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In Conversation with Douglas Purdy about Serpents in the Cold

Serpents in the Cold by Thomas O'Malley and Douglas PurdyThe first novel in Thomas O’Malley and Douglas Purdy’s Boston Saga, Serpents in the Cold, has just been published by Mulholland Books. Kirkus Reviews calls it a “bone-crunching, gut-wrenching novel . . . It delivers noir fiction like we always want it to be.” Click here to read an excerpt from the book.

Mulholland Books: Tell us how you two decided to partner up to write Serpents in the Cold.

Douglas Purdy: Twenty years ago, Tom and I met at the UMass-Boston campus along the grey-slate waters of the Boston Harbor. Fittingly enough, it was for a class on Detective and Crime Fiction. Later in a creative-writing workshop, Tom began writing “The Iscariot Kiss,” his protagonist named Cal O’Brien, and I started working on “The Wooden Man,” featuring a desperate junky, Dante Cooper. Over pints of Guinness one night, we sat in the corner of a pub, The Field (Cambridge, Mass) and discussed what would happen if O’Brien and Cooper were to meet on the same page. At one point we had them in Los Angeles, another time in some nameless Gothic city. Years later, we decided it was finally time to have Cooper & O’Brien team up—and not in any other city but our own, Boston. We were in Cape Cod, and Tom and I came up with the opening scene on Tenean Beach, a beach that my mother used to go to in the 1940s, and one that Tom went to when visiting Boston from overseas. During that meeting, we asked ourselves, “Who is this woman [found dead on the beach], Sheila?” And from that point on, we explored this dark world of 1951 Boston and decided that the novel had to take place during one of the worst winters on record. For over the next four years and countless pages, we finished Serpents in the Cold. We hoped that it not only served the genre well, but also our city. Boston is both Cal and Dante, two men who could not have come from any other place in America.

Mulholland: Tell us more about Cal O’Brien and Dante Cooper, the central characters who drive the investigation in Serpents in the Cold.

Purdy: For me, reading David Goodis, Jim Thompson, and Dashiell Hammett’s The Glass Key really shaped the dark place Dante was coming from. I knew that Dante wouldn’t exist in the modern world—he’d probably be an obituary in the first few chapters. His era had to be the 1940s or 1950s, wearing a beat-up fedora, dirty gabardine slacks, a penchant for jazz and junk, a fragment of the man he was before the overdose of his wife, Margo. He was interesting to me because he is one who skirts the underworld, the pool halls and flophouses where the lecherous and the downtrodden live—all while representing some form of righteousness that may or may not lead to some redemption in the end. Cal is an ex-cop, and he’s a war veteran. He comes from a different place, but still a place where violence is prevalent, and with their shared past, we thought they’d be a unique duo with many stories to tell.

Wintry Boston in the 1950sMulholland: Aside from your personal ties to Boston, why did you choose to set Serpents in the Cold in such a particular time and place? 

Purdy: I think some crime novels lack a full sense of atmosphere, and it was important to both Tom and I to create a rich, layered one for this novel. We wanted an atmosphere that also had an isolated feel to it, and how more isolated can you get than the cold and the snow, the worst winter on record? Also, Boston as a city is not known for being overly kind. It has a hard-knuckled introspective manner to it, uniquely Northeastern. So it’s a perfect place for ambiguity and deception, a locale where corruption and violence can take effect. Not only does the oppressive weather augment the claustrophobic elements in tandem with the damaged psyches of the characters, but it also paints a widescreen cinematic effect. Boston is a beautiful city, but by the winter, a gray pallor seems to suck the life out of the streets. The waters turn to slate, the skies turn raw and bleak, and the collective moods of the population sour and become downright miserable.

Mulholland: What was it like to co-write a novel?

