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How Private Security Contracting Became Private Military Contracting

Zero Footprint by Simon Chase and Ralph PezzulloRalph Pezzullo is no stranger to Mulholland Books. With former Navy SEAL Don Mann, he has written five SEAL Team Six thrillers, with a sixth on the way. And with private military contractor Simon Chase, Pezzullo proves that the truth can be even more explosive than fiction.  Zero Footprint, now in bookstores, delivers a dramatic insider account of the missions conducted by PMCs. But how exactly did an industry like private security turn into a powerful private military? Read on for Pezzullo’s take.

On September 11, 2001, British Special Boat Service (SBS) commando Simon Chase (not his real name) was in Kabul, Afghanistan with a team of eleven other contractors providing security to Agha Khan IV—the Iman of Nizari Ismailism, a denomination of Shia Islam—when the World Trade Center and Pentagon were attacked by al-Qaeda terrorists.

The very next day members of the CIA’s Special Activities Division started to arrive at the Kabul guesthouse where Chase and his colleagues were staying. The director of SAD pulled Chase aside and asked him if he and his men would be willing to join the US effort to drive the Taliban out of power and help destroy al-Qaeda.

He answered, “yes,” and remembers the day as “the exact moment the business turned from private security work to private military.” In Chase’s words, we “exchanged the concealed Glocks and business suits we had previously been wearing for M4s, military gear and armored vests, and returned to our old skills and drills.” Continue reading “How Private Security Contracting Became Private Military Contracting”

Paradise Sky by Joe Lansdale: The Illustrated Edition

case6.140x9.210.inddJoe Lansdale’s epic, rollicking Western was one of our favorite publications of 2015. And we’re not the only ones who think so—the Houston Chronicle named Paradise Sky one of the 15 Best Books of 2015. Early next year, we’ll get to experience Nat Love’s adventures in a whole new way when Short, Scary Tales Publications releases the illustrated edition of Paradise Sky. Check out the panoramic dust jacket illustration:

Paradise Sky Illustrated Edition Dust Jacket

And here are three interior illustrations from the book by Ben Baldwin:

Interested in receiving the illustrated Paradise Sky as soon as it’s available? Preorder your copy today.

A Soundtrack for The Night Charter

The Night Charter by Sam Hawken

Music has been a part of Camaro Espinoza’s “life” since the very beginning, and different songs have, for me, come to represent her at different stages in her fictional existence. Whether it be Disturbed’s “Indestructible”—not featured here but essential listening—or White Zombie’s “Thunder Kiss ’65,” Camaro has found some of her inner life through musical expression.

The idea of a “soundtrack” for The Night Charter came early on. Between writing sessions I listen to music that speaks to me during the creative process, and little by little I begin to incorporate these into a playlist. That playlist carries the listener through The Night Charter stage by stage, from the free-spirited life Camaro enjoys on the seas (Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Up Around the Bend”) to the moment she realizes she has managed to set herself and her young charge free (Mark Knopfler with “Get Lucky”).

Some songs here represent the characters themselves, such as the aforementioned “Thunder Kiss ’65,” which contains classic lines from Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! that encapsulate Camaro perfectly—“I never try anything, I just do it. Wanna try me?” Meanwhile the melancholy Jimmy Buffett song, “Oldest Surfer on the Beach,” gives us Parker Story, the man whose youthful errors have brought him an old man’s troubles even though he’s not yet 40.

See Camaro on the titular night charter, making an exchange on the water to the eerie sounds of Fever Ray’s “Keep the Streets Empty for Me.” See her go to war as you listen to Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs.” The final few songs in the playlist are building tension, a climax of violence set to The Prodigy’s “Breathe,” and then released with Pink Floyd’s “Sorrow.” Even anti-Castro group Alpha 66 gets its moment when Dire Straits’ “Ride Across the River” plays.

The playlist is eclectic, but every song has its place and, reading the book, you’ll be able to place them where they belong with ease. Enjoy.

