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The Fact and the Fiction: Jim Thompson Trivia

Mulholland Books is pleased to announce the publication of Jim Thompson’s THE KILLER INSIDE ME, THE GRIFTERS, A SWELL-LOOKING BABE, THE NOTHING MAN, and AFTER DARK, MY SWEET, available as e-books for the first time.

Jim Thompson’s sometimes charmed, sometimes troubled life has been the subject of much debate–just like in his fiction, which often found inspiration from real-life experiences, it’s sometimes hard to separate the cold, hard facts ofThompson’s life from pure fantasy. Below are a few tidbits from the life of Jim Thompson you may or may not know. Rememeber: if you’ve never read a Thompson novel, it’s now easier to get started than ever before!

Jim Thompson wrote nearly half of the The Killer Inside Me, his most recognizable work, in just two weeks, after a fateful meeting at the Empire State Building offices of Lion Books, where the idea of a cop who covers up the murder of a prostitute
was first introduced to him. He then left New York City for the Quantico Marine Corps Base in Virginia where he finished the first draft of the novel in another two-week surge.

When Thompson was courting his future wife Alberta, he used to tease her by claiming he was born in jail. The boast was half true—he was actually born one floor above the cell block of the Caddo County Jail, in the apartment his family lived in while his father was deputy sheriff of the county.ere his sister Maxine lived with her family, where he finished the first draft of the novel in another two-week surge.

Many have speculated at the psychological roots of Thompson’s focus on crime and criminality in his writing; some have suggested it might have had something to do with Jim Thompson’s father, with whom the author had a famously fractious relationship. His editor at Lion Books,
Arnold Hano, has been quoted as follows: “Regarding all the
violence [in Thompson’s novels], I suspect his I suspect his relationship with his father is much more of a causal factor than anything else. The anger, the quiet murdering, was Jim getting back somehow.”

Late in life, Jim Thompson enjoyed a brief creative partnership with Stanley Kubrick, who had read Thompson’s work and considered him a singular talent. The two went on to collaborate on two of Kubrick’s earliest notable films, The Killing and Paths of Glory. But their friendship ended over a bitter dispute over Thompson’s writing credits on the two films.

Thompson’s most famous creation, the local sheriff, serial-killer-in-disguise Lou Ford, appears in slightly different form in one other Jim Thompson novel, Wild Town, in a series of events that predates those of The Killer Inside Me. But
Thompson wrote Lou Ford into another completed manuscript as well, which would become the novel The   Transgressors. The novel, written during the late stages of Thompson’s career, would have featured Lou Ford as a protagonist, but Thompson decided against it at the last minute for reasons having to do with the motion picture rights to The Killer Inside Me. Instead of a significant rewrite, Thompson simply renamed the Ford the phonetically-similar moniker Tom Lord.

In addition to his many novels, Thompson wrote two autobiography-as-tall-tales, Roughneck and Bad Boy that shed light a darkly comic light on his unusual upbringing and wild early years.Before becoming a full-time novelist, Thompson was variously employed as a hotel bellboy, an oil field laborer, a factory worker and a freelance journalist.

Up to his death, Jim Thompson was certain he’d be revered as an acclaimed author—on his deathbed in 1977, he told his wife he’d be famous in a decade’s time. He was right—give or take a few years.

Jim Thompson was born in Anadarko, Oklahoma. He began writing fiction at a very young age, selling his first story to True Detective when he was only fourteen. Thompson eventually wrote twenty-nine novels, all but three of which were published as paperback originals. Thompson also co-wrote two screenplays (for the Stanley Kubrick films The Killing and Paths of Glory). Several of his novels have been filmed by American and French directors, resulting in classic noir including The Killer Inside Me (1952), The Getaway (1972), and The Grifters(1990).

Over the next year, Mulholland Books will be publishing Jim Thompson’s entire body of work in e-book format for the first time. Look for the next batch next month.