Purdy: Collaborating with a friend is equal parts excitement and hard work. Writers are solitary creatures, so I wouldn’t recommend two writer friends going into a novel together, unless they have a strong grasp of the book before starting on Chapter One. There were times when we wanted to put out a hit on one another, but in the end, such disagreements only pushed us to work harder at solving a difficult chapter. We scrapped scenes, took them back out in the alley and put a few bullets in their heads, and then buried them without thinking of them ever again. Other times, a chapter floundered and one of us would come in and breathe new life into it. There was plenty of “pitching” involved, and like any Hollywood meeting, we sometimes responded to each other’s proposals with laughter or dismay. In the end, one of the biggest positives was that when one of us was down, the other would be there to get the fire stoked again, a crucial plus as both Tom and I continue to write Cal & Dante novels in our “Boston Saga.”

Visiting Inspector of the Dead: The Killing Ground of Constitution Hill

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.

Almost every day for many years, Queen Victoria’s schedule included a carriage ride at 6 p.m. Her timetable was printed in London’s newspapers. Her route was usually the same. The carriage left Buckingham Palace, turned left onto Constitution Hill, rode up to Hyde Park, veered left into the park, came back to Constitution Hill, and returned to the Palace.

Constitution1

This is Constitution Hill as it appears today. Buckingham Palace is to the left, out of sight.

Constitution2

In the 1840s, four men took advantage of Queen Victoria’s predictable schedule and shot at her from this approximate spot. In fact, one of them (Edward Oxford) shot at her twice, and another (John Francis) tried to shoot at her two days in a row. All told, from 1840 to 1882, seven men tried to attack her.

Continue reading “Visiting Inspector of the Dead: The Killing Ground of Constitution Hill”

Visiting Inspector of the Dead: Mayfair and Belgravia

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.

Much of Inspector of the Dead takes place in London’s wealthy Mayfair district. Ironically, in the 1600s, it was a disreputable field where drunken May Day (or May Fair) celebrations were held. By the 1700s, as London expanded westward, Mayfair became a fashionable area, its impressive residences acquiring a uniform look because of the Portland stone that was used to construct them.

 

This is Half Moon Street, off a major street known as Piccadilly. In the novel, several shocking murders occur in one of these magnificent buildings.

Continue reading “Visiting Inspector of the Dead: Mayfair and Belgravia”

Mulholland Books at Bouchercon 2014

Bouchercon 2014 Bouchercon has always been one of the highlights of my year, but this year, I’m especially excited because 1.) it’s November 2.) Bouchercon will be beachside 3.) …in southern California, where it’s currently sunny and 70 degrees. SOLD!

I’m also excited about the wonderful programming lined up for this year. Mulholland’s authors are on panels that touch upon every corner of the mystery world: comics, noir, cyberspace, film and TV, political thrillers…you name it, one of our favorite authors is talking about it. You can find a handy list of our authors’ events below.

But first, a little advice: on Saturday morning, between 7:30am and 12:30pm, head to the Bouchercon hospitality suite in the Seaview Rotunda, because coffee and pastries are on us. If you time it just right, you’ll walk away with a free galley of a forthcoming Mulholland book!

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 13

11:30-12:30 Crime Goes Visual: Graphic and Comic Novels with Duane Swierczynski, author of the Charlie Hardie series and Canary (Regency B)

4-5 Noir Comes in Many Flavors with Chris Holm, author of The Killing Kind (Regency C)

5:30-6:30 Noir at the Bar with Duane Swierczynski and Chris Holm (Regency C)

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 14

10-11 Masters of Suspense in Conversation with David Morrell, author of Murder as a Fine Art and Inspector of the Dead (Promenade 104B)

3-4 Keep Them in Their Places or Let Them Steal the Scenes: The Importance of Sidekicks with Marcia Clark, author of the Rachel Knight series (Seaview)

3-4 Murder in Cyberspace with Matthew Quirk, author of The 500, The Directive, and an forthcoming title for Mulholland Books (Regency B)

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 15

Mulholland Books Bouchercon 2014
click to enlarge

Come by the hospitality suite to join Mulholland’s authors for coffee and pastries! We’ll be giving away free advance copies of new books by Sebastian Rotella, David Morrell, Richard Lange, Malcolm Mackay, C.J. Sansom, Duane Swierczynski, and Thomas O’Malley and Douglas Purdy. 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 Seaview Rotunda to see what’s on offer! You won’t walk away empty-handed…or empty-bellied.

