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In Conversation with Nicholas Mennuti and Alan Glynn

Weaponized by Nicholas Mennuti and David GuggenheimThe wide-ranging conversation below between Nicholas Mennuti, one of the authors of Weaponized, and Alan Glynn, whose novel The Dark Fields was adapted for the film Limitless, covers such topics as globalization, espionage fiction, Cambodia, literary influences, and film influences—a veritable “arterial spray” of allusions (their words, not ours!). You’ll definitely want to make time to dive into this fascinating exchange.

Alan Glynn: Nick, I thoroughly enjoyed reading Weaponized and was struck by several things in it. One is the fact that it is packed—action-packed and packed with ideas, which is pretty unusual, I think, and unlike anything I’ve read in recent memory. The highest compliment I can pay it is to say that the book feels like North by Northwest meets Apocalypse Now. Anyone who reads the book will know immediately what I mean: the Cambodian setting, the existential end-of-American-empire angst, the assuming and trading of identities, the espionage, the cat-and-mousing around, the playfulness, the darkness, the betrayals, the reversals, the fun and the horror (x2). Perhaps those movie references betray my age, because the thing is Weaponized is also bang up-to-date in its concerns. In a way, it’s like a primer on globalization. You leave nothing out: resource wars, pipelines, corporations, big data-driven surveillance, private security firms, the outsourcing land grab, the Chinese, the Russians, and you also debate, or pose questions about, the individual’s place and responsibility in all of this. But despite packing these themes into the novel, you don’t ram them down the reader’s throat—it’s not a didactic or polemical book. Instead, you deflect and entertain with car chases and explosions, with tense checkpoint confrontations and with the occasional spurting artery. I suppose my first question is, how important was this balance for you, and how conscious were you during the writing process of trying to strike it?

Nicholas Mennuti: First off, I’m thrilled you enjoyed the book. Means a ton coming from you. I’ve been “borrowing/inspired” by you for a while. That’s one of those jokes-not jokes.

Your question is kind of a bouillabaisse of interesting things to talk about, so if I get a bit circular I hope that’s okay.

I’m kind of an espionage thriller binger and had come to the conclusion that the model hadn’t really changed in years. You either had the sort of fussy-frilly Le Carré model (that of course started with Greene and Buchan) that Olen Steinhauer, Jeremy Duns, David Ignatius, and Charles Cumming have dragged into the 21st century. Or you get the military-jingoistic version of it with Brad Thor, Andy McNab, Lee Child. And I just felt neither of these styles felt like the right way to deal with the chaos of the 21st century.

The world had changed, but espionage fiction still felt very 1989. All of those authors (many of whom I do like) still seemed locked into talking about a world that has kind of ceased to exist. A unipolar world that one man can save from destruction. So I really wanted to talk about topics/places that I felt were being underserved/underutilized by contemporary espionage fiction. Which of course leads you into privatized spying and the third-world. Now, that’s all analytical, and I probably became more aware of that as I went through writing/editing the book. But this desire to break the paradigm was there all along.

Jack Nicholson in The PassengerBut where Weaponized really started was with my enduring obsession with Antonioni’s The Passenger. Do you know that one? It’s with Jack Nicholson. It’s all about identity switching and existential ennui in the guise of a thriller. Only problem is that it’s Antonioni—who had no interest in making a thriller. So I started thinking: what if you made an actual thriller out of this art-movie?

North by Northwest and Apocalypse Now have been obsessions of mine since I was a teenager, so they’re just part of my creative DNA at this point. I’m sure they’re going to be present in whatever I write. If I were writing a romantic comedy, I’m sure there’d be at least one spy and one third-world setting.

Apocalypse Now in particular fascinated me. It reminded me of Graham Greene’s fiction in that the topography of the novel seemed like the perfect literal manifestation of the lead character’s interior. With Apocalypse, I’ve never been sure whether Vietnam looked that crazy, or if it just looked that crazy to Martin Sheen. And that subjectivity runs through Weaponized. I wanted people to feel Cambodia through Kyle. Just like how you feel Vietnam through Willard. That’s also something you got a lot of mileage out of in Dark Fields (Limitless). Just how subjective/expressionistic can I get with this narrator without pulling this out of genre territory. Would you agree?

