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In Conversation with Nicholas Mennuti and Alan Glynn

Weaponized by Nicholas Mennuti and David GuggenheimThe wide-ranging conversation below between Nicholas Mennuti, one of the authors of Weaponized, and Alan Glynn, whose novel The Dark Fields was adapted for the film Limitless, covers such topics as globalization, espionage fiction, Cambodia, literary influences, and film influences—a veritable “arterial spray” of allusions (their words, not ours!). You’ll definitely want to make time to dive into this fascinating exchange.

Alan Glynn: Nick, I thoroughly enjoyed reading Weaponized and was struck by several things in it. One is the fact that it is packed—action-packed and packed with ideas, which is pretty unusual, I think, and unlike anything I’ve read in recent memory. The highest compliment I can pay it is to say that the book feels like North by Northwest meets Apocalypse Now. Anyone who reads the book will know immediately what I mean: the Cambodian setting, the existential end-of-American-empire angst, the assuming and trading of identities, the espionage, the cat-and-mousing around, the playfulness, the darkness, the betrayals, the reversals, the fun and the horror (x2). Perhaps those movie references betray my age, because the thing is Weaponized is also bang up-to-date in its concerns. In a way, it’s like a primer on globalization. You leave nothing out: resource wars, pipelines, corporations, big data-driven surveillance, private security firms, the outsourcing land grab, the Chinese, the Russians, and you also debate, or pose questions about, the individual’s place and responsibility in all of this. But despite packing these themes into the novel, you don’t ram them down the reader’s throat—it’s not a didactic or polemical book. Instead, you deflect and entertain with car chases and explosions, with tense checkpoint confrontations and with the occasional spurting artery. I suppose my first question is, how important was this balance for you, and how conscious were you during the writing process of trying to strike it?

Nicholas Mennuti: First off, I’m thrilled you enjoyed the book. Means a ton coming from you. I’ve been “borrowing/inspired” by you for a while. That’s one of those jokes-not jokes.

Your question is kind of a bouillabaisse of interesting things to talk about, so if I get a bit circular I hope that’s okay.

I’m kind of an espionage thriller binger and had come to the conclusion that the model hadn’t really changed in years. You either had the sort of fussy-frilly Le Carré model (that of course started with Greene and Buchan) that Olen Steinhauer, Jeremy Duns, David Ignatius, and Charles Cumming have dragged into the 21st century. Or you get the military-jingoistic version of it with Brad Thor, Andy McNab, Lee Child. And I just felt neither of these styles felt like the right way to deal with the chaos of the 21st century.

The world had changed, but espionage fiction still felt very 1989. All of those authors (many of whom I do like) still seemed locked into talking about a world that has kind of ceased to exist. A unipolar world that one man can save from destruction. So I really wanted to talk about topics/places that I felt were being underserved/underutilized by contemporary espionage fiction. Which of course leads you into privatized spying and the third-world. Now, that’s all analytical, and I probably became more aware of that as I went through writing/editing the book. But this desire to break the paradigm was there all along.

Jack Nicholson in The PassengerBut where Weaponized really started was with my enduring obsession with Antonioni’s The Passenger. Do you know that one? It’s with Jack Nicholson. It’s all about identity switching and existential ennui in the guise of a thriller. Only problem is that it’s Antonioni—who had no interest in making a thriller. So I started thinking: what if you made an actual thriller out of this art-movie?

North by Northwest and Apocalypse Now have been obsessions of mine since I was a teenager, so they’re just part of my creative DNA at this point. I’m sure they’re going to be present in whatever I write. If I were writing a romantic comedy, I’m sure there’d be at least one spy and one third-world setting.

Apocalypse Now in particular fascinated me. It reminded me of Graham Greene’s fiction in that the topography of the novel seemed like the perfect literal manifestation of the lead character’s interior. With Apocalypse, I’ve never been sure whether Vietnam looked that crazy, or if it just looked that crazy to Martin Sheen. And that subjectivity runs through Weaponized. I wanted people to feel Cambodia through Kyle. Just like how you feel Vietnam through Willard. That’s also something you got a lot of mileage out of in Dark Fields (Limitless). Just how subjective/expressionistic can I get with this narrator without pulling this out of genre territory. Would you agree?

And what both North by Northwest and Apocalypse Now have in common is that they’re genre movies of the highest order that managed to pack a ton of subtext into the genre without weighing it down.