8:00-8:30 Duane Swierczynski will sign and give away galleys of his forthcoming novel, Canary, in the Seaview Rotunda hospitality suite. We’ll also have some extremely limited edition Canary pins to hand out.

8:30-8:50 Author Focus on Ralph Pezzullo, co-writer with Don Mann of the Hunt series of SEAL Team Six novels (Harbor C)

8:30-10:30 Men of Mystery with David Morrell and Matthew Quirk (Promenade 104BC)

11:00-11:30 Sebastian Rotella will sign and give away galleys of his forthcoming novel, The Convert’s Song, in the Seaview Rotunda hospitality suite.

11:30-12:00 David Morrell will sign and give away galleys of his forthcoming De Quincey novel, Inspector of the Dead, in the Seaview Rotunda hospitality suite.

1:30-2:30 Ordinary Guys Driven to Extraordinary Lengths with Richard Lange, author of Angel Baby and Sweet Nothing (Regency C). We’ll be giving away free advance copies of Sweet Nothing at Lange’s post-panel signing!

4:30-5:30 A Conversation with Michael Connelly and Sebastian Rotella (Promenade 104BC). Rotella is the author of Triple Crossing and the forthcoming novel, The Convert’s Song.

4:30-5:30 Make Ours Noir: Why We Love the Genre with Duane Swierczynski (Seaview)

4:30-5:30 Screen to Prose with Derek Haas, author of The Right Hand (Regency D)

SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 16

8:30-9:30 Cross-Cultural Crimes with Sebastian Rotella (Seaview)

8:30-9:30 Close Enough for Government Work with Derek Haas (Regency BC)

10-11 Editors & Agents with Mulholland marketing director Pamela Brown (Shoreline)

Start Reading one of October’s Scariest Books: Brood by Chase Novak

Brood by Chase NovakPoor Adam and Alice Twisden. Those twins have been through a lot—the death of their parents, the decimation of their childhood home. Years have passed since the events of Breed, and the twins’ aunt, Cynthia, wants to make things right, starting with the cleanup of the Twisdens’ Manhattan townhouse. Only, as you’ll read in Brood’s opening pages below, cleaning up is a tall order.

PROLOGUE

They were not here to clean up a crime scene. That grisly work had been accomplished two years ago by RestorePro, when the town house on Sixty-Ninth Street was closer to hell’s ninth circle than it was to its former incarnation—a stylish, impeccable, historically correct Upper East Side town house, one of the few left in New York City that had remained in the same family since its construction. Its last owner had been Alex Twisden, who had lived there his entire life, first as a child, then as a playboy, then as a corporate lawyer obsessed with his work, then as a somewhat reclusive bachelor, then as the newly wed husband of a beautiful younger woman named Leslie Kramer, then as the father of twins, and, finally, stemming from the fertility treatments he and Leslie endured in order to procreate, as a kind of beast for which neither science nor folklore has a name.

RestorePro’s workers, decked out in muck boots, respirators, and HAZMAT suits, had swooped in. Of course, the worst
thing about the cleanup was the blood, the hair, the fur, the bones, and the teeth, the parts of bodies for which neither Alex nor Leslie had a taste—they both eschewed ears, and found feet as a rule inedible. But there was a lot more to do than simply remove the evidence showing that for a time the elegant old house had been an abattoir. There was disinfecting to be done. There were odors to be dispelled and others that could only be covered up. There were scratches in the plaster, claw marks deeply grooved into the wooden floors. There were piles of smashed furniture—it looked as if crazed vandals had gotten into the storeroom of Sotheby’s before an antiques auction. Once-precious Blackthorn wallpaper, brought into the house by William Morris himself, hung in long drooping curls. Sconces had been torn from the walls; sofas had become public housing for all manner of rodents. RestorePro’s motto was No One Will Know, but though the workers did their job diligently, and did not stint on labor or time, the house they left behind when they finally got to the end of their contract still bore the ineffable marks of a place where something hideous had happened. You did not have to believe in the spirit world to sense that an aura of misery and doom hung over the place, even after it had been scrubbed clean. Continue reading “Start Reading one of October’s Scariest Books: Brood by Chase Novak”

What Do You Do With A Pile Of Jim Thompson Books?

