Please take a moment to review Hachette Book Group’s updated Privacy Policy: read the updated policy here.

Why I Became a Psychologist

Victorian HouseJoe O’Loughlin, protagonist of Michael Robotham’s acclaimed O’Loughlin series, was kind enough to stop by the office today on a connecting flight to Bouchercon, where he’s meeting Robotham to promote his newest, SAY YOU’RE SORRY. We’re happy to report that not only is Joe a beacon of morality in dark times, he’s also a really cool guy, and was kind enough to jot down the below recollection which appeared in the UK edition of his first appearance SUSPECT, but was cut for the US edition.

SAY YOU’RE SORRY, which Kirkus calls “subtle, smart, compelling and blessed with both an intelligent storyline and top-notch writing,” is now available in bookstores everywhere.

Sunday morning is normally my time. I bury myself under the combined weight of four newspapers and drink coffee until my tongue feels furry. But today is different. The calendar says so. My memory serves me well.

Charlie is rugged up in jeans, skivvy and a ski jacket because I’ve promised she can come with me today. After gulping down her breakfast, she watches me impatiently – convinced that I’m deliberately drinking my coffee more slowly.

When it’s time to load up the car, we carry the cardboard boxes from the garden shed, along the side path and put them next to my old Metro. The boxes are so light I can balance three on top of each other. Charlie makes do with one at a time.

Julianne is sitting on the front steps with a cup of coffee resting on her knees.

‘You’re both mad, you know that?’

‘Probably.’

‘And you’ll get arrested.’

‘And that’s going to be your fault.’

‘Why is it my fault?’

‘Because you won’t come with us. We need a getaway driver.’

Charlie pipes up. ‘C’mon, Mum. Dad said you used to.’

‘That’s when I was young and foolish and I wasn’t on the Committee at your school.’

‘Do you realise, Charlie, that on my second date with your mother she was arrested for scaling a flag-pole and taking down the South African flag.’

Julianne scowls. ‘Don’t tell her that!’

‘Did you really get arrested?’

‘I was cautioned. It’s not the same thing.’

There are four boxes on the roof racks, two in the boot and two on the back seat. Fine beads of sweat, like polished glass, are decorating Charlie’s top lip. She slips off her ski jacket and tucks it between the seats.

I turn back to Julianne. ‘Are you sure you won’t come? I know you want to.’

‘Who’s going to post bail for us?’

‘Your mother will do that.’

Her eyes narrow, but she puts her coffee cup inside the door. ‘I’m doing this under protest.’

‘Duly noted.’

She holds out her hand for the car keys. ‘And I’m driving.’

She grabs a jacket from the coat rack in the hallway and pulls the door shut. Charlie squeezes herself between boxes on the back seat and leans forward excitedly.

‘Tell me the story again,’ she asks, as we swing into light traffic along Prince Albert Road, alongside Regent’s Park. ‘And don’t leave anything out just because Mum’s here.’

I tell people that the reason I became a psychologist is because I wanted to know what Julianne was really thinking – but that’s not true. The real reason was great aunt Gracie, who died at the age of eighty, having spent sixty years never setting a foot outside her house. Continue reading “Why I Became a Psychologist”

The O’Loughlin Files, Revisited

Michael Robotham brings us back to psychologist Joe O’Loughlin after the events of BLEED FOR ME in his newest, SAY YOU’RE SORRY, out this week from Mulholland Books. New to the series? Looking for a refresher on O’Loughlin, with tantalizing glimpses into his newest adventure? Look no further than the below dossier Robotham was kind enough to compile for this very purpose.

Name: Professor Joseph O’Loughin (commonly known as Joe)

Profession: Clinical Psychologist

Born: November 29, 1960, Penrhyn Bay, Wales.

Height: 6’1”

Weight: 175 lbs

Eyes: Brown

First appeared in: SUSPECT (2004)

Latest book: SAY YOU’RE SORRY (2012)

Joe’s own descriptions of himself:

I am not handsome in the conventional sense. I am tall and pale with watery brown eyes and when I look at myself naked I am reminded of a winter animal that sheds its fur in the hotter months and looks out of place until the cold returns. That’s one of the reasons that I don’t wear shorts or T-shirts or flip flops which Australians call thongs. I wonder what they call G-strings? (BLEED FOR ME)

Status:

Married but separated from Julianne.