I mean I could write a page just on how fascinating it is in North by Northwest that Cary Grant’s middle initial “O” literally stands for NOTHING. It’s zero as a place-holder. Is that why he could be mistaken for Kaplan on a metaphysical level in the first place—there’s no one there to start with. It’s no mistake I think that Hitchcock had him working in advertising.

In terms of what I’ll refer to “ideas balanced with mayhem,” I was definitely conscious of it. I wasn’t interested in writing a deconstructivist thriller, where I hollow out all the genre gambits, and turn it into a formal-polemicist kind of thing. The Europeans do that really well, but I don’t.

I set a rule for myself early on that any ideas, either political or philosophical, have to come out of a character, or be on the action line. For example, if I want to talk about French colonialism, it’s going to be during a chase scene at Robinson’s hotel. Or if I want to talk about Russian oligarchy, it’s going to be in a scene where Kyle’s got to pick up a gun.

I have a lot of love for the genre, particularly when it’s really working, so I wanted (and David Guggenheim was so crucial in helping me getting a frame for it) to make sure the book worked as a thriller first, and then go about layering this other stuff in. That said, even before we had the story I knew I wanted Weaponized to feel like the 21st century: fractured, neon, lonely, and set in a series of geographical non-places. I wanted to write a thriller that didn’t feel embalmed. Continue reading “In Conversation with Nicholas Mennuti and Alan Glynn”

Now On Sale: Weaponized by Nicholas Mennuti with David Guggenheim

Weaponized by Nicholas Mennuti with David GuggenheimThe white-hot suspense novel of the summer is now available on bookshelves around the country: Weaponized by Nicholas Mennuti with David Guggenheim. We’ve shared with you the book’s raves from Publishers Weekly and Kirkus Reviews, but as readers finally pick up their copies of the book, the response is no less effusive. A few of our favorites from Goodreads:

And we have a special treat for those readers who are quickest to pick up and read Weaponized: author Nicholas Mennuti is answering all questions and comments about the book on Goodreads until August 6th. Come join us in this digital book club! We’ll keep an eye out for you.

Karin Slaughter’s Story from Vengeance Anthology Wins Edgar Award

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.

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Thomas De Quincey and Murder as a Fine Art: A Conversation with David Morrell and Robert Morrison

Murder as a Fine Art

Robert Morrison: I love the idea behind Murder as a Fine Art. John Williams commits a series of sensational killings in 1811. Thomas De Quincey writes his most powerful essay about the killings in 1854. Somebody reads De Quincey on Williams and decides to produce his own version of the killings, far exceeding them in terror. How did this idea come to you?

David Morrell: Robert, coming from a De Quincey scholar, your enthusiasm means a lot to me. I studied De Quincey years ago when I was an undergraduate English student. My professor treated him as a footnote in 1800s literature, giving him importance only because De Quincey was the first to write about drug addiction in his notorious Confessions of an English Opium-Eater. I forgot about him until I happened to watch a movie about Charles Darwin, Creation, which dramatizes the nervous breakdown Darwin suffered while writing On the Origin of Species. In the movie, someone says to Darwin, “You know, Charles, people such as De Quincey believe that we’re controlled by elements in our mind that we’re not aware of.”

Robert: It sounds like Freud.

David: Yes. But Freud didn’t publish until half a century later. In fact, because De Quincey invented the word “subconscious,” Freud may have been influenced by him. Anyway, I took down my old college textbook, started reading De Quincey, and became spellbound. I read more and more of his work. Then I got to his blood-soaked essay about the terrifying Ratcliffe Highway murders, “On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts.” The idea came to me that someone would read the essay and, for complicated reasons, replicate the murders on a more horrifying scale. De Quincey, the Opium-Eater who was obsessed about murder, would then be the logical suspect. You wrote a terrific biography about De Quincey, The English Opium-Eater. What caused your own interest in this brilliant author?

The English Opium-Eater

Robert: I first heard of De Quincey many years ago when I was a graduate student at Oxford. My tutor was Jonathan Wordsworth, the great, great, great nephew of the poet.

David: What an experience that must have been.