And what both North by Northwest and Apocalypse Now have in common is that they’re genre movies of the highest order that managed to pack a ton of subtext into the genre without weighing it down.

I mean I could write a page just on how fascinating it is in North by Northwest that Cary Grant’s middle initial “O” literally stands for NOTHING. It’s zero as a place-holder. Is that why he could be mistaken for Kaplan on a metaphysical level in the first place—there’s no one there to start with. It’s no mistake I think that Hitchcock had him working in advertising.

In terms of what I’ll refer to “ideas balanced with mayhem,” I was definitely conscious of it. I wasn’t interested in writing a deconstructivist thriller, where I hollow out all the genre gambits, and turn it into a formal-polemicist kind of thing. The Europeans do that really well, but I don’t.

I set a rule for myself early on that any ideas, either political or philosophical, have to come out of a character, or be on the action line. For example, if I want to talk about French colonialism, it’s going to be during a chase scene at Robinson’s hotel. Or if I want to talk about Russian oligarchy, it’s going to be in a scene where Kyle’s got to pick up a gun.

I have a lot of love for the genre, particularly when it’s really working, so I wanted (and David Guggenheim was so crucial in helping me getting a frame for it) to make sure the book worked as a thriller first, and then go about layering this other stuff in. That said, even before we had the story I knew I wanted Weaponized to feel like the 21st century: fractured, neon, lonely, and set in a series of geographical non-places. I wanted to write a thriller that didn’t feel embalmed. Continue reading “In Conversation with Nicholas Mennuti and Alan Glynn”

Now On Sale: Weaponized by Nicholas Mennuti with David Guggenheim

Weaponized by Nicholas Mennuti with David GuggenheimThe white-hot suspense novel of the summer is now available on bookshelves around the country: Weaponized by Nicholas Mennuti with David Guggenheim. We’ve shared with you the book’s raves from Publishers Weekly and Kirkus Reviews, but as readers finally pick up their copies of the book, the response is no less effusive. A few of our favorites from Goodreads:

And we have a special treat for those readers who are quickest to pick up and read Weaponized: author Nicholas Mennuti is answering all questions and comments about the book on Goodreads until August 6th. Come join us in this digital book club! We’ll keep an eye out for you.

Amazing Reviews for The Cuckoo’s Calling

 THE CUCKOO’S CALLING, by J.K. Rowling writing as Robert Galbraith, is now landing in bookstores across the country! Fantastic review for Galbraith’s novel have been pouring in so frequently of late, we thought we might gather them together into one handy post for our devoted readers to peruse.

“The master is back!” USA Today declared, proclaiming THE CUCKOO’S CALLING  “one of the books of the year.”  Michicko Kakutani raved about the novel in the New York Times, calling Galbraith’s novel “highly entertaining,” and remarking on its “appealing protagonist and “propulsive suspense,” closing with the prediction that Cormoran Strike and Robin Ellacott “a team whose further adventures the reader cannot help eagerly awaiting.”

Meanwhile, People magazine will give the novel 3.5 out of 4 stars in its July 29th issue, writing that “Rowling switches genres seamlessly” and calling CUCKOO “a gritty, absorbing tale.” Slate compliments Rowling’s ability to create  “an extravagant, alien, fascinating world for its characters to explore,” remarking on the novel’s many “great pleasures.” “I couldn’t stop myself from thoroughly enjoying THE CUCKOO’S CALLING,writes Carole E. Barrowman in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel,” going on to say: “The book’s real magic is in Rowling’s distinctive descriptive prose.”

A new and robust site for THE CUCKOO’S CALLING is now up and running featuring an FAQ section that is both revealing and enlightening in equal measure. Check it out right here!

