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The Lineup: Gun Machine Edition

Contrasted ConfinementWarren Ellis’s electrifying thriller GUN MACHINE kicks off 2013 with a bang.

Arriving in bookstores on the first day of the year, GUN MACHINE has already received a glowing, three-and-a-half-stars review from Brian Truitt of USA Today, in which Truitt writes: “Ellis tackles the police procedural, although it’s bloodier and more intriguing than any episode of Law & Order or CSI, and arms it with gallows humor, high-tension action scenes and an unlikely hero.”

Over at Boing Boing, Cory Doctorow writes: “Gun Machine is a novel that never stops to draw breath. It’s a monster of a book, bowel-looseningly scary in places, darkly uproarious in others, and remorseless as the killer who hunts in its pages…[GUN MACHINE] is particularly good, even by the high standards of a Warren Ellis tale.”

C.A. Bridges of the Daytona Beach News-Journal agrees: “The dialogue is rapid and witty, the action moves along, the city and its inhabitants are wonderfully violent, and the cat-and-mouse plot is satisfyingly solid. But where the book transcends the usual crime thriller is in the killer, a psychotic and brutally effective hunter obsessed with returning New York City to its primal state…Ellis, an Englishman, completely nails New York and New Yorkers.”

“A claustrophobic pressure cooker filled with tension, and mixed with anxiety…a wonderful gift to readers,” Dan Malmon of Crimespree Magazine writes, and in a starred, boxed review for Publishers Weekly, Jason Starr raves: “Gun Machine propels the multitalented Ellis, already a household name in the world of comics, into the ranks of the best crime writers in the business.”

With great blurbs from the likes of William Gibson, Ian Rankin, Joe Hill, Lauren Beukes and more, GUN MACHINE is the perfect way to kick off the new year in style. For more exclusive GUN MACHINE content, check out ThisIsGunMachine.Tumblr.com, watch the first GUN MACHINE trailer that debuted on MTV Geek, directed by Jim Batt with art by Ben Templesmith and voiceover by Wil Wheaton, subscribe to Warren’s Machine Vision newsletter, or read this Shelf Awareness Q&A with Warren. And don’t forget to check back for more later this week as our weeklong GUN MACHINE extravaganza continues.

Did we missing something sweet? Share it in the comments! We’re always open to suggestions for next week’s post! Get in touch at mulhollandbooks@hbgusa.com or DM us on Twitter.

Year End Review: Don’t Tell Me

Dial M

With 2013 just around the corner, it’s the perfect time to sit back and reflect on another year of great content and great books. Check back twice daily in the last days of 2012 for a selection of our favorite MulhollandBooks.com posts from the past year!

A recent, controversial  New York Times article by Stanley Fish uses the results of a 2011 psychological study to argue readers and viewers experience no negative effects from knowing the ending of a story in advance. We asked a few of our friends what they thought–check back regularly today for their responses.

Will the hero still have a pulse at the story’s end? Will the young woman have the wit to pick the man who really cares for her? Will the professor get tenure?

These are urgent questions and as a reader I’ve never wanted to know the answers before the author was ready to tell me. As a writer, I’ve assumed other readers were similarly inclined.

But maybe not.

For example:

(1) A woman I know reads widely and ardently, but will never begin a book until she’s read its last several pages. Something compels her to read the ending first. Doesn’t this spoil it for her? Evidently not. It’s spoiled for her if she doesn’t approach it in this fashion. (This only applies, I should add, to fiction. When she sits down with a book about the War of 1812, she doesn’t have to begin by reading about the Battle of New Orleans. Unless it’s a novel about the War of 1812, in which case she does.) Continue reading “Year End Review: Don’t Tell Me”

Year End Review: Five Tips for Horror Writers

With 2013 just around the corner, it’s the perfect time to sit back and reflect on another year of great content and great books. Check back twice daily in the last days of 2012 for a selection of our favorite MulhollandBooks.com posts from the past year!

USA Today has called BREED by Chase Novak “a thrill to read [that] keep an audience enraptured.” The New York Times‘ Janet Maslin raves, “BREED is a foray into urbane horror, chicly ghoulish, with a malevolent emphasis on family values. “ Keep reading for Chase’s tips for writing a horror novel.