The Crime Fiction Academy

Lately I’ve been thinking about coincidence. You know, you forget your keys, go back home and it cuts three minutes off your morning commute, the one where there’s a five-car pile-up that you would have been in had you been on time. Morbid? Hey, it’s my stock and trade. I write mysteries, thrillers really, where timing is everything and despite the fact that my cop characters will tell you there is no such thing as coincidence I’m not so sure.

Like meeting Noreen Tomassi, the director of the Center for Fiction, founded in 1820 as the Mercantile Library, and finding out that Edgar Allen Poe wrote at one of the their desks reserved for writers in the 19th century, and now Noreen is creating the first Crime Fiction Academy at the same organization. Call me superstitious or mad (like Poe’s Tell-Tale Heart protagonist continually denies), but I can’t help thinking there’s something going on here, inside the walls or under the floorboards, the ghost of Poe kicking up a little dust or throwing back a glass of absinthe in honor of this first-class ‘criminal’ venture in one Manhattan’s most impressive literary venues.

I have another feeling too, that a few years from now people will be talking it, the crime writing school started at the center, That amazing place right in midtown Manhattan, where what’s-his-name and what’s-her-name studied with Lee Child and Linda Fairstein and Laura Lippman and a whole host of other brave and generous crime writers, who knew a good thing when they saw it, and just look at that so-called newbie writer now, number one on the NY Times bestseller list, breaking Amazon records with that nascent novel he or she just knew they had inside them when they signed up at Crime Fiction Academy.

I can just see this new generation of crime writers’ acknowledgment pages, all those special thanksto Thomas H. Cook and SJ Rozan for guidance, Megan Abbott and Lawrence Block for inspiration, and everyone thanking Noreen Tomassi for her vision and creation.

So what is Crime Fiction Academy?

It’s the first ongoing, rigorous program exclusively dedicated to crime writing in all its forms.

And what will it be like?

Here it is, what the Crime Fiction Academy’s challenging and thoroughly engaging curriculum will include:

  • a 14-week writing workshop
  • a monthly Master Class
  • a crime fiction reading seminar
  • special lectures and discussions with editors, agents and distinguished persons from the world of crime fiction and publishing
  • 24-hour access to the Center for Fiction’s Writers Studio
  • Use of the extensive circulating collection (the Center for Fiction recently won a Raven Award for their amazing in-depth crime fiction collection)
  • Free admission to all Center for Fiction events.

 

Impressive? You bet. Seems to me it’s what every potential writer of crime fiction has been waiting for—an opportunity to shape that novel you’ve been thinking about, working on, but just couldn’t finish, a chance to hone your writing skills with successfully published crime fiction authors like Megan Abbott, Lawrence Block, Lee Child, Thomas H. Cook, Linda Fairstein, Susan Isaacs, Dennis Lehane, Laura Lippman, Joyce Carol Oates, SJ Rozan, Karin Slaughter and more signing on every day.

But let’s get back to coincidence for just a minute.

Suppose you forgot your keys this morning, got locked out of your apartment, did not get back home till late and then, too tired to check out the Mulholland website, fell into bed and missed this post about the new Crime Fiction Academy. And that novel, the one you’ve been talking about forever, the one you need help finishing, just continued to linger in the back of your mind, unwritten.

Or, suppose you went to the Mulholland website today, like every day, to read one of the amazing pieces that appear daily by so many terrific writers and you came upon this post about Crime Fiction Academy, went to the website, applied, ended up in class taught by SJ Rozan or Tom Cook, sat at Lee Child’s feet while he gave his Master Class talk, “Tell don’t show: why writing rules are mostly wrong,” finished that novel, which went straight to number one, won the Edgar Award for Best First Novel, had Clint Eastwood and Martin Scorsese vying for the film rights.

Hey, it happens.

How to make it possible?

Visit the website www.centerforfiction.org/crimefiction, which will tell you how to apply. But don’t wait. There are a limited number of spaces. And from what I hear, Poe is dusting his off.