We’re estranged, not divorced. The subject is raised occasionally (never by me) but we haven’t got round to signing the papers. I moved back to London eight months ago. Now I live in a one-bedroom flat that reminds me of something I had when I was at college – cheap, transitory, full of mismatched furniture and a fridge stocked with Indian pickles and chutneys. I try not to dwell on the past. I touch it only gingerly with the barest tips of my thoughts, as though it were a worrying lump in my testis, probably benign, but lethal until proven otherwise. (SAY YOU’RE SORRY) Continue reading “The O’Loughlin Files, Revisited”

The Greatest Crime Writer

Books to Die For, a collection of 120 of the most influential living writers of crime and suspense discussing their favorite works, edited by John Connolly and Declan Burke, will be available this Tuesday, October 2nd.  We may not be publishing it ourselves, but we’re sure as hell excited about it–which is why we’re featuring Jo Nesbo’s essay today on Jim Thompson’s Pop. 1280, available as a Mulholland e-book for $4.99.

Dubbed the “Dimestore Dostoevsky” by novelist Geoffrey O’Brien, Jim Thompson (1906–77) published more than thirty novels during his career. Despite early critical praise, and particularly positive reviews from Anthony Boucher in the New York Times, Thompson’s talent went largely unrecognized during his lifetime. He made his debut in 1942 with Now and On Earth, and is best known for novels such as The Killer Inside Me (1952), Savage Night (1953), A Hell of a Woman (1954), The Getaway (1958), and The Grifters (1963), all of which were characteristic of an oeuvre that unflinchingly explored the darkest and nastiest recesses of the human psyche. “He let himself see everything, he let himself write it down, then he let himself publish it,” declared Stephen King. Well served by film adaptations, and particularly French filmmakers, Thompson’s The Killer Inside Me was remade in 2010, directed by Michael Winterbottom and starring Casey Affleck.

There’s a clip in the Sylvester Stallone film, Cop Land. The clip only lasts about one or two seconds, and doesn’t have much to do with the rest of the film. It’s a brief flash of a sign showing the number of inhabitants in the town. The sign says, “Pop. 1280.”

I looked around the cinema when it came on the screen, and listened. No reaction. Obviously. Because it was 1997 and this was a coded mes- sage for the initiated few, a bonus for those who had dived into the deep- est depths of pulp literature and found Jim Thompson, the genius who portrayed the American psychopath in the first person some forty years before Brett Easton Ellis did the same in American Psycho.

I personally hadn’t had to dive so deep myself. I was served Jim Thompson on a silver platter by a friend, Espen, who told me it was “old, but good stuff.” The book had the very promising title of Pop. 1280 and a not-quite-so-promising sheriff on the cover. And maybe that was the only way to discover Jim Thompson: you had to be guided to him by someone like Espen, someone who moved freely beyond the main highways and narrow paths of literary snobbery. Continue reading “The Greatest Crime Writer”

The Beauty Queen Killer

Michael Robotham’s BLEED FOR ME, which Booklist called “crime fiction of the highest order” in a starred review, is now available in paperback in bookstores everywhere. Join the celebration with the below guest post by Michael Robotham on the chilling, real-life inspiration for the novel’s villain.

Villains are more fun to write than heroes. They get to wear cooler clothes and stroke cats and have monkey paws or steel hooks instead of hands. They also get to date dirty girls with names like Pussy Galore, Solitaire, Honey Rider and Mary Goodnight.

I have always taken a lot of care with the villains I write. None of them are evil because I don’t think evil exists. They do terrible things, but they have reasons. Mitigating circumstances. Nothing excuses their behaviour, but I do attempt to explain it.

In my new novel BLEED FOR ME I have created a number of villains but by far the most interesting are those who seem completely normal. Better than normal. Nice. Charismatic. Handsome. Popular. Loved.