The Lineup: Links for Weaponized by Nicholas Mennuti with David Guggenheim

Contrasted ConfinementWEAPONIZED by Nicholas Mennuti with David Guggenheim will be published on July 30th and Nick has been all over the internet this week, discussing the latest in the Snowden case and his and Mennuti’s prescient novel.

Nick’s got not one, but two Op-Eds up at The Huffington Post right now–The Thriller and the Mirror, on the eerie life-imitating-art effect at work in thinking about WEAPONIZED in the post-Snowden era and pragmatism vs. idealism in counterintelligence, and Jay-Z and Samsung Are Not the NSA, which argues, well, just that. (Not as straightforward as you might think.)

Elsewhere, on Medium.com, Mennuti espouses on the modern surveillance state. And don’t miss Nick’s interview at RAWIllumination.net, or the great content right here on MulhollandBooks.com. And the announced on Deadline that Mennuti and Guggenheim’s novel has been optioned for the screen by Universal and producer Scott Stuber has been met with quite a bit of buzz–no surprise, given the arresting conceit and Guggenheim’s prior credits as the screenwriter of the #1 box office smash hit Safe House and many other projects.

What do the critics think of WEAPONIZEDPublishers Weekly gave the book a starred review, calling it an “excellent first novel . . . The authors have their fingers on the pulse of contemporary life . . . The rare suspense novel that will genuinely surprise jaded genre readers,” and Kirkus raved of the book: “Applying postmodern polish to the foreign intrigue of Graham Greene and Eric Ambler, WEAPONIZED leaves an imprint with its lively cast of characters, pungent locale and dizzy plotting.”

Nick’s conversation with Atlantic reporter Joshua Foust follows…

Take a Sneak Peek at Lauren Beukes’s Fairest Volume 2

Lauren Beukes is a writer of many talents. You may know her from this site as the author of the brilliant, chilling novel, The Shining Girls. But did you know she also writes comics for Vertigo? Fairest Volume 2: The Hidden Kingdom collects issues 8-14, in which Lauren Beukes tells the tale of Rapunzel. Preview the beautiful spreads below, with the cover by Adam Hughes and art by Inaki Miranda. Fairest Vol. 2 will be available in comics stores on July 24th and in bookstores everywhere July 30th.

Fairest Volume 2

Fairest Issue 8 Page 1

Fairest Issue 8 Page 2

Fairest Issue 8 Page 3

Fairest Issue 8 Page 4

Fairest Issue 8 Page 5

Bonus image! From the issue featuring Rapunzel and Jack in Tokyo:
From Fairest Issue 8

Mulholland Authors at San Diego Comic Con

San Diego Comic ConAre you headed to San Diego for Comic Con this week? So am I! (It’s my first Comic Con, so forgive me for leaning on the exclamation marks in this post.) On my SDCC agenda are panels and signings with three Mulholland authors: Austin Grossman, Duane Swierczynski, and Charlie Huston. I’ll also be making appearances at the Hachette Book Group booth (Booth 1116) to give away limited edition pieces from JJ Abrams and Doug Dorst’s forthcoming book, S. And I may have a few copies of a certain detective novel to give away, but you’ll have to follow @mulhollandbooks for the details on that. Here’s where to find Mulholland at the Con:

Thursday, July 18: 11am-noon
Duane Swierczynski
Author of Fun & Game, Hell & Gone, and Point & Shoot
Signing at the Hachette Book Group Booth (#1116)

Thursday, July 18: 1:45-2:45
Ode to Nerds Panel
Everyone knows that published science fiction authors reign on the Geek Heirarchy charts because the Internet tells us so! (See, The Brunching Shuttlcocks.) Join us on this epic panel as the genre’s top names in publishing celebrate all things geeky and nerdy with Charlie Jane Anders of io9.com! Geek out with Charlie Jane and Cory Doctorow (The Rapture of the Nerds), Chuck Palahniuk (Doomed), Patrick Rothfuss (The Name of the Wind), Austin Grossman (You), DC Pierson (Crap Kingdom) and Robyn Schneider (The Beginning of Everything).
Room 6A