JONATHAN SANTLOFER is the author of 5 novels, THE DEATH ARTIST, COLOR BLIND, THE KILLING ART, ANATOMY OF FEAR, and THE MURDER NOTEBOOK. He is the recipient of a Nero Wolfe Award for best crime fiction novel of 2008, two National Endowment for the Arts grants, and has been a Visiting Artist at the American Academy In Rome, the Vermont Studio Center and serves on the board of Yaddo, the oldest arts community in the U.S. He is co-editor, contributor and illustrator of the anthology, THE DARK END OF THE STREET, and his short stories appear in such collections as The Best of the Mystery Writers of America, and the 2010 International Crime Writers Anthology, among others. Also a well known artist, his work is in such collections as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Art Institute of Chicago, and Tokyo’s Institute of Contemporary Art.

Disappearing Women

Hands from a centenarianThis essay originally appeared on Murderati and is reprinted here with the kind permission of Tess Gerritsen.

Now that I’m in my fifties, I’m noticing more and more what generations of women have complained about: that right around this age, we start to disappear in the eyes of the world.  As we grow gray we become invisible, dismissed and ignored.  No wonder there’s a spike in suicides as women pass the frightening threshold of fifty. Invisibility happens to us all, whether we were once fashion models, prom queens, or hot actresses.  (With the possible exception of Betty White.)  When we lose the dewy glow of reproductive fitness, suddenly society thinks we are no longer worth the attention.  Yet men in their fifties still get plenty of attention, both in real life and in the movies.  Harrison Ford, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sean Connery, were alll playing sexy action heroes in their fifties.  Silver-haired men, at their peak of political or financial power, are considered hot catches and Hollywood producers don’t bat an eye at the thought of casting a 50-year-old film hero with a 30-year-old heroine.  But a celluloid romance between a young man and an older woman?  Well, that’s got to be an outrageous comedy, right?  A story that no one would really believe, like Harold and Maude. Because while fiftyish men can be sexy as hell, a fiftyish woman is just, well, somebody’s boring mother.

Life is so unfair. Continue reading “Disappearing Women”

A Conversation with Denise Mina and Kate Atkinson

As Denise Mina hits the US for her THE END OF THE WASP SEASON, she was interviewed by Kate Atkinson (CASE HISTORIES and STARTED EARLY, TOOK MY DOG) on genre, character and the best place to write.

Kate Atkinson:  Do you have a lot of books planned ahead?  Does it worry you that you’ll die before you write them all.  (My own paranoia is on display here, obviously.)

Denise Mina:  My books tend to unfold as I write them and start with a very nebulous idea. I know some writers have notepads full of ideas they’re waiting to get around to. I used to keep a note pad and found it recently and it was full of dreamlike nonsense. One memorable entry– ‘King and Queen of Moon’ – what the hell is that?

For me the best books to write, if not to read, are small ideas that snowball out of nothing much at all.

I still have two Paddy Meehan books to write but I’m glad they’re not done now. If I’d written them before the Murdoch scandal I’d have missed out so much juicy stuff.

I’ve never had much of a horror of death. I’m so busy now that whenever I think about dying I comfort myself with the knowledge that at least I’ll get to sit down for half an hour.

Kate Atkinson:  Your characters are very well-rounded, not ciphers as in some novels (crime and otherwise).  Do you become attached to them or are you aware you’re using them as fictional devices? 

Denise Mina:  I get very attached to them. When Facebook first started and I was looking up/stalking old friends, I actually typed in half of Maureen O’Donnell’s name before I remembered that she wasn’t real. I usually base my heroes on admirable aspects of people I know, so maybe that makes them seem more real to me. They never feel like ciphers to me, especially not by the time I’ve finished a book. Then they usually feel like someone I like but I’ve been spending far too much time wit

Kate Atkinson:  You haven’t always been a writer and could, I suspect, have succeeded in many different fields.  If you could have completely free rein what path would you have chosen?

Denise Mina:  Nah, I was unsuccessful at everything else. I’m not being modest, I really was because I have a bit of a problem with authority and was prone to getting sacked for being mouthy. Maybe it served me well: I have a friend who wants to write but she has the misfortune of being good at all her until-I’m-a-writer jobs, so she keeps getting promoted.

With completely free rein and writing not being an option: I would have a talent for art and become a sculptor. But then I’d probably need a talent for self-promotion as well.