We often assume that we would recognize a true psychopath. We see photographs of serial killers like Jeffrey Dahmer, Ted Bundy, Ian Brady and Myra Hindley and we think, ‘Yeah, they look like bad’uns,’ but the truth is, until their crimes were revealed we could have walked past any of these people in the street and not looked twice. They could have been living next-door, or working at the local garage, or teaching our kids piano.

My first experience of this dissonance between perception and reality occurred more almost thirty years ago when I was a young journalist working on an afternoon newspaper in Sydney. I was sent cover a committal hearing at a local magistrate’s court. A man called Christopher Wilder was appearing, charged with the sexual assault of two schoolgirls.

Wilder had grown up in Australia, the son of an American naval officer and his Australian bride. He was educated at good schools and given every opportunity in life, but found trouble in his teens when he pleaded guilty to the gang rape of a girl on a Sydney beach and was given probation.

He married at the age of twenty-three, but the union lasted only a few days. His new bride complained of sexual abuse and found photographs of naked women in Wilder’s briefcase, as well as items of underwear that weren’t her own. In 1969 Wilder avoided prison again after blackmailing a student nurse into having sex with him by taking compromising photographs. She complained to the police, but the charges were dropped when she refused to testify in court.

Wilder’s father told him he should go to America and start afresh with a clean slate in a new country. He moved to Boynton Beach in Florida and found his calling as an electrical contractor and construction engineer, making millions from the property boom. By his mid-thirties he was worth millions with a luxurious bachelor pad and a string of sports cars. Continue reading “The Beauty Queen Killer”

The Disapearance of Lynette Dawson

Oceans, hearts and ghosts.Twenty-eight years ago, a young mother disappeared from her home in Sydney’s northern suburbs, leaving behind two daughters and a handsome football star husband.

 Lynette Dawson, a nurse and childcare worker, has never been seen since, but the mystery of her fate continues to haunt her family, friends and neighbours. It also provided the seed for bestselling author Michael Robotham’s thriller, BLEED FOR ME, now available in paperback in bookstores everywhere. Here, he explains how …

I was a young journalist working for an afternoon newspaper in Sydney when Lynette Dawson disappeared in January 1982. It didn’t make the headlines or cause a ripple of publicity, because nobody reported her missing at first.

Her husband, Chris Dawson, was a PE teacher at Cromer High School, on Sydney’s northern beaches. He was also a champion rugby league star for the Newtown Jets, playing alongside his identical twin brother Paul, who coincidentally taught at the same high school.

Former students say they were the coolest, most popular teachers and parents remember them as being incredibly charming and handsome. Both men had done modelling work and moved on to play rugby union.

According to his police statement, Chris Dawson dropped Lynette off at Mona Vale shopping centre on the morning of January 9, 1982. She had organized to meet her mother at Northbridge Baths that day, but didn’t show up.

Chris called his mother-in-law and said that Lynette ‘needed some time on her own’ and had gone off for a few days. On that same day he also called his 16-year-old lover, Joanne Curtis, and said, ‘My wife has gone away. She’s not coming back.’ Continue reading “The Disapearance of Lynette Dawson”

Under the Influence

This week, our friends at Marvel publish the Classified Edition of Incognito, collecting, with bonus material, the first two volumes of the acclaimed, hard-boiled series that Joe Hill describes as “what the albums of the Black Keys are to rock and roll and the pictures of Quentin Tarantino are to film.”

Hill’s essay on INCOGNITO follows. Go check out INCOGNITO now! We’ll have more from Brubaker and the INCOGNITO series as the week continues.

I hate it when comic creators get bitching and moaning about how their art form doesn’t get the respect it deserves, isn’t honored the way theater or painting or mainstream literature is honored, and all that blah-de-blah-de-fucking-blah.

Oh, go cry a river somewhere over your twenty-year-old copies of Maus and leave me alone.

Then there are these card-carrying boys of Fanboy Nation who want to establish a “read-comics-in-public” day, to make comics seem more socially normative.