A Soundtrack for The Killing Kind

The Killing Kind by Chris Holm

In a recent interview for The Life Sentence, I was asked (by an interviewer who knows damn well that I’m a music geek, on account of she’s my wife) what Michael Hendricks’s theme song would be. Here’s what I answered:

First of all, Michael would never pick himself a theme song; he’s way too self-serious for that. So I envision that question being fielded by his partner in crime, Lester Meyers, who’s a little more playful about their endeavor of killing people for money. Lester would choose James Brown’s “The Payback.” It’s a bouncy revenge tale. It’s funky. It’s interesting. If Hendricks were forced to choose his own theme song, it’d be darker, more morose. Jimi Hendrix’s “Machine Gun,” maybe. It’s a menacing, sinuous anti-war tale. I also think Massive Attack’s “Protection” wouldn’t be a bad theme song for him. In fact, if The Killing Kind were a movie, you could put “The Payback” over the opening credits and “Protection” over the closing credits, since the latter’s built around a sample of the former.

Ever since, I’ve been wondering what a soundtrack for The Killing Kind would sound like. Its antagonist, Alexander Engelmann, takes pleasure in his bloody work, and demands something arch. Its action scenes require propulsive, energetic tracks. Special Agents Thompson and Garfield deserve a nod, at least. Our damaged antihero, Hendricks, longs for a woman whose love he feels he no longer deserves, so songs of heartbreak and longing are a must. And, of course, I need something gut-wrenchingly sad for that scene in which… well, you’ll see.

Chris Holm is an award-winning short-story writer whose work has appeared in a number of magazines and anthologies, including Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Needle: A Magazine of Noir, and The Best American Mystery Stories 2011. His Collector trilogy, which blends fantasy with old-fashioned crime pulp, wound up on over forty Year’s Best lists. David Baldacci called his latest, the hitman thriller The Killing Kind, “a story of rare, compelling brilliance.” Chris lives in Portland, Maine.

Mulholland Books at Bouchercon 2015

Bouchercon 2015The annual mystery reader extravaganza known as Bouchercon will take place in Raleigh in just three weeks, and our calendars are filling up with riveting panels, award ceremonies, and my personal favorite: “meetings” over BBQ and beers.

Once again the Bouchercon programmers have outdone themselves with the convention programming. Mulholland authors will appear on panels about thrillers, horror, psychopaths, and character development. Even our own editorial director, Joshua Kendall, has a panel! You can find a full list of Mulholland’s events below.

Here’s one event to underscore, circle, star, or however it is you draw attention to important things: on Saturday morning between 7:30 and 12:30, we will be offering free coffee and pastries at the Bouchercon hospitality suite in the Sheraton gallery. If you time your visit just right, you’ll walk away with a free galley of a forthcoming Mulholland book!

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 8

11:30-12:30 Changing Face of Publishing for Writers & Readers with Joshua Kendall, editorial director of Mulholland Books (Marriott: University AB)

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 9

2:30-3:30 The “Masters” that influenced the “Masters” in Crime & Mystery with Lawrence Block, author of Hit Me (Sheraton, Oak Forest AB)

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 10

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Visit the hospitality suite to join Mulholland Books’s staff and authors for coffee and pastries! We’ll be giving away free advance copies of new books by Matthew Quirk, William Shaw, David Swinson, Joe Lansdale, and Michael Robotham. Follow us on Twitter or Instagram @mulhollandbooks to find out when specific books will be given away . . . or take a chance and come by the Sheraton gallery to see what’s on offer! You won’t walk away empty-handed . . . or empty-bellied.

