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Betty Short and Norma Jeane Baker Alive Again

We asked all the contributors to LA Noire: The Collected Stories to tell us about their story in the collection. Read Joyce Carol Oates’ contribution “Black Dahlia & White Rose” in LA Noire: The Collected Stories.

Available free (for a limited time) from your eTailer of choice. Amazon.com | BN.com | iTunes | Kobo | Sony

Writing ‘Black Dahlia & White Rose’ was an unnerving experience. After Blonde, my novel about the doomed Marilyn Monroe, which was published in 2000, I had not anticipated ever returning to the heightened and intense world of Los Angeles circa 1946-7. But here are ‘Betty Short’ and ‘Norma Jeane Baker’ alive again, living out cruelly prepared scripts in which they have no hand and of which they can have no awareness. That these beautiful and vulnerable young women are ‘Hollywood sisters’ of a kind seems absolutely right to me–in fact, inevitable.

Joyce Carol Oates is the recipient of the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in Short Fiction, the winner of the National Book Award, and the author of over fifty novels.

My Own Dark Places

We asked all the contributors to LA Noire: The Collected Stories to tell us their thoughts on why Los Angeles is so associated with noir. Read Jonathan Santlofer’s story “What’s In a Name?” in LA Noire: The Collected Stories.

Available free (for a limited time) from your eTailer of choice. Amazon.com | BN.com | iTunes | Sony

When Rockstar asked me to put together an anthology to accompany their darkly beautiful video game, LA NOIRE, I pounced. Having been enamored with noir both on the page and on the screen since my brooding teenage years, my mind was spinning Chandleresque tales before I wrote a single word or asked another author to contribute. I wanted to invite a hundred writers but it ended up a small collection, every story burnished black as ebony, all jittery gems that invite the reader to trespass along those sunny/seamy LA streets. For my own story I slipped into the mind of a killer and had fun mixing fact and fiction, bringing in shadowy underworld figures I’d only read about, like Mickey Cohen and Johnny Stompanato, real life bad guys who seem quaint, almost harmless, compared to my fictional psychopath, a true noir creation inspired in equal parts by the game LA NOIRE, postwar Los Angeles, and my own dark places.

Jonathan Santlofer is the editor of LA Noire: The Collected Stories, as well as the author of 5 novels. He is the recipient of a Nero Wolfe Award for best crime fiction novel of 2008, two National Endowment for the Arts grants, and has been a Visiting Artist at the American Academy In Rome, the Vermont Studio Center and serves on the board of Yaddo, the oldest arts community in the U.S. He is co-editor, contributor and illustrator of the anthology, THE DARK END OF THE STREET, and his short stories have appeared in every top mystery/crime anthology. He is also the artist behind Ken Bruen’s serial novel BLACK LENS.

Noir Seal of Approval

As a contributor to LA Noire: The Collected Stories, we asked Andrew Vachss to give us his thoughts on noir. Read Andrew Vachss’s story “Postwar Boom” in LA Noire: The Collected Stories.

Available free (for a limited time) from your eTailer of choice. Amazon.com | BN.com | iTunes | Sony

I learned, a long time ago, that people can read for entertainment and come away with enlightenment, so long as the vein of truth runs throughout and doesn’t detract from the narrative force. I understand there are those who believe “noir”—or “hardboiled,” or whatever term they prefer to lavish upon themselves—writing shouldn’t be cluttered up with “that other stuff.” As if littérature engageé is only acceptable in “magical realism” novels translated from original Incan scrolls. All these “outlaws” who want me to live by their rigid little rules … good luck to them. I understand I am too “pulp” for the literati, and too “literate” for the pulpsters. Lost a lot of sleep over that. I’d rather burn a bridge than crawl over it, and genre- worship isn’t one of my disabilities. Apparently, as with all religions, some people believe they can dictate definitions. I don’t ask these self-appointed high priests for the “Noir Seal of Approval” that only they (think they) can grant.

Andrew Vachss has been a federal investigator in sexually transmitted diseases, a social-services caseworker, and a labor organizer, and has directed a maximum-security prison for “aggressive-violent” youth. Now a lawyer in private practice, he represents children and youths exclusively. He is the author of two dozen novels, including The Weight, his latest. To read an excerpt from this crime-fiction novel about Sugar, an old-school professional thief, visit http://vachss.com/weight.