Kate Atkinson:  Do you wish you could write more?  Or less? 

Denise Mina:  Much, much more and all different stuff. At the moment I write for magazines and newspapers, I write plays and poems and comics and novels and short stories. I find all these different outlets invigorating and inspirational. For me there’s no greater inspiration than an impending deadline.

The hardest thing about writing for me is the first draft, making the clay. Shaping it is the re-writes and that’s just fun, but forgiving myself the roughness of a first draft is very hard, and a deadline makes me do it.

Continue reading “A Conversation with Denise Mina and Kate Atkinson”

Two Editors and an Author: A Conversation with Jonathan Galassi, John Schoenfelder and Matthew F. Jones

To mark the publication of our first Mulholland Classic, A SINGLE SHOT by Matthew F. Jones, we connected Jones with his original editor for the book, Jonathan Galassi of Farrar, Strauss and Giroux and John Schoenfelder, the editor of the Mulholland Books re-publication, for a lively conversation about influences, editorial vision and the future.

John Schoenfelder: Matthew, in discussing A SINGLE SHOT previously between the two of us, we’ve touched on a lot of topics. The way the novel seems very much of a kind with the work of Cormac McCarthy and Daniel Woodrell. The fact that A SINGLE SHOT seems a good literary companion to films like The Deer Hunter and At Close Range. How did the book begin for you and what were your actual influences?

Matthew F. Jones: A SINGLE SHOT was borne from a single image: that of a man, in the pre-dawn light, walking up a wooded mountainside carrying a twelve-gauge shotgun loaded with deer slugs. The mountainside was the one I grew up at the base of in rural upstate New York; the woods were woods as a kid I had been as familiar with as John Moon is in A SINGLE SHOT. Only when that image appeared to me did I realize I already had an idea of who the man carrying the gun was and of the things weighing on him as he hiked up that hill. And I realized that I cared a great deal for the man, recognizing in him traits I had admired in a number of men I grew up around; hard men, with good souls, who, more than in whatever constructed homes they slept in at night, lived in the outdoors; men I’d worked on farms and in the fields with; men who in many ways lived off the land; men who to me seemed able to do or fix about anything with their hands but who seemed somehow not quite able to fit into the more modernized world away from the farms and woods most of their lives were spent working on or roaming in.

The Other End (B&W)I had no idea what would come from that initial scene; or what would happen to John in the ensuing days; but I had an almost overwhelming curiosity to follow him and find out. And from the first sentence of the book that’s what I set out to do, to go with John wherever he led me, even at times into places and situations I might have preferred not to have gone. More than anything it was that curiosity, that powerful want to know John Moon and the story that would most define him, that compelled me in the writing of the novel.

John Schoenfelder: Jonathan, when you first encountered A SINGLE SHOT on submission in the mid-nineties, Cormac McCarthy was just beginning to break onto the national scene, and the whole concept of “country noir” typified by the work Daniel Woodrell, Tom Franklin, William Gay and Ron Rash hadn’t quite come together the way it has today.  What was your first impression of A SINGLE SHOT?

Jonathan Galassi: My impression was based on the authenticity of Matt’s voice. There was a directness , a roughness, even, to it, that struck me as totally authentic. I spent a lot of time in upstate New York earlier in my life (I don’t mean Westchester) and I recognized something in his world, the people he portrayed, the parameters of their lives. Upper New York State is very western in its feeling, it’s real country as in country music. I had read early McCarthy (Blood Meridian) but in my view his work is nothing like Matt’s—it’s highly estheticized, artificial even. That’s not true of Jones. The closest sound to Matt I’d had experience of was Denis Johnson’s  in Jesus’ Son, but his voice too is more poetic than Matt’s in the sense of being magically distilled. Matt’s feels more unstudiedly urgent, immediately desperate. It was utterly sincere and beautiful. I believed every word of it.

John Schoenfelder: Matthew, Jonathan, obviously it’s been awhile.  Can either of you recall any highlights regarding the discussion of the manuscript?

