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Start reading 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! A DROP OF THE HARD STUFF is now available in paperback. An excerpt from the novel follows:

LATE ONE NIGHT . . .

“I’ve often wondered,” Mick Ballou said, ” how it would all have gone if I’d taken a different turn.”

We were at Grogan’s Open House, the Hell’s Kitchen saloon he’s owned and operated for years. The gentrification of the neighborhood has had its effect on Grogan’s, although the bar hasn’t changed much inside or out. But the local hard cases have mostly died or moved on, and the crowd these days is a gentler and more refined bunch. There’s Guinness on draft, and a good selection of single-malt Scotches and other premium whiskeys. But it’s the joint’s raffish reputation that draws them. They get to point out the bullet holes in the walls, and tell stories about the notorious past of the bar’s owner. Some of the stories are true.

They were all gone now. The barman had closed up, and the chairs were on top of the tables so they’d be out of the way when the kid came in at daybreak to sweep up and mop the floor. The door was locked, and all the lights out but the leaded-glass fixture over the table where we sat with our Waterford tumblers. There was whiskey in Mick’s, club soda in mine. Continue reading “Start reading A Drop of the Hard Stuff”

An Excerpt of SHATTER by Michael Robotham

This week Mulholland Books celebrates our publication of SHATTER by Michael Robotham, available in paperback for the first time in bookstores across the country. Start reading the novel that Stephen King called “the most suspenseful book I read all year.”

Wipers thrash and a siren wails. From inside the car it sounds strangely muted and I keep looking over my shoulder expecting to see an approaching police car. It takes me a moment to realise that the siren is coming from somewhere closer, beneath the bonnet.

Masonry towers appear on the skyline. It is Brunel’s masterpiece, the Clifton Suspension Bridge, an engineering marvel from the age of steam.Taillights blaze. Traffic is stretched back more than mile on the approach. Sticking to the apron of the road, we sweep past the stationary cars and pull up at a roadblock where police in fluorescent vests patrol onlookers and unhappy motorists.

The constable opens my door and holds an umbrella above my head. A sheet of rain drives sideways and almost rips it from his hands. Ahead of me the bridge appears deserted. The masonry towers support massive sweeping interlinking cables that curve gracefully to the vehicle deck and rise againto the opposite side of the river.

One of the attributes of bridges is that they offer the possibility that someone may start to cross but never reach the other side. For that person the bridge is virtual; an open window that they can keep passing or climb through.

The Clifton Suspension Bridge is a landmark, a tourist attraction and a one-drop shop for suicides.has always been popular with jumpers. Well-used, oft-chosen, perhaps “popular isn’t the best choice of word.” Some people say it is actually haunted by past suicides; eerie shadows have been seen drifting across the vehicle deck.

There are no shadows today. And the only ghost on the bridge is flesh and blood. A woman, naked, standing outside the safety fence, with her back pressed to the metal lattice and wire strands. The heels of her red shoes are balancing on the edge. Continue reading “An Excerpt of SHATTER by Michael Robotham”

New Year’s Resolutions: A Rachel Knight Story

martini_bwIn honor of the approaching dawn of 2012 and the exciting news that Marcia Clark’s GUILT BY ASSOCIATION is available for a limited time for the low price of 1.99 as an eBook, Marcia has contributed an original Rachel Knight story. What are your resolutions? Tell us in the comments!

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“No one ever keeps ‘em, so what’s the point?” I said. I fished a kalamata olive out of the hoers d’oeuvres tray I’d strategically pulled to my end of the bar. The Biltmore bar was sporting a classy set of bar snacks in honor of the holidays, and the hotel had – as usual – outdone itself with a lavishly decorated thirty foot Christmas tree in the lobby.

“It’s symbolic,” Toni replied, taking a healthy sip of her martini. “A commitment to doing better next year.”

I shrugged. “But, better at what? I’m not aiming for sainthood, and what’d I do that was so bad this past year?”

“You really want to go there, Knight?” Bailey finished her martini and held up the empty glass to Drew, the unbelievably sexy head bartender who doubled as Bailey’s boyfriend.

Caution should’ve prevailed, but I’ve never been able to resist a dare. “Yeah, I do.”