Thursday, July 18: 3:15-4:15
Ode to Nerds Panel signing
Room AA09

Thursday, July 18: 4-5pm
Keep ‘Em at the Edge of Their Seats Panel
The gory, gruesome, and paranoia-inducing elements in these novels will take readers on a jet-fueled ride to the dark side. These writers spare no expense to make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up with stories that will surprise you at every turn. Their protagonists solve crimes, kick ass, and don’t let anyone—or anything—stand in their way.  Thrill to the discussion with James Rollins (Eye of God), Duane Swierczynski (Point & Shoot), Stephen Blackmoore (Dead Things), Charlie Huston (Skinner), Jeffrey J. Mariotte (Season of the Wolf) and Roger Hobbs (Ghostman), led by David Mariotte of Mysterious Galaxy.
Room 25ABC

Thursday, July 18: 5:30-6:30pm
Keep ‘Em at the Edge of Their Seats Panel signing
Room AA09

Friday, July 19: 12:30-1:30pm
The Pole with Soul: Spotlight on Duane Swierczynski
Comic-Con special guest Duane Swierczynski writes violent, bloody, pulpy comics (Judge Dredd, X, Bloodshot) and violent, bloody, pulpy novels (Fun & Games, Point & Shoot, Severance Package). But deep down inside, he’s a sweetheart. Which is why he’s inviting you to hang out with him for a special afternoon of prizes! Surprise guests! A soul-searching Q&A! And a hug. Okay, maybe not a hug.
Room 8

Friday, July 19: 1:30-2:30
Austin Grossman
Author of You
Signing at the Hachette Book Group Booth (#1116)

Friday, July 19: 3-4pm
Charlie Huston
Author of Skinner
Signing at the Hachette Book Group Booth (#1116)

Friday, July 19: 6:45-7:45pm
Science Fiction that Will Change Your Life Panel
What science fiction stories from the past year made you think, as well as entertaining you? Panelists talk about the year’s smartest books, comics, movies, and TV with io9 staffers Annalee Newitz, Charlie Jane Anders, Meredith Woerner, and Lauren Davis, joined by Javier Grillo-Marxuach (Middleman), Marc Bernardin (Alphas), Austin Grossman (You), Phil Plait (Bad Astronomy), and Jose Molina (Vampire Diaries, Sleepy Hollow).
Room 5AB

In Conversation with George Pelecanos and Richard Lange

It’s a rare pleasure to be a fly on the wall during a conversation between Richard Lange and George Pelecanos, two crime fiction masters. Below is our transcript of their exchange, which ranges widely and rivetingly across such subjects as empathy, prisons, the writing process, and why vets make ideal detectives.

Angel Baby by Richard Lange is available now as a hardcover, eBook, and downloadable audiobook. The Double by George Pelecanos will be available as hardcover, large print book, eBook, and audiobook on October 8th.

Richard Lange: First off, let me say that I’m a huge fan of your work from way back, and it’s a real honor to engage in this kind of dialogue with one of my heroes. I especially want to thank you for all you did to spread the word about Dead Boys, my first book. I can’t tell you how many people have told me that they read it because you mentioned it somewhere or recommended it to them. I’m forever in your debt for that.

Now, to the questions. I’ve tried to keep them brief and pertinent but haven’t always succeeded.

The Double by George PelecanosThe Double is the second book featuring Spero Lucas. Why did you choose to start another series, and what are the major differences between this one and your earlier series? Were you looking to explore new kinds of stories and characters in this one?

George Pelecanos: I never plan on a series. When I finished writing The Cut I felt like there was more to explore with the character of Spero Lucas, so I went after it.  Some of the things I only hinted at in the first book come to the forefront in The Double.  Lucas’s war experience in the Middle East has impacted him deeply, and the darker aspects of his psyche have bubbled up to the surface. It’s a harder, more violent, and more sexually explicit book than The Cut.  Also, I liked writing about a young, physical guy who has a young man’s appetites.  I’d been writing about middle-aged guys for awhile, and switching up helped me cut loose.  The Lucas books have a certain kind of drive and energy.