The Edge of Nothing

We asked all the contributors to LA Noire: The Collected Stories to tell us their thoughts on why Los Angeles is so associated with noir. Read Megan Abbott’s story “The Girl” in LA Noire: The Collected Stories.

Available free (for a limited time) from your eTailer of choice . Amazon.com | BN.com | iTunes | Sony

Noir in both fiction and film has taken rich advantage of cities like San Francisco (Hammett) and New York (Spillane, Himes). No city—or region—truly owns noir, which is a mood, a feeling, a set of universal principles (no sin goes unpaid for; desire will doom you).

But, for me any many others, its deepest roots lie in the lush turf of Los Angeles. No other place evokes, with such extremity, noir’s foundational opposition: that there are two worlds, the world of daytime—of family, respectability, business, progress—and night—of crime, corruption, danger.

In his book City of Quartz, Mike Davis terms this opposition “sunshine vs. noir,” capitalist utopia and urban nightmare, land of “milk and honey” and city of “seduction and defeat.” And, maybe most of all, no other city has Hollywood. From Sunset Boulevard to L.A. Confidential to L.A. Noire itself, noir offers up countless tales of failed starlets and shattered dreams. Not a physical location, not even an industry, Hollywood stands as a bright symbol of limitless promise that gives way to decadence and ruin.

Los Angeles is, by geographic fate, the dropping-off of the American frontier. Manifest Destiny at its endpoint. You reach your dream here or you’ve lost it forever. Raymond Chandler, L.A. noir’s founding father, once said, “I have lived my life on the edge of nothing.” The edge of nothing: that is where Los Angeles sits, precarious, beautiful—a femme fatale waiting for her kiss.

Megan Abbott is the Edgar-award winning author of five novels. She has taught literature, writing, and film at New York University, the New School and the State University of New York at Oswego. She received her Ph.D. in English and American literature from New York University in 2000. She lives in New York City. Her new novel The End of Everything will be published in July 2011. Start reading on Facebook and follow Megan on Twitter.

Now Available LA Noire: The Collected Stories

Today is the publication date for LA Noire: The Collected Stories a series of short stories some of which are based on characters and cases from the world of L.A. Noire, Rockstar’s new magnum opus of video gaming.

Throughout the day, we will be posting short vignettes by the contributors to the collection. Contributors include Megan Abbott, Lawrence Block, Joe Lansdale, Joyce Carol Oates, Francine Prose, Jonathan Santlofer, Duane Swierczynski and Andrew Vachss.

For now, download the collection for free from your eTailer of choice. Amazon.com | BN.com | iTunes | Sony

Chapter 2 of The Wreckage

Next month we are publishing The Wreckage by Michael Robotham. Start reading the book that Booklist called (in a starred review), “Fine and ambitious with characters who are wonderfully human–smart, determined, decent, and flawed. Thoroughly compelling.”

Need to catch up? Read the Prologue and Chapter 1.

2

LONDON

Being measured for a new suit was not something Vincent Ruiz expected to happen until he was lying cold and stiff on an undertaker’s slab. And if that were the case, he didn’t suppose he’d care about an effeminate stranger nudging a tape measure against his balls. Maybe he’s weighing them. Every other measurement has been taken. Continue reading “Chapter 2 of The Wreckage”

Chapter 1 of The Wreckage

Next month we are publishing The Wreckage by Michael Robotham. Start reading the book that Booklist called (in a starred review), “Fine and ambitious with characters who are wonderfully human–smart, determined, decent, and flawed. Thoroughly compelling.”

Have you killed?”

“Many times.”

“Were you scared?”

“No.”

“Never?”

“It’s not hard to take a life when a life has been taken from you. It is not about embracing revenge or nurturing hatred. And forget about taking an eye for an eye. Equality is for the weak and stupid. It’s about pulling the trigger… simple as that. One finger, one movement…”

“Who was the first?”

“A schoolgirl.”

“Why?”

“I can’t remember, but I’ve never forgotten the warmth of the day, the blinding glare, the dust on the leaves of the apricot trees. It was apricot season. In that final instant everything slows down—the cars, the buses, voices on the street. Everything goes quiet and all you hear is your own heartbeat, the blood squeezing through smaller and smaller channels. There is no other moment like it.”

“Why do they call you the Courier?”

“I deliver messages.”

“You kill people?”