Robert: For one of my tutorial assignments, Jonathan asked me to read De Quincey’s Confessions. I had no idea what to expect, and certainly no idea that I was going to spend the next thirty years “hooked” on him. Of course I found the drugs and addiction part of the narrative very interesting. But what really grabbed me was how well De Quincey wrote. He could be, by turns, humorous, conversational, elaborate, or impassioned. And this great ability as a stylist made it possible for him to chart his experience with remarkable depth and energy. After that, and like you, I just kept reading. One of the wonderful things about Murder as a Fine Art is how vividly it brings De Quincey to life, and how compellingly it exploits his fascination with dreams, violence, memory, and addiction. It’s not only a superb thriller, but it also packs an intellectual punch. How did you bring these two elements together so successfully?

David: A reviewer once called me “the mild-mannered professor with the bloody-minded visions.”

Robert: Ha!
Continue reading “Thomas De Quincey and Murder as a Fine Art: A Conversation with David Morrell and Robert Morrison”

Fact and Fiction in Hunt the Scorpion

On sale today is Hunt the Scorpion, the second installment in Don Mann and Ralph Pezzullo’s SEAL Team Six series, which follows the trail of nuclear weapon components from a ship commandeered by Somali pirates through Libya and into a hornet’s nest of local police forces, terrorists, and the Iranian Revolutionary Corps.

The book’s depiction of post-Gaddafi Libya reads like it came out of this morning’s newspaper, which got me thinking: how much of Hunt the Scorpion is based in fact? Sure, it’s a rip-roaring, action-packed thriller, but Don Mann is a former Navy SEAL, and Ralph Pezzullo has written a previous novel with a CIA operative. Maybe there’s more fact to this fiction than I realized.

Fortunately, my curiosity did not go unslaked for long. Pezzullo kindly responded to my searching questions about Hunt the Scorpion‘s plot:

Yes, a good deal of the ops in the book actually happened. Most Americans probably aren’t aware that we’ve been fighting a clandestine war with Iran. Basically, they’re trying to develop nuclear weapons, and we’re determined to stop them. Iran runs this nasty little organization called the Quds Force, which is part of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution and reports directly to Supreme Leader—in other words, the religious leaders of  the country. The role of the Quds Force is exporting Iran’s Islamic revolution. It operates as highly-trained paramilitary unit and has been involved in bombings and assassinations in countries like Iraq, India, Bulgaria, Lebanon, and Thailand.

I keep my ear to the CIA-ops war ground, so to speak, and hear things. One of the most alarming things I’ve heard recently is about the efforts by al-Qaeda and the Quds Force to exploit the chaos in Libya following the overthrow of Gaddafi and get their hands on chemical weapons and nuclear material that had been developed while Gaddafi was in power.

Don and I discussed this and agreed that these events would make a great backdrop for Hunt the Scorpion. I can’t tell you exactly how much of it is true. I always do a lot of research. In this case it involved speaking to a number of people who have been to Libya recently and are familiar with what happened there after the fall of Gaddafi.

There you have it: enjoy Hunt the Scorpion for its nonstop thrills—and the SEALs are a lot of fun to be around!—and appreciate it as an unclassified primer in classified foreign policy.

Start Reading Hit Me

Lawrence Block’s Keller thriller HIT ME, praised in starred reviews by Booklist as “delightful,” by Library Journal as “Block at the top of his form,” and Publishers Weekly as “highly enjoyable”, hits bookstores today! Can’t wait to get started on Larry’s latest and greatest? Start reading right here.

Keller limited himself to monosyllables en route to the airport, and gave the driver a tip neither large nor small enough to be memorable. He walked through the door for departing flights, took an escalator one flight down, and a bubbly girl at the Hertz counter found his reservation right away. He showed her a driver’s license and a credit card, both in the same name—one that was neither J. P. Keller nor Nicholas Edwards. They were good enough to get him the keys to a green Subaru hatchback, and in due course he was behind the wheel and on his way.

The house he was looking for was on Caruth Boulevard, in the University Park section. He’d located it online and printed out a map, and he found it now with no trouble, one of a whole block of upscale Spanish-style homes on substantial landscaped lots not far from the Southern Methodist campus. Sculpted stucco walls, a red tile roof, an attached three-car garage. You’d think a family could be very happy in a house like that, Keller thought, but in the present instance you’d be wrong, because the place was home to Charles and Portia Walmsley, and neither of them could be happy until the other was dead.