1. The requirements of good horror are not different from the requirements of fiction in general. Fresh language, believable characters, and a story that operates on more than one level –a story that has a meaning outside of and beyond the mechanics of the plot.

2.  If a paragraph can create that pleasurable rush of anxiety in you, probably others will get that lovely chill from it, too.

3. Sentences.  Fiction is made of sentences.  All fiction.  Building a novel out of weak or sloppy sentences is like building a house out of defective bricks.

4. Beware of concepts.  A cool idea does not necessarily lead to a good book. Figuring out the marketplace –vampires are in! no, zombies!  no, vampires!, no serial killers! –is for the marketing department, and books that begin with the writer trying to figure out what might get him or her onto some bandwagon are usually DOA.

5. Beware of formulas:  the books that last are the ones that are not really like other books.

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 is his debut novel as Chase Novak.

Year End Review: Tradecraft 101, Spy Tips from Mischa Hiller’s Shake Off

With 2013 just around the corner, it’s the perfect time to sit back and reflect on another year of great content and great books. Check back twice daily in the last days of 2012 for a selection of our favorite MulhollandBooks.com posts from the past year!

SHAKE OFF‘s Michel Khoury is a veritable encyclopedia of the espionage tradecraft that is essential to his life as a spy, which Mischa Hiller gleaned from access to someone with direct knowledge of the tricks of the trade. Want to learn how to become a skilled agent? Here are a few of the tips from Mischa’s novel:

Concealing documents and cash? Use a newspaper.

“They are easy to ditch, and you can carry one under your arm even as your bags are being searched.”

Know your cover.

“If you can believe just a bit of your cover story then you can convince your listener (and even yourself) that it is all true.”

Incriminating evidence to ditch? Use the restroom.

“It is easier to flush soaked paper than dry.”

Disguise yourself.

“Hospitals have no security to speak of.  You can wander almost anywhere unchallenged, particularly if you don a white coat – best acquired from the doctors’ lounge in the A&E department.  Or go dressed in a suit carrying a briefcase and pretend you are a drugs salesman.”

Watch your back.

“You should always sit at the back of the bus when you get on, because surveillance like to sit at the back to get a good view of you embarking without having to turn around.”

Beware the honeytrap.

“It is easier to believe that a woman finds you irresistible than that she is trying to ensnare you.”

Tired of looking over your shoulder?

“Take a few days off, go to the cinema, sit in the park, stay at home and read a book….Make them bored. A bored surveillance team is a careless one.”

Blend in.

“Be gray, not colorful, my trainers in Moscow had said.  I always matched my shoes to my clothes.  I’d heard that immigration officers checked for illegal immigrants by looking at their shoes.”

Finish the job.

“To kill someone you need to shoot them at least four or five times in the head, just to make sure.  And it needs to be up close with a hand-held weapon.  You have to put it right up against the head or very close to it, otherwise you could miss; some weapons give a massive kick, and any shot following the first could go wild.  If you can’t get close enough to kill the target with your first shot, then you will need to incapacitate them with a body shot first and finish the deed close up, a coup de grâce.

Mischa Hiller is a winner of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize in the Best First Book category for South Asia and Europe. Raised in London, Beirut, and Dar El Salaam, he lives in Cambridge, England. Visit him at www.mischahiller.com.

SHAKE OFF, selected by Malcolm Gladwell in the New Yorker as one of the best books of 2012 (“Hiller’s novel has the benefit of mining every trope of the thriller genre while being absolutely original at the same time. I will read anything by Hiller from now on”), is now available in bookstores everywhere.

Year End Review: When Children Don’t Come Home

discovering ways of moving onWith 2013 just around the corner, it’s the perfect time to sit back and reflect on another year of great content and great books. Check back twice daily in the last days of 2012 for a selection of our favorite MulhollandBooks.com posts from the past year!

Everyone reacts differently to the disappearance of a child. Some husbands and wives look straight into each other’s eyes without needing words, while others are like strangers lying side by side at night, still as corpses, staring at the ceiling.

There are men who want to beat someone so badly they can’t walk right for a month, while others drink themselves into oblivion or pretend nothing has changed. And there are women who can’t look at another child or family without remembering what they’ve lost.

