Austin Grossman Interviews Daniel O’Malley

Austin Grossman had three pressing questions for THE ROOK author Daniel O’Malley. Here they are, in no particular order.

a)  What would you say the greatest super-secret organization in SF and F?  What were some models used for THE ROOK?

I don’t know that anything was actually a model.  But some fictional secret security organizations really made an impact with me.

I remember that the White Witch’s secret police in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe made me feel deeply uneasy at the time. “Some of the trees are on her side.” And it’s led by a wolf. So, I’ve always held a soft spot for them. Although, in retrospect, what kind of secret police leave notes signed ‘Captain of the Secret Police’?

And I don’t know if they count as super-secret, since everyone knows they exist, but the Militia in China Mieville’s Perdido Street Station really struck me when I read about them. Police that walked around in disguise all the time, only to emerge out of nowhere when there was crime. They pull hidden masks out of their collars, and sometimes they are riding flying jellyfish. They’re scary police, I don’t want them in my town, but they’re pretty damn cool.

 With The Rook I wanted to give the sense of a regular office where bizarre things were happening in the background, or incredible occurrences were being discussed in a perfectly serious and deadpan way. I think the Men in Black movies did a good job with that sort of thing. I also wanted a place where many of the staff, from the elite commandos through to the phone receptionists, might have supernatural powers. Alan Moore, Gene Ha, Zander Cannon and Todd Klein did a terrific comic called Top 10, and it was about the police in a city where everyone had super powers. So, the guy cooking your hotdog might be doing it with heat vision, or the boy band on the radio might all be former sidekicks. My organization is not quite so saturated with powers, but I remembered that, and thought it was fun.

b) If you knew you were going to have total amnesia, what’s the first note you would write to your future self?

Continue reading “Austin Grossman Interviews Daniel O’Malley”

Searching New York for Matthew and Bernie

cheersThe following article was originally written by Lawrence Block for his Chinese publisher, but it will be of interest to anyone who has ever wondered about the locations mentioned in Block’s books in New York City.

A DROP OF THE HARD STUFF is now available in paperback–don’t miss out on Block’s “elegaic….lament for all the old familiar things that are now almost lost, almost forgotten” (Marilyn Stasio, New York Times Book Review).

I remember the time some fifteen years ago when I walked into Jimmy Armstrong’s saloon. Jimmy himself was at the bar, and he told me about a recent visit by a group of visitors from Japan. It seems they had come to see the place they’d read about in my Matthew Scudder novels, and they spent an hour there, taking pictures of the bar, taking pictures of Jimmy, and taking pictures of each other in the bar and in poses with Jimmy.

“It was fun,” he said. “They were excited to find out that this was a real place.”

I was reminded of this on my recent visit to Beijing, when I met some Chinese fans who are members of a virtual club called Armstrong’s Bar that has meetings online. It was my sad duty to tell them that the real Armstrong’s Bar no longer existed, and that its owner, my old friend Jimmy Armstrong, had died in 2002. (A nephew of Jimmy’s took it over and ran it for a couple of months, but then he sold it to somebody else, and the name was changed, and that was the end of that.)

I know that those Japanese readers who dropped in on Jimmy are not the only tourists who have combined a visit to New York with a search for traces of Matthew Scudder and Bernie Rhodenbarr in the city they call home. This can be difficult, because some of their locations are hard to find for several reasons.

Some of the places mentioned never existed. The books are works of fiction, and some of the locations are fictional as well. A favorite restaurant of Matthew and his wife, Elaine, is one called Paris Green. Fans sometimes look for it, and I can understand why; I’d eat there myself if I could! But no such place ever existed in reality.

The same is true for many of the places where Bernie Rhodenbarr hangs out. His bookstore, Barnegat Books, is fictional, and so is his pal Carolyn’s dog grooming salon, The Poodle Factory. The two often eat lunch from a neighborhood restaurant that keeps changing its name as different nationalities run it: Two Guys From Addis Ababa, Two Guys From Bucharest, Two Guys From Phnom Penh, etc. It sounds like a fine establishment, but don’t look for it. Or for the Bum Rap, the saloon on Broadway where the two friends meet after work for a drink. It’s fictional as well.

Continue reading “Searching New York for Matthew and Bernie”

On Writing A Drop of the Hard Stuff

Today Mulholland Books celebrates the paperback publication of A DROP OF THE HARD STUFF! Missed out on the “totally gripping….Great American Crime Novel” (Time) the first time around? Now’s your chance!

Larry’s essay on writing A DROP OF THE HARD STUFF follows.

I was afraid I might be done writing about Matthew Scudder.

I’d certainly spent enough years in his company.  From 1975’sThe Sins of the Fathers all the way to All the Flowers are Dying in 2005, I’d written sixteen Matthew Scudder novels, along with a handful of short stories.  And, because the fellow has aged in real time throughout the series, he’s now reached and passed the biblical high water mark of three score years and ten.  Even if you’re optimistic enough to argue that 72 is the new 71, the fellow’s still a little old to be leaping tall buildings in a single bound.

Now I should point out that this was not the first time I thought Scudder and I were done with each other.  In the fifth book, Eight Million Ways to Die (1982), the fellow confronted his alcoholism and, not without difficulty, chose sobriety.  That was all well and good for him, but I figured I’d written myself out of a job.  The man had undergone a catharsis, he’d confronted the central problem of his existence, so what was left to say about him?  His d’etre, you might say, had lost its raison, and I’d be well advised to go write about somebody else. Continue reading “On Writing A Drop of the Hard Stuff”

A Review of Edge of Dark Water

This review was originally published on Tom Piccirilli’s website The Cold Spot. EDGE OF DARK WATER hits bookstores March 23.