The irony wasn’t lost on me that this impulse was itself a prime candidate for a New Year’s Resolution. Bailey, who knew my weakness all too well, shot me an amused look, then nonchalantly opened a pistachio and tossed it into her mouth.

Toni looked at me with disbelief and shook her head.

Drew replaced Bailey’s empty glass with a full one. “Thanks, babe,” she said. “And could you order me a side dish of macaroni and cheese? I feel like some comfort food.”

Continue reading “New Year’s Resolutions: A Rachel Knight Story”

Amateurs: A Short Story from The First Shift

Train Yard - BWWe’re thrilled to present to you today a story from the new Crime Factory anthology  The First Shift: 27 tales of revulsion, heartbreak, and violence. 

They were two days into the trip when the train shuddered and the hiss of steam, fighting the brakes applied, caused his bowels to revolt. Through the window, Tip caught a glimpse of a hooded figure standing beside the tracks with a torch. He fought the urge to throw up on his own feet. The Pinkerton across the seat from him chuckled, casually thumbing the cylinder of his Colt and easing back the hammer.

Beside him, Charlie Holland squinted at the night through the glass. “What’s going on?” he asked. Tip dreaded hearing the answer.

The Pinkerton winked at them. “Looks like an unscheduled stop.”

Tip sat up and pressed his face to the cool window and spied more torches among the trees. Beside him, Charlie said, “Sonsabitches.”

The Pinkerton nodded. “Reckon they gonna wanna talk to you two.

The train came to a full stop and Tip heard loud voices saying his and Charlie’s names, but not talking to them. He fought the futile urge to try slipping his manacles and duck beneath his chair. Instead he sent up a silent prayer for quickness, if not justice. Charlie attacked his bonds with admirable verve as he levelled a steady stream of curses under his breath. “Motherfuckers. Sonsa-chink-whore-bitches. Cock-suckin-Lincoln-lovin-rot-ass-mongrels.”

Continue reading “Amateurs: A Short Story from The First Shift”

The Other Man

Bar 10This short story was originally published on Beat to a Pulp and is re-printed here with permission.

I knew I was a dead man when the cop walked into my bar. It was the way the cocksure bastard sauntered over the threshold, sniffed the moldiness of the stained oak panels, and smiled. Some little joke there, formulating in his bowling ball of a head. He drew his gun, checked the safety, and stuck it back in its holster. Oh, he was going to have a good time at my expense, and he was going to take his time about it.

I’d been banging his wife the past six months. Should have seen this coming, instead of listening to Lori. He doesn’t give a damn what I do, she’d told me. I knew no man could be cool with what we were up to. Hell, if she’d been my wife, I’d have strangled her for stepping out on me. But I was just her Monday and Wednesday midday screw.

The cop took his time checking out the barflies already perched on stools at eleven-fifteen in the morning. I had a good three inches on him, but I was lean, if you wanted to be nice about it. He looked like a rough bastard, one with bulging biceps and no neck. Harry, that was his name. Harry Harrison, like his parents hated him at birth and gave him a crappy name. Hey, Harry, I wanted to say, get your ass out of my bar. But I had to pretend I didn’t know who he was, and hope he’d figure me for a punk who couldn’t possibly be shtupping his old lady.

Continue reading “The Other Man”

More Triple Crossing by Sebastian Rotella

On August 10th, we’ll be publishing TRIPLE CROSSING by celebrated journalist and investigative reporter Sebastian Rotella. Continue reading the novel Michael Connelly calls “one of the most accomplished first novels I have ever read,” and which Publishers Weekly, in a starred review, called “unflinching and provocative … a superb debut.”

Missed the first except? Read it here. Continue here. Then read this.

He was rewarded with a brief snuffling smile. He escorted them to the back of the Wrangler. He hoisted in the girl first, helped the mother with a carefully applied hand to her elbow.

Then came the moment Pescatore anticipated and dreaded. As the father got in, Pescatore intercepted him. He pulled a wad of bills from his pocket without looking; he estimated it was about twelve dollars. He palmed it into the father’s hand down low.

The man looked from the cash to Pescatore, startled. He began to say something and moved his hand as if to return the money. Pescatore waved him off, tight-lipped.

 

“Take it, ándale.