As a journalist working in Australia and the UK, I reported on far too many stories that involved missing and/or murdered children. Right from the outset, I was thrown into the deep end by a grizzled old chief of staff, who decided to use my young, fresh-faced innocence to illicit photographs from grieving relatives. I was designated as the ‘death knock’ specialist and I once did twelve in a day after a mining disaster in Cobar in western NSW in 1979.

One of the things I discovered was that people react differently to tragedy. Some invited me into their homes, sobbed on my shoulder and took me through every photograph in the album, wanting to tell me about the loved one they had lost. Others showed no emotion at all and appeared almost detached and untouched, as though nobody had told them the news or they were in denial. Many shut the door in my face and once or twice I was threatened with violence, including have a gun pointed through a crack in the door.

Grief, I discovered, is an individual as a fingerprint. Continue reading “Year End Review: When Children Don’t Come Home”

The Birth of The Right Hand

In the summer of 2001, my screenwriting partner Michael Brandt and I were hired to rewrite a screenplay for Universal Studios that involved an FBI agent embroiled in a global, political thriller.  While researching the film, Michael and I flew to Washington DC and were able to train with FBI agents at Quantico, including watching members of the Hostage Rescue Team perform drills — storming a facility with live flash bang grenades and real ammunition.  As part of that trip, we met with a reporter who covered the pentagon, and through him, we were able to interview a couple of real life American spies.  I was struck in particular by one man who, while perfectly pleasant in every aspect, would not tell us his name.   Still, he shared with us that one of his jobs while working for the CIA was to be in charge of holding copies of Presidential Directives.  We pressed him, and he explained that these documents noted when the President authorized breaking the laws of another country.  He would not tell us when he had this responsibility, because, he intimated, if the news got out, he would be targeted by several foreign services.

Years later, that little conversation over steaks at the Palms in DC stuck with me.  What kind of man would the US send in to purposely break the laws of another country… and what would the US do if the man were caught?  I remembered the biblical expression:  “do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.”  What if there were a field officer, known around Langley as The Right Hand, whom the US sent in when they wanted a mission completed but zero knowledge of how that objective was achieved.  A man so autonomous as to be in a black ops unit consisting of only his handler and himself.  And what if that spy embraced that anonymity, that it was a two-way street, that he was perfectly content to have his Agency unaware of his riskier methods.  He could be the Right Hand.   They tell him another spy went missing in Russia and they want him back.   The Right Hand is the spy who completes the assignment by any means necessary, and if he’s caught, he will be abandoned by his own country.

As this idea started forming in my head, another notion struck me.  What if this spy is given an assignment to track down a beautiful young woman who may or may not exist?  What if the mission itself might be apocryphal?  What if the Right Hand decided to make up his own assignment?    After that, I had a character and I had an assignment and the pages started flowing.

My last three books were all written in the first person, and I was eager to stretch myself by writing this book in the third person while occasionally jumping points-of-view.  Some of my favorite espionage authors — Ludlum, Clancy — deftly leap from location to location, character to character, as the web of intrigue spins out from the center.  I tried to do that here, while always holding the main character Austin Clay at the center of the action.  The fates of the other characters we meet are intertwined with Clay’s, and they will be moving towards each other like planets in the same gravitational pull as the book progresses.  Some of the fun of reading these types of books is to guess how the various characters will come together.  I hope I surprise you more than once.

That’s the origin of The Right Hand, a book I massively enjoyed writing and I hope you will enjoy reading.  I’m more than happy to answer any comments or questions about The Right Hand or any other project in the comment section below… a feature on the Mulholland site that is woefully underused.  Don’t hesitate to give me a shout…  I love hearing from readers.   I hope you’ll be one of them.

Derek Haas is the author of THE RIGHT HAND, THE SILVER BEAR, COLUMBUS, and DARK MEN. Derek also wrote the screenplays with his partner Michael Brandt for 3:10 TO YUMA, WANTED, THE DOUBLE and the NBC show CHICAGO FIRE. He is the creator of the website popcornfiction.com, which promotes genre short fiction. Derek lives in Los Angeles. Follow Derek on twitter (@popcornhaas), or facebook friend him.

A Bad Feeling: A Short Story

Trigger-Happy Star Formation (NASA, Chandra, 8/12/09)Arthur held one finger up to his wife while he checked the number. “I need to take this.” He didn’t wait for her to protest, he just got up from the table and moved to the sidewalk in some vague notion of modern etiquette as he swiped his finger across the face of his phone and put it to his ear.