Keller slowed down as he passed the house, then circled the block for another look at it. Was anyone at home? As far as he could see, there was no way to tell. Charles Walmsley had moved out a few weeks earlier, and Portia shared the house with the Salvadoran housekeeper. Keller hadn’t learned the housekeeper’s name, or that of the man who was a frequent overnight guest of Mrs. Walmsley, but he’d been told that the man drove a Lexus SUV. Keller didn’t see it in the driveway, but he couldn’t be sure it wasn’t in the garage.

“The man drives an SUV,” Dot had said, “and he once played football for TCU. I know what an SUV is, but—”

“Texas Christian University,” Keller supplied. “In Fort Worth.”

“I thought that might be it. Do they have something to do with horny frogs?”

“Horned Frogs. That’s their football team, the Horned Frogs. They’re archrivals of SMU.”

“That would be Southern Methodist.”

“Right. They’re the Mustangs.”

“Frogs and Mustangs. How do you know all this crap, Keller? Don’t tell me it’s on a stamp. Never mind, it’s not important. What’s important is that something permanent happens to Mrs. Walmsley. And it would be good if something happened to the boyfriend, too.”

“It would?”

“He’ll pay a bonus.”

“A bonus? What kind of a bonus?”

“Unspecified, which makes it tricky to know what to expect, let alone collect it. And he’ll double the bonus if they nail the boyfriend for the wife’s murder, but when you double an unspecified number, what have you got? Two times what?”

Keller drove past the Walmsley house a second time, and didn’t learn anything new in the process. He consulted his map, figured out his route, and left the Subaru in a parking garage three blocks from the Lombardy.

In his room, he picked up the phone to call Julia, then remembered what hotels charge you for phone calls. Charles Walmsley was paying top dollar, bonus or no, but making a call from a hotel room was like burning the money in the street. He used his cell phone instead, first making sure that it was the iPhone Julia had given him for his birthday and not the prepaid one he used only for calls to Dot.

The hotel room was okay, he told her. And he’d had a good look at the stamps he was interested in, and that was always helpful. And she put Jenny on, and he cooed to his daughter and she babbled at him. He told her he loved her, and when Julia came back on the phone he told her the same.

Portia Walmsley didn’t have any children. Her husband did, from a previous marriage, but they lived with their mother across the Red River in Oklahoma. So there wouldn’t be any kids to worry about in the house on Caruth Boulevard.

As far as the Salvadoran maid was concerned, Dot had told him the client didn’t care one way or the other. He wasn’t paying a bonus for her, that was for sure. He’d pointed out that she was an illegal immigrant, and Keller wondered what that had to do with anything. Continue reading “Start Reading Hit Me”

Detective John Rebus: Twenty-Five Years Later

Twenty-five years will take its toll on anyone. No one knows this better than former detective John Rebus, the star of Ian Rankin’s dazzling crime novels, who now finds himself a retired civilian, peering at cases from the outside.

But even the passage of years can’t bring closure to a cold case, and Rebus has found the ultimate lost cause: the disappearance of a woman from the side of the road with no witnesses, no body, and no suspect. Rankin explains the evocative nature of the road and Rebus’s emotional state as he digs up the past in the new novel, Standing in Another Man’s Grave:

While we see Rebus’s role evolving, so, too, does our understanding of Malcolm Fox:

Continue reading “Detective John Rebus: Twenty-Five Years Later”

Ernest Hemingway and Other Literary Spies

In Dan Simmons’s The Crook Factory, which is out in paperback on February 5th, Ernest Hemingway assembles an espionage ring from an unlikely team of misfits in order to root out Nazi infiltrators in Cuba. Though this storyline is, regrettably, a work of fiction, there are plenty of writers who really were spies. Some of our favorites include:

Christopher MarloweChristopher Marlowe

Oh yes, the man who brought us Faustus was also a spy. And his mysterious death at 29 raises all sorts of questions: was his fatal stab wound the result of a bar brawl? Or an assassination by the Elizabethan state? I highly recommend you listen to this BBC podcast for more on Marlowe.

Graham GreeneGraham Greene

The author of The Quiet American, The Third Man, and Our Man in Havana (among many other excellent novels) was recruited by his sister into the M16, resulting in a posting to Sierra Leone during the Second World War.