Richard, you made a positive reputation early on with your short story collection, Dead Boys, which you know I enjoyed a great deal. When I read Chapter 6 of your new novel, Angel Baby, I was struck by how complete and polished it was. Detailing the prison life of Jerónimo Cruz, it stands on it own. Is it accurate to say that you craft each chapter in one of your novels with the care and precision that you would in one of your short stories? And which form of fiction do you prefer, both as a reader and writer?

Angel Baby by Richard LangeLange: Maybe because I started as a short-story writer, the individual chapters of the novels sometimes have a self-contained feel to them. They’re almost slices of the characters’ lives. It’s at odds with the narrative demands of the plot, I suppose, but it’s the way I tell my stories, through discrete scenes. I’m a slow, careful writer, even in first drafts, and I spend a lot of time chipping away at things in order to get them to my liking. As you know, what looks simplest is often most difficult to achieve.
As far as what I prefer, short stories or novels, as a reader, I love both equally. When it comes to my own work, stories is where I feel most comfortable, but I’m learning to love the expansiveness of writing novels—which is good, because you can’t make a living writing short stories. Continue reading “In Conversation with George Pelecanos and Richard Lange”

The Lineup: Links for Charlie Huston’s Skinner

Contrasted ConfinementCharlie Huston‘s magnum opus SKINNER hits bookstores today, and we’ve known here for a while Huston’s first book with the imprint was going to be a game-changer. First there was the amazing trade coverage: Booklist gave SKINNER a fabulous starred review, saying, “This tour de force features two of the most interesting characters we’ve seen in years….Add Huston…to the A-list.”  Publishers Weekly raved of SKINNER, in an amazing starred, boxed review, “Stunningly original characters, wildly surprising twists, and an ending that’s both unexpected and moving make this an extraordinary genre stand-alone.”

Then came the Summer Reading Picks, in papers such as the Los Angeles TimesPlayboy, which wrote of the novel “Charlie Huston writes crime fiction for a new century but does so in the tradition of the masters;” and The Tampa Bay Examiner, which picked  SKINNER as one of its Top Five “Must-Reads” for Summer 2013, saying, “SKINNER could easily be credible as pages ripped from the latest newspaper headlines….This book will leave you breathless.”

Now, in the Age of Snowden, with books just hitting shelves, Huston is being profiled in some of the nation’s top papers. The Wall Street Journal runs a great feature on Huston, calling SKINNER “a thriller for the Edward Snowden Summer,” and praising Huston saying, “Mr. Huston is renowned for making the fantastic believable, whether he’s writing about New York City neighborhoods controlled by gangs of vampires, the zombies who populate his 2010 novel, Sleepless—or an off-the-rails intelligence operative who was raised inside a Skinner box.” The Los Angeles Times has also run a feature on Huston, praising SKINNER as “of the moment….While SKINNER has its share of bone-crunching fight scenes, Huston channeled…anger into a book with a highly complex picture of how people live at opposite ends of the economic spectrum.”

Trailer follows–now go pick it up at your favorite bookstore or preferred e-tailer! For more on SKINNER and Huston, check out CharlieHuston.com, and check back here for more great content as the week continues.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Other Retailers

Rachel Knight’s LA: Killer Ambition Edition

Killer Ambition, the third novel in Marcia Clark’s Rachel Knight series, is just on sale. Celebrate with a tour of District Attorney Rachel Knight’s Los Angeles, as depicted in the thriller that the Hartford Books Examiner raves is “both a criminally entertaining read and an intimately informed exposé of celebrity and crime.”

God's Seat
God’s Seat: The towering rock formation that looks down upon Malibu provides a startling backdrop for the prologue of Killer Ambition. A legendary symbol of Los Angeles, it received its moniker because of its throne-like shape.