He drove them to a detention transport van. The couple exchanged brief words in the caged backseat. They sat stiffly. The girl leaned forward behind Pescatore on the other side of the steel grillwork. In a chirpy little voice, she sang “Cruella De Vil, Cruella De Vil…”

He hummed along with her. He thought about his insomnia. And about the money. At first, like many other agents, he had occasionally bought a meal or handed a couple of bucks to poignant cases who washed his way on the nightly torrent of misery. But after his trainee status ended, he started giving away money regularly. Every afternoon, he gathered up small bills and change. Although he told himself he wasn’t consciously setting it aside, he usually came up with about thirty dollars. He had tried at first to select the most deserving prisoners: ragged Central American women with babies, lone teenagers. But the arcane logic of selective charity wore him down. He stopped differentiating between hardship and despair. As long as they weren’t smugglers or scumbags, as long as they didn’t resist or disrespect him, he was likely to give them money.

While the prisoners transferred to the detention van, the father said something about how he had studied at a university in Puebla. There was a catch in his voice. In the shadows, Pescatore couldn’t tell whether the man was insulted or trying to thank him.

De dónde es usted?” the man asked.

No matter how much he mimicked their intonation and expressions, they never pegged him for Mexican-American. They guessed everything else: Puerto Rican? Cubano? Argentino?

“I’m from Chicago,” Pescatore said, sliding the door shut. “Suerte.

The rhythm picked up. The radio dispatchers called off motion-sensor hits and tips from citizens in measured tones, as if there were some logic or order to this business. “Group of nine crossing at Stewart’s Bridge… Group bushing up by the Gravel Pit… Five to eight in the backyards on Wardlow Street.”

The count became a cacophony as the night wore on. Garrison directed the PAs’ movements from a plateau by the Gravel Pit, where the infrared nightscope was operating. As reports of crossing groups intensified farther north, Garrison dispatched Pescatore to a housing subdivision about half a mile from The Line.

Continue reading “More Triple Crossing by Sebastian Rotella”

Last Dance

disco ball 1“I’d love to take you away from all this.”

Rachel turned. The man wore a white suit, azure shadows cast against its fabric from the reflection of the disco ball against her too-blue evening gown. She’d been on her way to the front to cash out with the night manager, the strap around her thigh bulging with singles. She regarded him with “stripper’s interest”— half lidded eyes and a forced, fixed smile that kept her from laughing.

The mark wasn’t terrible to look at— far from it. Jet black hair covering a rugged Marlboro face, surveying her from his chair with casual confidence. His suit clashed with red shoes that looked Italian and suggested excess and his fingers, thin and tapered, lightly stroked the rim of his glass, almost as if their tips had been fixed to it with a rime of glue. Rachel cocked her hips to the left, the mark cocked his head to the right and the two of them faced off, there on the main floor, inches from the south stage. Continue reading “Last Dance”

Continue Reading Triple Crossing by Sebastian Rotella

On August 10th, we’ll be publishing TRIPLE CROSSING by celebrated journalist and investigative reporter Sebastian Rotella. Continue reading the novel Michael Connelly calls “one of the most accomplished first novels I have ever read,” and which Publishers Weekly, in a starred review, called “unflinching and provocative … a superb debut.”

Missed the first except? Read it here.

“Come on over here. I wanna show you something.”

Pescatore pulled up alongside two Wranglers sitting side by side on the north riverbank. He got out to talk to Garrison and an agent named Dillard, a boyish and reedy cowpoke who was telling the supervisor: “Them old boys wouldn’t pull over, so I cut on my lights and sy-reen.”

And they all rag on me, Pescatore groused to himself, because supposedly I’m the one who talks funny. He caught a glimpse of his reflection in the window of a vehicle: Pescatore was twenty-five, bantam, built low to the ground with sturdy corded arms and legs, thick black curls. He had big wary eyes and flared nostrils. He liked to play with his appearance as if he were on undercover assignments. He cultivated mustaches that made him look like a Turk, a Hells Angel, a bandit. Back in Chicago before he joined The Patrol, he had on occasion grown out his hair like the Mexican soccer players in the parks near Taylor Street. But now he was close-cropped and clean-shaven. Trying to tone it down, play the role and, as Garrison would say, get with the program.