We sent Rob Hart, the associate publisher of MysteriousPress.com, all 25 of the Jim Thompson paperbacks that we reissued in August. He wrote in to report on what he did with them.

Working in publishing comes with a few perks.

Say, for example, you’re grabbing breakfast with a pal and you profess your love for Jim Thompson. Turns out, that pal masterminded the re-release of a good portion of Thompson’s oeuvre in paperback and eBook.

Then one day you come home from work to find this pile of beauties sitting on your doorstep: Pile of Jim Thompson books

That is a lot of Jim Thompson. And it begs the question: What exactly does one do with such a giant pile of books? Not wanting to miss an opportunity, I came up with a couple of ideas… Continue reading “What Do You Do With A Pile Of Jim Thompson Books?”

Start Reading Confessions by Kanae Minato

Minato_Confessions

Between household chores, Kanae Minato wrote a multi-million-copy international bestseller that’s now being hailed as “the Gone Girl of Japan” (Steph Cha, Los Angeles Times) and praised as an “implacable, relentless” and “stunning” read (Tom Nolan, Wall Street Journal). CONFESSIONS is now available in bookstores and from e-tailers everywhere.

Once you finish your milk, please put the carton back in the box. Make sure you return it to the space with your number on it and then get back to your desk. It looks like everyone is just about done. Since today is the last day of the school year, we will also be marking the end of “Milk Time.” Thanks to all of you for participating. I also heard some of you wondering whether the program would be continuing next year, but I can tell you now that it won’t. This year, we were designated as a model middle school for the Health Ministry’s campaign to promote dairy products. We were asked to have each of you drink a carton of milk every day, and now we’re looking forward to the annual school physicals in April to see whether your height and bone mass come in above the national averages.

Yes, I suppose you could say that we’ve been using you as guinea pigs, and I’m sure this year wasn’t very pleasant for those of you who are lactose intolerant or who simply don’t like milk. But the school was randomly selected for the program, and each classroom was supplied with the daily milk cartons and the box to hold them, with cubbyholes for your carton to identify each of you by seat number; and it’s true that we’ve kept track of who drank the milk and who didn’t. But why should you be making faces now when you were drinking the milk happily enough a few minutes ago? What’s wrong with being asked to drink a little milk every day? You’re about to enter puberty. Your bodies will be growing and changing, and you know drinking milk helps build strong bones. But how many of you actually drink it at home? And the calcium is good for more than just your bones; you need it for the proper development of your nervous system. Low levels of calcium can make you nervous and jumpy.

It’s not just your bodies that are growing and changing. I know what you’ve been up to. I hear the stories. You, Mr. Watanabe, you grew up in a family that owns an electronics shop, and I know you’ve figured out how to remove most of the pixilation on adult videos. You’ve been passing them along to the other boys. You’re growing up. Your minds are changing as quickly as your bodies. I know that wasn’t the best example, but what I mean is, you’re entering what we sometimes call the “rebellious period.” It’s a time when boys and girls tend to be touchy, to be hurt or offended by the least little thing, and when they’re easily influenced by their environment. You’ll begin to imitate everyone and everything around you as you try to figure out who you are. If you’re honest, I suspect many of you will recognize these changes in yourselves already. You’ve just seen a good example: Up until a few moments ago most of you thought of your free milk as a benefit. But now that I’ve told you it was an experiment, your feelings about the milk have suddenly changed. Am I right?

Still, there’s nothing too odd about that—it’s human nature to change your mind, and not just in puberty. In fact, the teachers have been saying that your class is actually a good bit calmer and better behaved than the usual group. Maybe we have the milk to thank for that.

But I have something more important I wanted to tell you today. I wanted you to know that I’ll be retiring at the end of the month. No, I’m not moving to a new school, I’m retiring as a teacher. Which means that you’re the last students I’ll ever teach, and I’ll remember you for as long as I live.