Anthony BurgessAnthony Burgess

Burgess did cipher work for British Army intelligence in Gibraltar during World War II before penning A Clockwork Orange in 1966. Perhaps there lies something encrypted in lines like “The trombones crunched redgold under my bed, and behind my gulliver the trumpets three-wise silver flamed”? Continue reading “Ernest Hemingway and Other Literary Spies”

Year End Review: Triggers Down, A Social Writing Project

Sink Hole

Mulholland Books is looking for English and writing students to contribute writing to Triggers Down, a social writing project that will be a testament to writers building off of other writers’ work to create bigger and better stories.

The goal is to create a crime story. Here’s how it works: Mulholland Books will assign interested students specific passages, each student will write a section that branches off of the one before it (except for the first paragraph, of course), and that process will continue until students have composed a cohesive narrative.

Each passage will be posted online until completion, so students can see how the story evolves. And here’s the best part. Mulholland Books will feature the final story on MulhollandBooks.com. We want this project to not only be a testament to appropriation, but also an opportunity for young writers to publish.

How to submit: Write Dominic Viti at dominicviti@gmail.com and tell him you’re interested.

First section by Evan Walker.

Edited by Dominic Viti.

John found the body after he’d had his share of sightseeing the dune. He’d scrambled over it as he had in ‘72, sixteen and obliterated, once he’d yanked himself out of the rear window of the VW Squareback and waded through the black water to the shore.

He gave a satisfied hmph and walked the same way he’d walked that night, alongside the ditch and back to the house he’d grown up in—shallower than he remembered, dried up too. He had sloshed through the front door and the two of them just stared as he spoke. Joy riding again. Imagining the way his mother had turned back to her reading after he’d returned, soaking wet, without the car, he’d meandered back toward the edge of the ditch, and found her.

She was dumped in a pile, her sundress, black shorts and pixie brown hair  damp from the humid air, one hand slung over her side and curled up with rigor mortis except for her pointer finger, outstretched in timid protest.

Second section by Amelia Spriggs.

Edited by Dominic Viti.

John jumped to the other side of the ditch to look at her face and landed heavily, slipping to one aching knee and sending a few small white crabs skittering away. He had seen a lot of dead bodies over the decades, not a few of them young and formerly pretty. But this one pinched his sense of tragedy, niggling the worn callus of his compassion.

There was something familiar about her slim frame, even in its rigid heap. The angular jaw and the set of those large, inert eyes. He crouched down and sat on his haunches for a moment before falling back onto the sand. What felt like the vague pricking of tragedy swiftly turned into the keen piercing of horror. Lena.

Third section by Joe Oslund.

Edited by Dominic Viti.

John stumbled forward in a haze of shock that rang in his skull like the reverberating toll of a church bell, hid behind a shallow hollow of sand, and threw up. He took a few deep breaths before calling Julius, who let the phone ring six times before picking up—a subtle reminder that the old man had more important things to do.

“What is it?” Julius barked.

“They got her,” John croaked. “I mean, somebody got her.”

“Who?” Julius said. “Who got who? Use your words.”

John had no words.

“Is it Lena?” Julius said. “Did something happen to Lena?”

“She’s dead, Dad. Somebody killed her.”

There was silence on the line, and with a soft click, Julius hung up.

Fourth section by Ezra Salkin.

Edited by Dominic Viti.

John lit a cigarette and waited for his bastard father. Lena didn’t deserve this. She wasn’t a drug-addicted whore, a convict, or some train-hopping drifter who thought she had had it bad and had something to prove. John felt like crying, but the many cadavers he encountered throughout his life only made his usual sense of detachment return.

Blank faces played in a slideshow in his mind before he allowed Lena’s dirty face—half shrouded in kelp—to blot out all the others. Decomposition had set in, something he had rarely witnessed. Half hidden under her sundress, something glinted. John nudged it out from under Lena’s other cold hand, the one that wasn’t pointing, her fingers curled in a confused repose, as if undecided whether they should let go or hold on. A locket.

‘You’re different,’ he thought, flicking the half smoked cigarette, flavorless like all things had become despite this “new lease on life” the parole board had promised. He began snubbing the vermeil medallion into the ground with the heel of his sneaker. Disappearing into the wet sand, the locket winked at him with dull amusement.

He guessed it was given to her by her trust fund boyfriend, Michael, whom John had never met but had heard only good things about, though he hadn’t cared to open it so he wasn’t sure. By the time he wondered why he hadn’t, it was buried altogether in a neat pile beside the braided chain that had once held the heart shaped trinket around Lena’s bruised neck.