8:30-9:30 Where “Crime & Mystery” meets “Horror & The Weird” with Chris Holm, author of The Killing Kind, and David Morrell, author of Inspector of the Dead (Marriott, State AB)

10-11 Human Nature: Our fascination with law breakers & law enforcers in fiction with Lawrence Block, author of Hit Me (Sheraton, Oak Forest AB)

1-2 Psychopaths, Serial Killers, Sociopaths & Human Monsters within Literature with Michael Robotham, author of Life or Death (Sheraton, Oak Forest AB)

4-5 The Facets of ‘Character’ that remain in a Reader’s psyche with David Swinson, author of The Second Girl (Marriott: State AB)

4-5 International Thriller Writers [ITW]: The first Decade & Beyond with David Morrell, author of Inspector of the Dead (Sheraton: Oak Forest AB)

Joe Lansdale on How He Came to Write Paradise Sky

Paradise Sky by Joe R. LansdaleIn the late 1970’s, I became intrigued with nonfiction material I read about black cowboys and soldiers in the Old West. I was surprised to find that their contribution to the West was much larger than I had been led to believe by general history books, Western novels, and films over the years. The reason for this is painful but real: Racism had hidden their contribution. The information was there, and in abundance, but it hadn’t been properly mined. A full quarter or more of the cowboys in the Old West had been black or of color. You didn’t see this in Westerns. Blacks were always maids and cooks in novels and film, if they were represented at all.

Most of the material about their lives and times in the West, was nonfiction. John Ford had touched on it in a safe way in his film Sergeant Rutledge. Still, on the posters the main star was Jeffery Hunter, not the black actor, Woody Strode, who played the title character. There were a few novels about blacks in the West, but I didn’t encounter any that were epic. I was thinking of writing one in the vein of Wild Times by Brian Garfield, Little Big Man by Thomas Berger, The Big Sky by A.B. Guthrie, Jr., or The Travels of Jaimie McPheeters by Robert Lewis Taylor. I wanted to write about the real black experience in the West, and at the same time, make it larger than life. I had also read an autobiography about Western life by a black cowboy named Nat Love. Nat Love’s experiences were no doubt influenced by the dime novels of his era, so it has to be taken with a grain of salt, but his story was epic, and it was clear he knew his business when it came to being a cowboy. He knew the world of his time, and was able to express it in such a way as to put you there. It was the kind of book I wanted to write. Better yet, it was a book by an actual black cowboy. He was doing the same thing that many white Westerners had done. He was “stretching the blanket,” as they used to say, taking kernels of truth and turning them into a kind of hybrid product that housed both reality and dadburn lies. He claimed to have acquired the nickname Deadwood Dick due to a shooting match he won in old Deadwood, and he also claimed the dime novels about Deadwood Dick, the Black Rider of the Plains, were based on him. No doubt they were not, but this was a kind of wish fulfillment for Nat, so he took his life and welded it to the Wild West tale. Unlike so many dime novel heroes, Nat’s adventures seemed real.

Ned BuntlineThis inspired me more than any of the books I read about the black experience. I had the real material in hand, but I loved the way Nat told a story. I wanted my novel to be almost mythic. I was eleven years old when I first read the Iliad and the Odyssey by Homer, and I had already devoured all the Greek myths. That grand sweep, the epic adventures of gods and heroes, hit me hard. I think for years I was trying to find a novel-length outlet for a story about the black experience in the West that could be mythic, or legendary, and when I was in my late twenties the idea of tying it to a realistic background was the way I decided I wanted to go. More real than myth, and instead of Greek-style mythology, I chose the voice of the frontiersman, as it was expressed by Nat Love and in dime novels. I read a large number of the Buffalo Bill novels by Ned Buntline, and those by other authors about Jesse James, and other frontier heroes. I read Davy Crockett’s fictionalized biography (and boy was it), and that had a terrific impact on the way I wanted to tell a story. I decided I was going to write a novel titled The True Life Adventures of Deadwood Dick (still my preferred title). Continue reading “Joe Lansdale on How He Came to Write Paradise Sky”

Visiting Inspector of the Dead: Radiant St. James’s Church

David Morrell’s Inspector of the Dead is set on the harrowing streets of 1855 London. A gripping Victorian mystery/thriller, its vivid historical details come from years of research. Here are photo essays that David Morrell prepared about the novel’s fascinating locations. Read the first post about Mayfair and Belgravia, the second post about Constitution Hillthe third post about Lord Palmerston’s House, the fourth post about Jay’s Mourning Warehouse, and the fifth post about the Crystal Palace.