STW Window & StacksMatthew F. Jones: Shortly after FSG bought A SINGLE SHOT I had lunch with Jonathan in NY. Even though I’d published two novels prior to then I still felt pretty much disconnected from the publishing world. I hadn’t gone to school to be a writer so didn’t have those sorts of connections and in the world I was living in I had very few, if any, writer acquaintances. So I was a little intimidated to meet Jonathan, given his stellar reputation and the number of authors I admired who he had worked with in the past or was currently working with. That faded pretty quickly though once we started talking on the subject that had brought us together – books. I soon discovered what a knowledgeable, generous and down to earth guy Jonathan is. Other than him saying a few things about how much he admired it I don’t recall at that first meeting that we talked much about A SINGLE SHOT. I suspect part of the reason for that was Jonathan had intuited I wasn’t at that time all that comfortable discussing my own work. But we talked a lot about other novels – if memory serves, included among them were The Orchard Keeper – I believe I cared for it more than Jonathan did, Angels, which we both loved, and a pretty obscure but strong novel I was reading at the time (the name escapes me now) by the Australian author Rodney Hall which I was pretty amazed Jonathan had also read.

Later of course we discussed A SINGLE SHOT in depth and did all the editing things, but it was that first conversation that gave me trust in Jonathan and complete confidence that my novel was in great editorial hands. Jonathan, as an editor, I think respected my knowledge of the world I was writing about and that I write very much from instinct and feel and he didn’t try in any way to change or interfere with that, only to help hone it. Nor did he suggest any major edits to the book. He concentrated on helping me get right the sorts of details and smaller things in the book that in accumulation helped make it a stronger book than it otherwise would have been. And for that, and for the sort of attention Jonathan’s unmatched reputation for knowing great books helped bring to it, I was, and am forever, grateful to him.

Jonathan Galassi: So kind! 🙂 When you meet Matt in person, as on paper, you know that his work is utterly authentic. That’s what makes his book so powerful and believable—frightening, too (but he’s not, he’s a real sweetheart).

I’m very curious as to what you’ve been up to recently, Matt. What are you working on?

Matthew F.  Jones: Like most novelists I suspect (but for the ones who’ve hit the publishing lottery or the actual lottery) I write novels in between cobbling together enough other writing related work to make a living; for me that’s been mostly sporadic teaching gigs and more prominently in the last few years screen writing.   The adaptation I did of A SINGLE SHOT has led to my being offered a few other screen writing jobs.  That work has been welcome both financially and as an occasional creative change of pace from the more psychically assaultive work of novel writing.   I say that having just recently completed a new novel I’m quite excited about, though it’s a far different one than the one I set out to write; though set where A SINGLE SHOT is set, in upstate New York, it’s a more expansive story with a wider panoply of characters. And now, as I’m working on a second draft of an original script I recently sold an option on, I’m already thinking about the next novel.

Jonathan, in your capacity as president and publisher of FSG, do you still have the opportunity to work individually with novelists?  And, given the market pressures in the publishing industry from the ever increasing competition to book publishing, do you feel as unencumbered as you once might have to pursue, publish – and nurture – unique literary voices?

Jonathan Galassi: Yes, I’m still working with novelists, poets, essayists—it’s what makes this job fun—and discovering new talents is what’s it’s most deeply about for me—for all editors, really. I am concerned about how we’re going to draw attention to new writers in our changing bookselling/reviewing landscape—but it will happen.  As one of my favorite
authors recently said to me, books will be written, and people will want to read them. It’s how the two connect that are changing.

Jonathan Galassi is the President and Publisher of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

John Schoenfelder is the Senior Editor at Mulholland Books.

Matthew F. Jones is the author of the critically acclaimed novels A Single ShotBoot Tracks, Deepwater, The Elements of Hitting, Blind Pursuit and The Cooter Farm.

A Conversation with George Pelecanos: Part II

Part II of the conversation with George Pelecanos celebrating the publication of THE CUT, which the Chicago Sun Times recommends, “Soak it up.” The Washington Post praises Pelecanos’s ability to “maintain a remarkably high level of intelligence and style” and the Los Angeles Times appreciates that “Pelecanos has made Washington his literary stomping grounds, and he gets granular in THE CUT…as clear as if he’d drawn you a map.” If you missed Part I, start reading here.