Fuck that.

I don’t want comics to be respectable. I don’t want everyone proudly looking at them in public. I want reading comics to feel dirty and unhealthy and transgressive, to feel like sin, like a visit to the whorehouse, or a secret fight club, or maybe both at the same time.I don’t read comics, I do comics, like shots, four-color grain alcohol slurped out of the White Queen’s dainty navel; afterwards she can slap me around  a little and tell me how she’s going to punish my wrongdoer. I didn’t put my money down for a moving literary epiphany. I dropped my cash to see badass women cavort in fetish costumes while fighting evil, to watch brutal men strangle monsters with their bare hands, to see a city block leveled (if not a whole city), and to have a front-row seat as malformed monsters of evil are sliced in half by their own death ray machines.

Don’t get me wrong. I am often engaged, enthralled, and moved by the redemptive experience of high art, as it is found in films like “Rules of the Game,” a book like Malamud’s “A New Life,” or a comic like “Fun Home.” It’s just that I don’t seem to be compulsively drawn to that kind of thing. What really gets my pulse jacked are stories of grime and punishment, lawlessness and disorder, the bad and the ugly(hold the good).

Stories of this ilk grab me like a magnet grabs iron shavings. The creators of such work are blood-slicked  MMA fighters, in a world where to fight at all is increasingly seen as barbaric, and embarrassingly out of step with the times. If I was a more sensible man, governed by more sensible, forward-looking notions, I’m sure I would invest my time in better mannered, more tasteful art forms. But my deepest enthusiasm has always been reserved for the creators that speak to my nerve-endings.

I suppose it’s a failing; I have always had compassion for the wrong people. Continue reading “Under the Influence”

Jim Thompson: An Appreciation

The e-book Jim Thompson’s THE KILLER INSIDE ME, the novel Stanley Kubrick deemed “probably the most chilling and believable first-person story of a criminally warped mind I have ever encountered,” is on sale for just $2.99 for the Nook, Kindle, and the iBookstore. Now is the perfect time to introduce yourself to one of the great classics of twentieth century crime fiction–at a bargain price, and including an intro from Stephen King.

Looking for even more of an introduction? Check out the below essay on Thompson from our very own Joe R. Lansdale.

Jim Thompson has been called a dime store Dostoevsky, but an oil field Faulkner might be more accurate. He wrote not only about the common man, he wrote like the common man, with words full of raw truth mixed with sweet and sticky lies; wicked stories written with a glass of whisky at his elbow.

I had never heard of Jim Thompson growing up. And this surprises me. I read all manner of novels by all manner of writers, and a writer like Thompson was just my meat, but it wasn’t until Stephen King commented on him, that he hit my radar.

Not long after that, I saw Thompson’s work everywhere, and I dove in. As a fellow Texan, same as a I had with the work of Robert E. Howard, another Texan, I recognized people I knew. Howard gussied them up in loin cloths and gave them swords, made them melancholy heroes, but Thompson’s characters were contemporary, and though melancholy for the most part, were considerably short on heroics. They were the dregs of society; little people with dreams too large for them to hold; dreams they drove all over the highways of their ambitions like a drunk at the wheel of a muscle car with bad tires.

There is no one quite like Thompson in low or high literature. He was his own man, and stories like THE KILLER INSIDE ME, THE GRIFTERS, and, well pretty much everything he ever wrote, are as unique as the pattern of a snow flake. They are his snow flakes, and they are soiled and stink of cheap liquor, but you will find no other like him. Many have tried to imitate him, but have only brought the literary equivalent of loud horns and dirty laundry to the game.

Thompson was his own man. Sad and dark, oozing rotten sex and rotten dreams, all of it touched with a kind cheap carnival atmosphere; the kind where the bolts on the rides shake and it‘s best to keep your hand on your wallet. A writer primarily confined to the literary back alleys of cheap paperbacks written in bursts as dynamic as the spewing of an oil gusher.

He was, for better or worse, the great and unique, Jim Thompson.