Teddy's
Teddy’s: The hotspot club frequented by the Hayley, the missing daughter of a famous Hollywood director, and Mackenzie, her best friend. Teddy’s is located in the Hollywood Roosevelt Club and is filled with “long sparkling earrings and sequined minidresses on spray-tanned body beautifuls.” A famous celebrity haunt, Teddy’s is notoriously selective about its clientele. Once inside, it is a showcase for L.A. style and glamour.

Russell's Party House
Russell’s Party House: Her father’s hidden enclave in the Hollywood Hills was one of Hayley’s favorite hangs. “A low-slung Spanish-style with tilted roof and arched wooden door,” the house was her last known whereabouts.

Continue reading “Rachel Knight’s LA: Killer Ambition Edition”

Start Reading Marcia Clark’s Killer Ambition

Marcia Clark’s third Rachel Knight novel KILLER AMBITION is now on sale in bookstores everywhere! Read on for an excerpt in the novel which the Hartford Books Examiner calls “the best entry yet in a young but exceptionally strong series”  and which caused Booklist to declare, in a starred review:”Legal thrillers don’t get much better than this.”

2

Bailey got off the 405 freeway and headed east on Sunset Boulevard. I was about to ask where we were going when she turned onto Bellagio Road—which led to the heart of Bel Air. If I were a billionaire director I’d live there too.

Bel Air is in the foothills of the Santa Monica Mountains, and it’s the highest of the three legs known as the Platinum Triangle—the other two being Beverly Hills and Holmby Hills. The most expensive homes in the world occupy real estate in that wedge of land, and most of those homes are in Bel Air. The biggest and most lavish are usually closest to Sunset Boulevard, but you’d never know that, because massive trees and dense shrubbery hide all but the gated entries, and even those gates are tough to find, hidden as some are by deliberately overgrown leafy climbers.

Which explains why Bailey was frowning and muttering to herself as she scanned the road for house numbers. But when we reached Bel Air Country Club, she made a U-turn and pulled over. “Do me a favor and look for this number. The navigation says we’re there, but I don’t see a damn thing.” She handed me a scrap of paper with an address and headed back down the road. One minute later I told her to stop and peered closely at a set of massive black iron gates that were almost completely obscured by towering elm and cypress trees. The tops of the gates met in an arc, and there in the apex, woven into the iron scrollwork, was the number.

“This is it.” If I hadn’t been parked in front of it and looking hard, I’d never have seen it.

I pointed out a discreet black metal box mounted on an arm in the brick wall and Bailey pushed the button. A voice that sounded like a British butler’s said, “Yes?” Bailey identified us, and he told us to hold out our badges. I couldn’t see any cameras, but I didn’t imagine he’d have asked us to do that just for giggles, so I held them outside the window, not sure where to aim them. After a couple of seconds the gates swung open, and Bailey steered up the brick-lined road.

Los Angeles has some of the most outrageously opulent manses in the country and Bailey and I had seen our share over the years, but nothing compared to this. The road opened to a bricked-in area that was the size of half a football field, in the middle of which was a massive Italian Renaissance–style fountain, complete with cherubs’ and lions’ heads that spewed water. Towering over the grounds was a palatial two-story Tudor-style house all in that same matching brick. It was tastefully covered in ivy that obediently climbed where it best accented the archways and latticed windows and formed a large L around the perimeter of the front area. Judging just by what I could see from the outside, that “house” was at least thirty-five thousand square feet if it was an inch.

Bailey parked and we both stepped out of the car and took in the view.

“Damn,” said Bailey under her breath.

“A quaint little ‘starter.’”

By the time we’d made it up to the arched brick entry, the door was open and a slender man in his fifties, with thinning hair combed neatly back and dressed in a cardigan and dark slacks, beckoned us in.

“Right this way, please.” Continue reading “Start Reading Marcia Clark’s Killer Ambition”