WALLACE STROBY: I think, for a certain generation of writers, a lot of our work has been influenced by films we saw during our formative years in the 1970s. What are your five favorite crime films of the ‘70s, and why?

GEORGE PELECANOS: THE FRENCH CONNECTION (1971). Not just a film wrapped around a car chase, but an evocative time capsule of ‘70s New York, and an unflinching look at an obsessive cop.  Like the up-on-coke sequence of GOODFELLAS, Friedkin’s kinetic style puts us directly into the fevered mind of Popeye Doyle.  And there’s that chase.

THE GETAWAY (1972). Peckinpah directs the Walter Hill adaptation of Jim Thompson’s novel with signature style. Steve McQueen is believable as a tough guy who just got out of prison and wants his due.  With a flawless supporting cast and a bang-up climax involving shotguns, an old hotel, gunmen arriving in a big convertible, and Al Lettieri, the screen’s greatest vulgarian. I know all about Thompson’s ending versus Peckinpah’s, but no one should bitch about the film’s last scene; it’s damn near perfect.

ROLLING THUNDER (1977). Vietnam vet William Devane returns home to a world he no longer understands and gets his hand shoved down a garbage disposal by home invaders. Devane sharpens the hook on the end of his arm, cuts down a shotgun, and goes to work. John Flynn, directing from a Paul Schrader script, crafts a slow-building actioner and elicits ace performances from all concerned, most notably blaxploitation veteran Linda Haynes, Luke Askew as Automatic Slim, and Tommy Lee Jones as Devane’s damaged, loyal war buddy. Watch Devane and Jones blow the shit out of their enemies in a whorehouse at the film’s climax. “I’ll just get my gear.”

CHARLEY VARRICK (1973).  Don Siegel’s thief-unwittingly-steals-from-the-mob movie is first-rate entertainment featuring the director’s crackerjack stock troupe of character actors.  Walter Matthau plays the title role with understated cool, and Joe Don Baker is memorable as a killer named Molly. I proudly own a T-shirt that reads, “The Last of the Independents.”  It’s written on Charley’s flight suit, which figures prominently in the film’s last shot.

DIRTY HARRY (1971).  Siegel again, directing Eastwood. Yeah, it was popular, but there was a reason it hit a public nerve. A studio film with this kind of lead character was truly anarchic and would never be greenlit today. Pauline Kael trashed it, which made me want to see it twice.  She hated STRAW DOGS, too.

Continue reading “A Conversation with George Pelecanos: Part II”

Dia De Los Muertos

Tijuana ArchKent Harrington’s essay–concerning the history of Tijuana Mexico–  first appeared as a forward to the paperback edition of his well known border novel Dia De Los Muertos set in Tijuana.