Joe R. Lansdale

Nacogdoches, Texas

Joe R. Lansdale is the author of more than a dozen novels, including THE BOTTOMS, A FINE DARK LINE, and LEATHER MAIDEN. He has received the British Fantasy Award, the American Mystery Award, the Edgar Award, the Grinzane Cavour Prize for Literature, and eight Bram Stoker Awards. He lives with his family in Nacogdoches, Texas. Mulholland Books will publish his next novel, EDGE OF DARK WATER, in March 2012.

Over the next year, Mulholland Books will be publishing Jim Thompson’s entire body of work in e-book format for the first time. THE KILLER INSIDE ME, THE GRIFTERS, AFTER DARK, MY SWEET, A SWELL-LOOKING BABE and THE NOTHING MAN are now available–look for the next batch on Christmas Day.

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”

Genesis

Scott Spencer wrote BREED under the pseudonym of Chase Novak. Keep reading to find out why.

When, after writing ten novels, a writer decides to publish under a different name, there will inevitably be some curiosity about what is behind the sudden change.

Thinking about my becoming Chase Novak, three things occur to me.   The first is, I have always (and I mean always) wanted a second identity.  I could go on and on about why, but, really, isn’t it more or less self-explanatory –and practically a universal fantasy?  (In other words: wouldn’t you like to be someone else, and also remain yourself?)

The second thing that occurs to me is that I have been assuming new identities my whole writing life.  Especially when I write novels in the first person, in which the narrator does all he can do to make a reader believe that “I” have burned down my girlfriend’s house, or run for Congress, or that someone very much like Bob Dylan is “my” father.

And, finally, Chase Novak stepped forward because “he” was willing –and eager! –to go places in a novel that Spencer would not have been able to reach.  Spencer is limited by the fact that he stands atop (or perhaps is buried beneath) the high, tottering stack of pages he has already written.  Novak has nothing on his mind but a mania to follow the nightmare logic of his most troubled thoughts and memories.  In other words, Spencer could not have written BREED.  It was up to Chase.

CHASE NOVAK is the pseudonym for Scott Spencer. Spencer is the author of ten novels, including Endless Love, which has sold over two million copies to date, and the National Book Award finalist A Ship Made of Paper. He has written for Rolling Stone, The New York Times, The New Yorker, GQ, and Harper’s.

BREED, praised by Janet Maslin of the New York Times as “a foray into urbane horror, chicly ghoulish, with a malevolent emphasis on family values, is his debut novel as Chase Novak.

Dark Inspiration

Echo Railroad Bridge over Sabine River, north of I-10, Orange, Texas 1031091315BWI can’t think about Edgar Allan Poe without thinking about my life, because he was there in dark spirit, in my room and in my head. He was out there in the shadows of the East Texas pines, roaming along the creeks and the Sabine River, a friendly specter with gothic tales to tell. It was a perfect place for him. East Texas. It’s the part of Texas that is behind the pine curtain, down here in the damp dark. It’s Poe country, hands down.

These thoughts were in my mind as I toured the Harry Ransom Center’s current exhibition, From Out That Shadow: The Life and Legacy of Edgar Allan Poe. The Center, at the University of Texas at Austin, is celebrating the bicentennial of Poe’s birth with an exhibition that includes original manuscripts and illustrations. Looking at these artifacts, it occurred to me that Poe reached out from the grave and saved this East Texan from the aluminum chair factory. I know there are those who will say working in an aluminum chair factory is good honest work, and I’m going to agree. But I will say without hesitation and with no concern of insult that it damn sure wasn’t work of my choosing, and that it takes the skill of a trained raccoon and the I.Q. of a can of green beans, minus the label, to get it done.

Like Sisyphus forever rolling his rock uphill, I feared I would spend my time on Earth matching up aluminum runners, or linking chain to be pinned together by hissing and snapping and cutting and crimping machines, which in turn would be forklifted away in shiny piles of bent rods and flexible seats. Something to be sold and brought out on hot days at barbecues, and on hot nights to give mosquito-attacked, beer-drinking drive-in theater patrons a place for their butts to nestle.

Continue reading “Dark Inspiration”