“There’s my buddy,” Garrison said. He engaged Pescatore in a palm-smacking, knuckle-crushing handshake and let it linger with Pescatore off-balance, as if he were going to yank him forward and shove him down the concrete embankment. “You need anything, Valentine? Coffee? Water? Oxygen? We wanna keep you awake. Don’t want you running that government vehicle into a tree.”

Pescatore rescued his hand from Garrison’s, which was encased in a black glove, and affected a sheepish look. “Oh man, you know I’m king of the road anytime. I haven’t been sleeping so good, that’s all.” Continue reading “Continue Reading Triple Crossing by Sebastian Rotella”

Megan Abbott Interviewed by Sara Gran

Megan Abbott’s much-praised novel THE END OF EVERYTHING (Reagan Arthur Books) which Gillian Flynn calls “a freight train of a mystery…bold, unnerving, poignant, and full of yearning” is in bookstores now. Here, we present an interview between Sara Gran, author of Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead, Dope and Come Closer, and Megan, “one of the most exciting and original voices of her generation” (Laura Lippman). 

(Read this post on the Reagan Arthur Books blog here.)

Sara: The End of Everything shares common themes with your previous four novels, yet stands out as a departure—it takes place in the 1980s (your other novels took place before you were born), the narrator is 13 years old (your previous narrators were adult women), and it takes place in the suburbs (as opposed to the urban settings of your other books). How is The End of Everything the same? How is it different?

Megan: I wanted to try something new, to shake things up for myself. To move out of the world of nightclubs, racetracks, movie studios and, most of all, to move out of the past, worlds I never knew. When I first started writing, though, everything felt foreign, puzzling. I didn’t know if I could adapt my style to this new setting and time period. My past books were so influenced by Golden Age Hollywood movies and that heightened style. And I’d done this foolish thing, giving myself a 13-year-old girl as my narrator. But as I wrote, I just had this revelation that, for most 13-year-old girls, life is dramatic and the stakes feel dramatically high. It’s all desire and fear and longing and disillusion. Everything feels big and terrifying and thrilling. And my past books, I see now, are so much about women feeling trapped and seeking a way out, at any cost. And feeling trapped, and wanting out, is very much the state of being 13. Continue reading “Megan Abbott Interviewed by Sara Gran”

Start Reading Triple Crossing by Sebastian Rotella

On August 10th, we’ll be publishing TRIPLE CROSSING by celebrated journalist and investigative reporter Sebastian Rotella. Start reading the novel Michael Connelly calls “one of the most accomplished first novels I have ever read,” and which Booklist called “a strongly choreographed, authentically detailed, and sharply funny tale of cultural complexity and raging global criminality.”

Fog at the border.

Border Patrol Agent Valentine Pescatore urged the green Jeep Wrangler through the shroud of mist on the southbound road. Hungover and sleepy, he slurped on a mug of convenience-store Coke. Carbonation burned behind his eyes. He braked into a curve, trailing a comet of dust.  Jackrabbits scattered in his headlights.

Braking sent a twinge of pain through his ankle. He had blown up the ankle months earlier while chasing a hightop-wearing Tijuana speedster through a canyon. He had intended to snare the hood of the punk’s sweatshirt and jerk him to a neck-wrenching stop, confirming his status as the fastest trainee in his unit.

But instead Pescatore went down, sprawling pathetically, clutching the ankle with both hands.

Border Patrol agents gathered around him in the darkness. Tejano accents twanged. Cigarettes flared. A cowboy-hatted silhouette squatted as if contemplating a prisoner or a corpse.

Hell, muchacho, time to nominate you for a Einstein award.

Was that a female tonk you were chasing, Valentine? Playing hard to get, eh?

Hey, you’re not gonna catch them all. Slow down. Foot speed don’t impress us

anymore.

The voices in his memory gave way to the dispatcher’s voice on the radio, asking his position. Pescatore increased speed, rolling through the blackness of a field toward the foothills of the Tijuana River Valley. With a guilty grimace, he pushed a CD into the dashboard player. Bass and cymbals blared: the song was a rap version of “Low Rider.”

Another night on the boulevard

Cruisin’ hard

And everybody’s low-ridin’

Continue reading “Start Reading Triple Crossing by Sebastian Rotella”