Snapped at the toggle, it hardly looked strong enough to strangle someone, but the bluish lines that wrapped around her neck in intermingling, jagged patterns told it different. The marks left behind were deep, a cruel mimicry of its supposed function. Her throat appeared to have not been far from bursting. John had seen people murdered with less, but he wasn’t in the Florida State Pen anymore.

He reached into his pocket, pulling the wrinkled letter Lena had left for him at the halfway house. September 4, 1992—Lena’s entreaty for John to meet her at the spot they’d enjoyed so often all those years earlier. A place where they could “clear the air.” She had still wanted him in her life.

John crushed the letter into a ball before igniting it with his lighter. He watched the black writing run from the pink stationary before the whole thing blackened and smoldered into nothing.

That’s when he heard the cancerous wheezing from behind him.

“You son-of-a-bitch,” Julius said.

Fifth section by Vivien Eliasoph.

Edited by Dominic Viti.

“How did you know I was here?” John asked, his voice muffled by the unlit cigarette between lips.

“Never mind that,” Julius said. He blanketed Lena with his camouflage jacket and tossed his keys to his son. “Truck’s at the front of the pier.”

Julius crouched down and swept Lena’s hair behind her ears. Blood trailed across her forehead.

“John, move it, goddamnit!” Julius said.

John ran as fast as he could. He inhaled deeply, his cigarette sticking to the inside of his dry lips. The craving for a deep smoke drove him forward. His calves burned and his breath was heavy in the humid night air. He wiped his dripping nose with his wrist and imagined exactly where on the console of his father’s Ford the cigarette lighter was. His sneakers pressed deep into the sand, passing wasted cigarette butts and empty soda cans, abandoned and forgotten by teenagers.

The truck was caked in mud. The interior was no better. By the time John pulled up, Julius had already made it to the end of the pier, standing by the forest green trashcan with Lena draped over his shoulder. John put the car in park and scooted to the passenger’s seat. He flung the cover off of the cigarette lighter and watched the white paper crack into lava orange. Then, a long drag.

The rearview mirror foregrounded Julius placing Lena in the bed of the truck, wrapping her in blue tarp before climbing into the cab.

“Pass me one,” Julius said. He left the door open and emptied his boots of sand. John was happy to see part of the beach left behind. He reached into his front pocket and dug out a cigarette.

Julius lit and inhaled with the same tired desperation as his son.

Neither spoke. John’s stomach grumbled. He looked at the floor and saw beef jerky and peanut butter crackers. He went with the crackers.

“We’ll have to leave her with George,” Julius said.

John choked on his crackers. “Why in the hell would we go and do that?”

“He’s just as much a part of this as we are.” Continue reading “Year End Review: Triggers Down, A Social Writing Project”

The Assumption

Dresden to go (cc)Via Popcorn Fiction, a superstar actor has big secrets in his past in this touch of noir from Ralph Pezzullo, co-author of HUNT THE WOLF: A Seal Team Six novel written with Don Mann.

He saw her face in his mind’s eye and there was no mistake. Pale and pleading. Desperate. A ghost with pale red hair floating to the surface of his consciousness.

More like an ache. An awful reminder.

Gil Naylor cranked up the stereo in his vintage Mercedes coupe as it climbed the narrow streets of the Hollywood Hills.

Then he saw her again. This time, smiling. Teasing. Beckoning him further like a siren. “Help me, Gil. Please, help me.”

Entering through the elaborately carved Spanish door, the ruggedly handsome forty-nine-year-old actor crossed directly to the bottle of Asombroso Reserva Del Porto, poured a shot and downed it.

Beyond the patio and pool he watched the sun drop like a mustard-colored fizzy into the blue ink ocean. The tequila slammed down his throat like a fist.

And the image vanished.

Replaced by familiar sounds and faces as the house came to life like it always did when he entered. Jagged sparks of energy ricocheted off the terracotta tiles and yellow stucco walls, into the lavender tiled kitchen, and beyond.

Jenny, his live-in girlfriend, responded, hurrying in from the gym in a black tank top and shorts, abs taunt and glistening, nipples at attention. Tara, his personal assistant stuck her head out of the upstairs office and called from the balcony. Continue reading “The Assumption”