“People kill every day. Nurses push needles. Surgeons stop hearts. Butchers slay beasts. You’re doing something good here. You and the others are going to be famous. You are going to create a day that will live forever, a date that doesn’t need an explanation. History made. History changed. These things begin somewhere. They begin with an idea. They begin with faith.”

“Why me?”

“The others will also be tested.”

“Are you going to film it?”

“Yes. Here is the gun. It won’t bite you. This is the safety. Pull back the slide and the bullet enters the chamber.”

“Nobody will see my face?”

“No. Now walk through the door. He’s waiting. Seated. He will hear you coming. He will beg. Don’t listen to his words. Press the barrel to the back of his head and pull off the hood. Make him look at the camera’s red light: the drop of electrified blood.”

“Should I say something? A prayer.”

“It’s not what you say—it’s what you do.”

1

BAGHDAD

The most important lesson Luca Terracini ever learned about being a foreign correspondent was to tell a story through the eyes of someone else. The second most important lesson was how to make spaghetti marinara with a can of tuna and a packet of ramen noodles.

There were others, of course, most of them to do with staying alive in a war zone: Do not make an appointment to see anyone you do not trust absolutely. Do not go out before checking whether any suspicious vehicles are loitering outside. Do not assume that a place that was safe yesterday will be safe today.

These security measures were followed by all western reporters in Baghdad, but Luca had added a few of his own over the years—advice that came down to possessing three vital tools for survival: a natural cowardice; several US hundred-dollar bills sewn into his trouser cuffs; and a well-developed sense of the absurd.

The first call to prayer is sounding. Sunrise. Luca had been woken by the racket of washing machines, TV sets and air conditioners coming to life simultaneously. The government can only provide electricity during certain hours, which means the appliances trigger at random times, day or night, creating a strange symphony of music and metal.

Continue reading “Chapter 1 of The Wreckage”

See the Woman

The following story is included in L.A. Noire: The Collected Stories, a collaboration between Rockstar Games and Mulholland Books. Today also marks the publication date of Block’s novel A DROP OF THE HARD STUFF, which Time Magazine says “reads like it’s been jolted by factory-fresh defibrillator pads.”

Red light’s on, so I guess that thing’s recording. This whole project you’ve got, this oral history, I’ll confess I didn’t see the point of it. You running a tape recorder while an old man runs his mouth.

But it stirs things up, doesn’t it? The other day—Wednesday, it must have been—all I did was talk for an hour or two, and then I went home and lay down for a nap and slept for fifteen hours. I’m an old man, I got up every three hours to pee, but then I went back to bed and fell right back asleep again. And dreams! Can’t recall the last time I dreamed so much.

And then I got up, and my memory was coming up with stuff I never thought of in years. Years! All the way back to when I was a boy growing up in Oklahoma. You know, before the dust, before my old man lost the farm and brought us here. Memories of nothing much. Walking down a farm road watching a garter snake wriggling along in a tractor rut. And me, kicking a tin can while I’m walking, just watching the snake, just kicking the can. Del Monte peaches, that’s what the can was. Why’d anybody remember that?

Mostly, though, what I kept going over in my mind was something that happened in my first year on the force. If it’s all the same to you, that’s what I’ll talk about today.

Now, you know I wasn’t but sixteen when the Japs bombed Pearl, and like just about everybody else I was down there the next morning looking to get into it.

They sent me home when I told them my age, so I waited two days and went back, and wouldn’t you know the same sergeant was behind the desk. This time I told him I was eighteen, and either he didn’t remember me from before or he didn’t give a damn, and they took me.

I went through basic and shipped out to England, and from there to North Africa, and what happened was they cut me out of the infantry and made an MP out of me. But I don’t want to get sidetracked here and tell war stories. I came through it fine and wound up back here in Los Angeles, and I’d been military police for better than three years, so after a few months of beer and girls I went down and applied to join the LAPD.

Now, what they would do then, and they probably still do it, is when they were done training you they’d partner you up with an older guy. You were partners, you’d ride around together, take turns driving, all of that, but he’s the guy with the experience, so he’s more or less in charge. He’s showing you the ropes and it’s something you can’t get from a book or in a classroom.