“This is Art.” He hoped his voice didn’t sound too anxious.

“I have Josh for you.” And then a few seconds later, “Arthur, how are you?”

“Good Josh. I’m good. How are you?”

“I’m returning your call.”

“You have to get me a meeting with George.” Well, that cut to the chase. He heard some shuffling on the other end of the line. Before Josh could answer, Art blurted, “Listen, you know I can get this job. You know it. Remember, Sarah? Remember when I said get a meeting with Sarah and I nailed that down with one phone call. I didn’t even have to go into her office. I just talked her through it and she pulled the trigger. Right then and there. Remember?”

“Art. That was six years ago.”

“Has it–? Well, I didn’t…”

“Sarah’s had a lot more work since then and she hasn’t called you back.”

“What’re you saying?”

“I’m saying people talk.”

“Sarah’s an idiot. That much was clear from the get-go.”

“I’m not disagreeing with you, Art, but you have a bit of a stink on you now.”

“Bullshit.”

“You hired me because I tell it like it is. And I’m telling you, you’re toxic. George isn’t going to happen.”

Arthur looked at his wife still in the booth in the restaurant, drinking a black and white milkshake. Why’d she have to order the milkshake?

“You know what, Josh?” He looked up at the sky, gray and pitiless. He hung up the phone before he finished the sentence. His wife would ask him who that was calling and he rehearsed saying “nobody,” then went back inside the diner. Continue reading “A Bad Feeling: A Short Story”

A conversation with Thomas Mullen

The below conversation between Thomas Mullen and Jon Fasman appears in the paperback edition of THE REVISIONISTS, now available in bookstores everywhere.

Check back later in the week for questions and topics for discussion perfect for your reading group. Or, head out to your favorite bookstore, snag a copy, and start reading now. You’ll thank us later.

Thomas Mullen has written two great novels set in America’s past: The Last Town on Earth, which tells the story of a quarantined town in Washington state during the 1918 influenza epidemic, and The Many Deaths of the Firefly Brothers, the story of two Depression-era bank robbers with an unusual gift for surviving bullet wounds. His writing, both in these stories and in his new book, gestures toward fable, allegory and that catch-all category, magical realism, but remains grounded where novels should be grounded: in character, and in love. His new novel, The Revisionists, is a historical novel of sorts: one of its protagonists comes from the future, which he calls The Perfect Present, and treats our imperfect present as history.

I met Tom by chance, in 2007, when we were both living in the same neighborhood in D.C. One year later he moved to Atlanta, and a year later, again by chance, my work moved me down here — to more or less the same neighborhood once again. I had a few conversations with Tom while The Revisionists was still in the idea stage. I told him then that it sounded great, but how great it actually turned out to be surprised and delighted me. What follows is our conversation about imagination, genre, and the not-so-Chocolate-anymore-City.

JF: You give us brief glimpses of Zed’s world: the Department, pods, erasers of memory. Did you, as the author, imagine, see or plot more of it than that? Was Zed’s world that you allude to complete in your mind?

TM: I admit that I don’t read much sci-fi, and that the specifics of Zed’s future world (what it looks like, what sort of inventions they have, etc) wasn’t quite as interesting to me as the philosophy and politics behind it. So I tried to describe the world as vaguely as possible and let smoke and mirrors do the rest.

What most intrigued me about his allegedly “Perfect Present” is the way they deal with past conflict and with the idea of race and ethnicity. I was inspired by a Time magazine cover story from 2000 that used computer graphics to create a composite face of what humankind will look like many, many generations in the future, when all the ethnicities have mixed and we’re basically one race. I figured that if one of my characters was a time traveler from such a future, then he should look this way. The contemporary-Washington characters who see him think he looks “interestingly multiracial” and puzzle over his background, which leads to some awkwardness. Continue reading “A conversation with Thomas Mullen”

Start Reading The Shining Girls

In June 2013, Mulholland Books will publish THE SHINING GIRLS, the next novel by Arthur C. Clarke Award winner Lauren Beukes, of whom Cosmopolitan has written: “the world Beuekes has invented is both eerily familiar and creepily different, “ and who William Gibson has praised as “very, *very* good.”