If asked to name the most impressive church in London, most people would say, “St. Paul’s cathedral.”

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They might be surprised to learn that its designer, the great English architect, Sir Christopher Wren, considered a quite different, small, simple church to be his favorite creation.

Continue reading “Visiting Inspector of the Dead: Radiant St. James’s Church”

Visiting Inspector of the Dead: The Magnificent Crystal Palace

David Morrell’s Inspector of the Dead is set on the harrowing streets of 1855 London. A gripping Victorian mystery/thriller, its vivid historical details come from years of research. Here are photo essays that David prepared about the novel’s fascinating locations. Read the first post about Mayfair and Belgravia, the second post about Constitution Hillthe third post about Lord Palmerston’s House, and the fourth post about Jay’s Mourning Warehouse.

The first world’s fair took place in London in 1851. Championed by Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert, it demonstrated the might and majesty of the British Empire. Officially called the Great Exhibition, it quickly became known as the Crystal Palace exhibition because of the amazing building in which it occurred.Crystal1

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Continue reading “Visiting Inspector of the Dead: The Magnificent Crystal Palace”

Visiting Inspector of the Dead: Jay’s Mourning Warehouse

David Morrell’s Inspector of the Dead is set on the harrowing streets of 1855 London. A gripping Victorian mystery/thriller, its vivid historical details come from years of research. Here are photo essays that David prepared about the novel’s fascinating locations. Read the first post about Mayfair and Belgravia, the second post about Constitution Hill, and the third post about Lord Palmerston’s House.

Victorian society was preoccupied about death, obeying elaborate rules about how to react to it. A grieving family was expected to put on severe mourning garments immediately after a loved one died and remain at home for several weeks following the funeral—except for a widow who stayed at home, in the blackest of clothes, for a year and a day.

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The link between grief and clothes inspired an entrepreneur, W.C. Jay, to create Jay’s Mourning Warehouse in 1841, selling bereavement garments of every type and size.

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Jay began with one address on fashionable Regent Street, but the death business became so brisk that he expanded into the shop next door. By the 1850s, he had expanded the business so often that it occupied most of the block.

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The most extreme case of grief involved Queen Victoria, who was one of Jay’s customers. Following the death of her husband, Prince Albert, in 1861, the queen dressed in mourning for the next forty years. In Inspector of the Dead, Jay’s warehouse and his funereal garments play a major role in the story.

Visiting Inspector of the Dead: Eerie Lord Palmerston’s House

David Morrell’s Inspector of the Dead is set on the harrowing streets of 1855 London. A gripping Victorian mystery/thriller, its vivid historical details come from years of research. Here are photo essays that David prepared about the novel’s fascinating locations. Read the first post about Mayfair and Belgravia, and the second post about Constitution Hill.

During the 1800s, Lord Palmerston (nicknamed Lord Cupid because of his numerous love affairs) was one of the most powerful English politicians: a war secretary, foreign secretary, home secretary, and prime minister.

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His famous Mayfair house, where he welcomed London’s rich and powerful, is located across from Green Park on Piccadilly. It’s readily identified because it’s the only Piccadilly property that’s set back from the street. The two gates and the curved driveway make it easy to recognize.

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In 1850, the residence was known as Cambridge House because Queen Victoria’s uncle, the Duke of Cambridge, owned it. On 27 June, the queen visited him and attracted so much attention that by the time she emerged from the house, a considerable crowd blocked the street, preventing her carriage from leaving.

One member of the crowd, Robert Francis Pate, was more interested in walking onward than looking at the queen. Angry that his way was blocked, he pushed his way toward the royal carriage, raised his cane, and struck Queen Victoria across the forehead. Shockingly, he drew blood. (For the full scene, preorder Inspector of the Dead.) Pate was the fifth man to threaten the queen. Declared as insane as it’s possible for a sane person to be, he was exiled to Van Diemen’s Land (present day Tasmania). Continue reading “Visiting Inspector of the Dead: Eerie Lord Palmerston’s House”