They put me in a car with Lew Hagner. Now, I’d heard of him, because he had a big part in the Zoot Suit Riots in ‘43, and there were plenty of Mexicans who’d have liked to see him dead. And after I was home but before I joined up with the department, there was an incident where he got in a gunfight with three zoot-suiters or pachucos or whatever you want to call ‘em. Mexicans, anyway. He got a scratch, treated and released at Valley General, and they were all dead on arrival. One of them, the wounds were in the back, and the press made some noise about that, but most people wanted to give him a medal.

Lew was fifteen years older’n me, and I was, what, twenty-two at the time? An old twenty-two, the way everybody’s older after a war, but still. Plus my old man died while I was overseas, and a fifteen-year age difference, plus he’s there to show me the ropes; well, I’m not about to say he was like a father to me, but you might say I looked up to him.

Anyway, we’re two guys in a car. And it’s good, and I’m learning things you don’t learn any other way. All the feel of the streets, and what might be trouble and what’s not. What you had to enforce and what you could let slide. When you had to go by the book, when you didn’t even have to open it.

How else are you gonna learn that sort of thing?

Continue reading “See the Woman”

Mulholland Books and Rockstar Games

We’re thrilled to announce that we will be publishing, in conjunction with Rockstar Games, a series of short stories some of which are based on characters and cases from the world of L.A. Noire, Rockstar’s forthcoming new video game. “L.A. Noire: The Collected Stories” will be available for digital download on June 6, 2011 through all major eBook retailers.

Authors with stories in the anthology include such renowned writers as Megan Abbott, Lawrence Block, Joe Lansdale, Joyce Carol Oates, Francine Prose, Jonathan Santlofer, Duane Swierczynski and Andrew Vachss. 1940s Hollywood, murder, deception and mystery take center stage as readers reintroduce themselves to characters seen in L.A. Noire. Explore the lives of actresses desperate for the Hollywood spotlight; heroes turned defeated men; and classic Noir villains. Readers will come across not only familiar faces, but familiar cases from the game that take on a new spin to tell the tales of emotionally torn protagonists, depraved schemers and their ill-fated victims.

Read Megan Abbot’s story “The Girl” on Rockstargames.com.

Read the full press release here.

Preorder from BN.com | iTunes | Amazon

Christmas eBooks: It’s no mystery what you should read next

Merry Christmas, Mystery Readers! If you got an eReader under the tree today, we’re here to recommend have some excellent Little, Brown thrillers that will keep you clicking at a furious pace (because that’s how you turn pages now. Don’t worry, you’ll get used to it).

The Reversal by Michael Connelly
The Reversal, Connelly’s new novel, might be his best: a crackling-good read, smart and emotionally satisfying. It manages to condense decades of time and reams of information into a compelling narrative that adeptly explores various elements of L.A.’s own version of what passes as a criminal justice system.”
— Jonathan Shapiro, Los Angeles Times
BooksonBoard | Diesel | eBooks.com | iBook |Kindle | Kobo | Sony | Nook | Powells |
Pre-order The Fifth Witness for your Kindle app or reader, it will be automatically delivered to your device in April 2011.

Exit Music by Ian Rankin
“This has been one of the best police procedural series ever written.” -Patrick Anderson, Washington Post
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Love Ian Rankin? Stock up! This week only, Resurrection Men is available for the low price of $2.99 wherever eBooks are sold.
Pre-order The Complaints for your Kindle app or reader, it will be automatically delivered to your device in March 2011.

So Cold the River by Michael Koryta
“A chilling supernatural tale. . . . Michael Koryta’s novel is being compared to the writings of Stephen King and Peter Straub. He lives up to the comparison in this dark novel.” — Carol Memmott, USA Today
BooksonBoard | Diesel | eBooks.com | iBook | Kindle | Kobo | Sony | Nook | Powells |
Pre-order The Cypress House for your Kindle app or reader, it will be automatically delivered to your device in January 2011.

When Will There Be Good News? by Kate Atkinson
“As a reader, I was charmed. As a novelist, I was staggered by Atkinson’s narrative wizardry.” -Stephen King, Entertainment Weekly
BooksonBoard | Diesel | eBooks.com | iBook | Kindle | Kobo | Sony | Nook | Powells |
Love Kate Atkinson? Stock up! This week only, Case Histories is available for the low price of $4.99 wherever eBooks are sold.
Pre-order Started Early, Took My Dog for your Kindle app or reader, it will be automatically delivered to your device in February 2011.

Visit the Little, Brown website, Facebook page and Twitter account for more reading suggestions. Happy Holidays!