We’re giving away pins featuring the cover artwork of THE SHINING GIRLS this weekend at New York Comic-con 2012, with a link to the shareable excerpt on Facebook. You can also start reading right here on MulhollandBooks.com!

CHAPTER ONE

17 July 1974

He clenches the orange plastic pony in the pocket of his sport coat. It is sweaty in his hand. Midsummer, here, is too hot for what he’s wearing. But he has learned to put on a uniform for this purpose; jeans in particular. He takes long strides—a man who walks because he’s got somewhere to be, despite his gimpy foot. Harper Curtis is not a moocher. And time waits for no one. Except when it does.

The girl is sitting cross-legged on the ground, her bare knees white and bony as birds’ skulls, but also grass stained. She looks up at the sound of his boots scrunching on the gravel and broken glass—long enough for him to see that her eyes are brown under that tangle of grubby curls—before she dismisses him and goes back to her business. Harper is disappointed. His personal preference is for blue, the color of the lake, out where it gets deep, where the shoreline disappears and it feels like you’re in the middle of the ocean. Brown is the color of shrimping, when the mud is all churned up in the shallows and you can’t see shit for shit.

“What are you doing?” he asks, putting brightness in his voice. He crouches down beside her in the threadbare grass. “Playing?” Really, he’s never seen a child with such crazy hair. Like she got spun round in her own personal dust devil, one that tossed up the assortment of random junk splayed around her—a cluster of rusty tin cans, a broken bicycle wheel tipped on its side, spokes jabbing outwards. Her attention is focused on a chipped teacup, turned upside down, so that the silvered flowers on the lip disappear into the grass. The handle has broken off, leaving two blunt stumps. “You having a tea party, sweetheart?” he tries again.

“It’s not a tea party,” she mutters into the petal-shaped collar of her checked shirt. Kids with freckles shouldn’t be so earnest, he thinks. It doesn’t suit them.

“Well, that’s fine,” he says. “I prefer coffee anyways. May I have a cup, please m’am? Black with three sugars, okay?” He reaches for the chipped porcelain, and the girl yelps and bats his hand away. A deep, angry buzzing comes from underneath the inverted cup. Continue reading “Start Reading The Shining Girls”

Start Reading Say You’re Sorry

Eager to get started on Michael Robotham’s newest Joe O’Loughlin novel SAY YOU’RE SORRY, which Kirkus calls “subtle, smart, compelling and blessed with both an intelligent storyline and top-notch writing,” but can’t make it  to Murder By the Book in Houston tonight to meet Michael and hear him read? We’ve got you covered–

My name is Piper Hadley and

I went missing on the last Saturday of the summer holidays three years ago. I didn’t disappear completely and I didn’t run away, which is what a lot of people thought (those who didn’t believe I was dead). And despite what you may have heard or read, I didn’t get into a stranger’s car or run off with some sleazy pedo I met online. I wasn’t sold to Egyptian slave traders or forced to become a prostitute by a gang of Albanians or trafficked to Asia on a luxury yacht.

I’ve been here all along—not in Heaven or in Hell or that place in between whose name I can never remember because I didn’t pay attention at Sunday scripture classes. (I only went for the cake and the cordial.)

I’m not exactly sure of how many days or weeks or months I’ve been here. I tried to keep count, but I’m not very good with numbers. Completely crap, to be honest. You can ask Mr. Monroe, my old math teacher, who said he lost his hair teaching me algebra. That’s bollocks by the way. He was balder than a turtle on chemo before he ever taught me.

Anyone who follows the news will know that I didn’t disappear alone. My best friend Tash was with me. I wish she were here now. I wish she’d never squeezed through the window. I wish I had gone in her place.

When you read those stories about kids who go missing, they are always greatly loved and their parents want them back, whether it’s true or not. I’m not saying that we weren’t loved or missed, but that’s not the whole story.

Kids who blitz their exams don’t run away. Winners of beauty pageants don’t run away. Girls who date hot guys don’t run away. They’ve got a reason to stay. But what about the kids who are bullied or borderline anorexic or self-conscious about their bodies or sick of their parents fighting? There are lots of factors that might push a kid to run away and none of them are about being loved or wanted. Continue reading “Start Reading Say You’re Sorry”