Settle down now. I appreciate your response—especially those of you who actually sound as though you’re sorry to hear I’m leaving—what? Am I resigning because of what happened? Yes, I suppose so, and I’d like to take some time today to talk to you about that. Continue reading “Start Reading Confessions by Kanae Minato”

Don’t Miss “The Gone Girl of Japan”

Minato_Confessions

Kanae Minato, a former home economics teacher, wrote her debut novel, Confessions, between household chores. Now the phenomenal international bestseller is finally available in an English translation.

Think of Confessions as the Gone Girl of Japan
The most delightfully evil book you’ll read this year.”
—Steph Cha, Los Angeles Times

A nasty little masterpiece
. . . Books like Confessions can make you vibrate with happiness.”
—Kevin Nance, Chicago Tribune

Implacable, relentless and stunning
A reader is almost certain to be caught off guard more than once.” —Tom Nolan, The Wall Street Journal

Minato’s intricate plotting and unnervingly understated sentences make the horrors follow each other as logically as pearls on a string.”—Annalisa Quinn, NPR.org

Captivating… the murders grow bloodier and bloodier, the characters more and more twisted.” —Becca Rothfield, The New Republic

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All schoolteacher Yuko Moriguchi had to live for was her four-year-old child, Manami. But after a heartbreaking accident takes Manami’s life, Yuko gives up and tenders her resignation. But first, she has one last lecture to deliver to her students… It’s a story about a death that was anything but accidental, about two students who know more than they admit, and about a teacher who will have her revenge.

Purchase the Book: BN.com | Amazon | Indiebound | Powell’s | iBooks

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Introducing Marnie Logan

Watching You by Michael RobothamThe wait is finally over! From New York Times bestselling author Michael Robotham comes the newest book in his Joseph O’Loughlin series, Watching You. This suspense novel builds tension and raises the stakes with every page—Booklist notes in their starred review that “Robotham slowly, expertly begins tightening the screws…Revelations increase rather than release tension until the last page.” And when you get to that shocking ending? Entertainment Weekly promises, “It’ll keep you guessing and gasping.”

Watching You introduces us to Marnie Logan, a woman in a desperate situation. Michael Robotham explains:

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Eager to dip into the book? You can read the opening chapters on Michael Robotham’s Facebook page.

Richard Montanari and Michael Marshall in Conversation

The Stolen Ones by Richard MontanariToday Mulholland Books has the great pleasure of publishing two chilling, supernatural-tinged thrillers: The Stolen Ones by Richard Montanari and We Are Here by Michael Marshall. While the two novels make for complementary reading, they couldn’t be more different. The Stolen Ones centers on killers who haunt forgotten catacombs and our dreams; We Are Here ventures that some of us really are being followed, but not by anyone we could imagine.

In the exchange that follows, Michael Marshall and Richard Montanari discuss their new novels and question each other about setting, genre, the writing process, and that all-important question for any writer: “How do I start?”

Michael Marshall: What was the genesis moment for The Stolen Ones? The idea that, in retrospect, caused the book to eventually exist? Was it recent—kind of like “This is what the next book’s going to be about”? Or did this book have to wait its turn to be ready to be written?

Richard Montanari: All my books begin with a “what if?” The Stolen Ones began with “What if the dreams of a killer could be implanted in another human being?” I put the idea on a shelf for a while, until I was able to gather together some of the shadowy research that has gone on in this area.  The dream therapies in The Stolen Ones can happen.  Once I was satisfied with that, the story took off.

We Are Here by Michael MarshallWe Are Here moves effortlessly between first and third person. Did you know from the start that John would be a first person character? What are the challenges of writing a novel from alternating points of view?

Marshall: I started using the combination of first and third back with The Straw Men, purely because I thought it might be interesting. I hoped to combine the intimacy of the first person with the broader perspective and freedom of the third person, and I’ve been doing it so long now that to be honest I’ve stopped noticing I’m even doing it — except when it comes to selecting the first person voice for a particular novel.

John was the obvious choice for We Are Here, partly because he’d been the first person voice in a previous novel, Bad Things (though it might have be interesting to switch him to third, precisely because of that), and also because he and Kristina form the backbone of the novel as a whole. The first person needs to be the person inside the book, the mainspring of the story’s action. John’s that guy.

Continue reading “Richard Montanari and Michael Marshall in Conversation”