We all know Joe Lansdale can do it all. He’s written thrillers, westerns, young adult, and horror novels, as well as fusions containing elements of each. His latest, EDGE OF DARK WATER, is more or less one of these composites that gives a perfect arena to Lansdale’s strengths as a classic storyteller.

When teenaged May Lynn’s body is pulled from the Sabine River tied to an old sewing machine, her friends Sue Ellen, Jinx, and Terry take it upon themselves to give her a proper fond farewell. They decide to burn her remains and carry the ashes to Hollywood, a place where pretty May Lynn always believed she would someday become a movie star. The adventurous trio, along with Sue Ellen’s alcoholic mother, steal a raft and escape from town with some stolen loot, barely ahead of Sue Ellen’s abusive step-father and several other cretinous, criminal characters. As their trip unfolds they run across an odd array of broken and lamentable folks, including a preacher with a horrible guilty secret and an ancient crone with no reason to live except passing on her bitterness. They also learn that Skunk, a legendary beast of a man raised in the river bottoms who’ll commit any atrocity he’s hired to do, may be on their heels.

Despite the novel being set during the Depression, the story has a certain timeless nature. We get the feeling that this tale could almost have taken place at any period between the 1880s and the 1980s. East Texas remains as dark and romanticized as Hannibal, Missouri, full of wonder and possibility, thick with traps and villains.

This is a sharp, incisive, fun tale showing Lansdale’s fortitude at roping the reader into an impressive, alluring narrative. The flaws of our protagonists are what make them so sympathetic and relatable, their journey such an earnest and archetypal one. Even though this is only January, I’m certain EDGE OF DARK WATER will wind up on top ten of ‘12 lists come a year from now.

By the way, look for my interview with Joe in the first online issue of the new ezine The Big Click edited by Nick Mamatas, premiering in March.

Tom Piccirilli is the author of twenty novels including Shadow SeasonThe Cold SpotThe Coldest Mile, and A Choir of Ill Children. He’s won the International Thriller Writers Award and four Bram Stoker Awards, as well as having been nominated for the Edgar, the World Fantasy Award, the Macavity, and Le Grand Prix de L’imagination. Learn more at

Mulholland Books Best of 2011

If you got an eReader for the holidays this year, the time has come to fill it up with eBooks! Why not try some of our titles that hit the Best of 2011 lists all over the country!

A DROP OF THE HARD STUFF by Lawrence Block “FAVORITE PERFORMANCE BY AN OLD PRO: For sentimental reasons, I’m going with Lawrence Block’s nostalgic novel, A DROP OF THE HARD STUFF, set in New York in the 1970s, when Matt Scudder was still a working cop and crime was still “the leading occupation” in his Hell’s Kitchen ­neighborhood. -Marilyn Stasio, New York Times Book Review

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GUILT BY ASSOCIATION by Marcia Clark: “A corker of a debut novel in which a brainy, plucky female prosecutor refuses to rush to judgment….That the novel is marked by authenticity is no surprise given Clark’s credentials—she was, after all, lead prosecutor in the headline-grabbing O.J. Simpson trial—but what may surprise some readers is the quality of the writing, plus the considerable charm of Rachel and her buddies.” -Kirkus Reviews

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THE HOUSE OF SILK by Anthony Horowitz: “As told by Watson in language that returns us to 19th-century London, The House of Silk wrangles three individual mysteries, witty dialogue and the best bromance around into a book you can’t put down.” –The Houston Chronicle.

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THE REVISIONISTS by Thomas Mullen: “Mullen’s third book is Blade Runner meets John LeCarre. A time traveler, Zed, returns from the future to do a dirty job. He has to make sure that all the terrible events of history – the Holocaust, Hiroshima, Verdun, New Jersey Shore – take place exactly as they happened. Past imperfect preserves a future perfect (we are led to believe) free of problems. Zed must hunt down other time travelers who want to change the past … so the future changes. The sci-fi premise, once you take the bait, leads to a thoughtful, suspenseful novel of intrigue.” –Paste Magazine

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TRIPLE CROSSING by Sebastian Rotella: “FAVORITE DEBUT NOVEL / FAVORITE ACTION THRILLER: Sebastian Rotella scores twice for TRIPLE CROSSING, which begins on the San Diego-Tijuana border and sends good guys from both sides of the fence to combat drug smugglers and terrorists in the badlands of South America.” -Marilyn Stasio, New York Times Book Review

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FUN AND GAMES and HELL AND GONE by Duane Swierczynski: The first two books in the Charlie Hardie trilogy have trapped our tough ex-cop in a house with nefarious killers outside and a crazy starlet inside, then put him in a prison where he may or may not be a guard. This is pulp fiction on an epic scale told with grand skill. I cannot wait for the conclusion with Point & Shoot this Spring. –Book People

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And if you’re in search of a deal, check out these Little, Brown titles that are available for reduced prices wherever eBooks are sold:

Kate Atkinson’s WHEN WILL THERE BE GOOD NEWS? (until 12/26)

Michael Koryta’s SO COLD THE RIVER (until 12/26)

Denise Mina’s STILL MIDNIGHT (until 12/26)

Marcia Clark’s GUILT BY ASSOCIATION (starting 12/26)

Ian Rankin’s THE COMPLAINTS (starting 12/26)

George Pelecanos’s WHAT IT WAS (pre-order for delivery on 1/23. Just .99!)