It’s unlikely we’ll ever meet; unfortunately, that’s the way it is between the novelist and his readers. We do have a marvelous and profound connection, though, however distant. You might be reading this even a hundred years from now, but we’ll connect on these pages for a moment, and time and place won’t really matter. I like to think of all the places I’ll travel in spirit, if not in the flesh. I first passed through Tijuana Mexico in the late 1960s, as a child of seven. I was traveling by car with my mother’s Guatemalan family — an aunt and two uncles –on our way to Central America. That morning, it seemed to me a sleepy town. The Tijuana I saw as a child had come, by the 1960s, to personify (for Americans) not only a corrupt and Godless Mexico, but a corrupt Latin America. No small feat for a down at-the-heels border town. The city’s blighted reputation was based on the fact that it was where Californians went to indulge themselves in ways they couldn’t back home, at least not legally. Both gambling and prostitution were legal enterprises in the city, and prostitution still is, for all practical purposes. (Remember, this started before Las Vegas.) Illicit sex, I think, was the real meat of Tijuana’s mythology. The legendary sex shows were probably apocryphal. Real or not, they existed in the salivating imagination of sexually repressed American males in the pre-Playboy world. Where did the Latin Lover idea spring from? Was it that Catholics were viewed as more licentious? Why not a German lover? But for a lot of young American men in pre-World War Two California, the word was out: Sodom and Gomorrah existed, buddy, and you could drive there. It turns out that all this weekend sin was on offer to these bright-eyed, well-scrubbed boys and girls by– lo and behold– their fellow Americans! “The Jockey Club, Tivoli Bar, the Foreign Club, the Sunset Inn and Agua Caliente Casino were all owned by Anglo-Americans and employed mostly American workers.” In fact, the Yankees had arrived as early as 1885, and stayed to control the tourist industry until the Mexican government ran them out in the 1940s. So it was not those Mexicans – the Mexicans who had treated Davy Crockett so shabbily at the Alamo, the Hollywood Mexicans who so memorably didn’t “need no stinking badges” — but Americans who created the myth of Tijuana, City of Sin. On the contrary, the Mexican government put an end to all that good old fun. I’ve heard that the Cardenas administration actually turned some American-owned casinos into schools. This transformation should have put an end to the town’s sinful reputation. When I saw it, unfortunately, the city was only resting up for a bigger show. Tijuana finally surpassed its own colossal reputation by the 1990s, when it was arguably one of the most violent and corrupt cities on the planet. Both the country and the city had by the Nineties changed profoundly , and not for the better. The Mexican government formed in the Revolution of 1917, which had once been responsible for cleaning up Tijuana and building a modern, relatively prosperous Mexico, was finally undone by the illegal drugs trade. Political corruption was the order of the day, and hell was visited on Tijuana, now a border megalopolis. Like so much in our modern world, even crime had industrialized. This is the city I write about here. It’s a frightening place.

Continue reading “Dia De Los Muertos”

Pulp Faction

CycadWhen we’re talking about stuff in the news these days – the bizarre timing of Sean Hoare’s death, say, or Michelle Bachmann confusing all-Amerian movie star John Wayne with all-American serial killer John Wayne Gacy – there’s an understandable tendency to cry out, “You couldn’t make this shit up.” For writers of fiction – and especially for writers of crime fiction, who try very hard to make shit up – this can be dispiriting. You have this sense that no matter what you come up with, compared to what’s in tomorrow’s headlines – for complexity, for texture – it’s going to be, let’s face it, in the ha’penny place. But actually, it’s not that simple, or straightforward.

The main problem for the news – or we could be generous and call it “reality” – is that it’s intolerably sloppy and inconclusive. On Monday, July 18th, 2011, there was a clip of Sean Hoare being interviewed on Panorama (8.30 p.m. – 9.00 p.m., BBC 1). We saw this animated, curiously charming and slightly debauched-looking foot soldier of the tabloid wars, the whistleblower who set the hacking scandal in motion, telling it straight – but then what? Immediately afterwards, on the nine o’clock news, this same man is declared to have been “found dead at his London home”. If that didn’t give you one of those frissons, I don’t know what would. But it was soon to transpire, in the official version of events, that no “third party” was involved. Which begs the obvious question, what about a “second party”? In any case, that was it. End of.

As for the GOP hopeful, it turns out that, okay, John Wayne Gacy was actually from Waterloo, Iowa, he was born there, but the Duke lived there too, as a kid, or at least his parents did . . . for a while. So you know what, lib’ral asshole? Go fuck yourself.

Continue reading “Pulp Faction”

Swier Words: A Conversation with Duane Swierczynski, Part II

Mulholland Books is pleased to present a conversation between David J. Schow, author of Gun Work, Internecine, Bullets of Rain, and screenwriter of The Crow, and our very own Duane Swierczynski.

Missed Part I? Read it here.

DJS: How about some insight into your working method?  For example, how long do your novels generally take, from start to finish?

DS: Every book is different, but the process is close to pregnancy — I brood for a bunch of months, and then it’s usually three months of labor pains (the actual writing). Sometimes I’m brain-pregnant for years; Expiration Date, published last year, was something I’ve been kicking around for at least a decade before I wrote the first word. Sometimes, I’m knocked up quick and the next thing I know somebody’s handing me a cigar—which was the case with Hell and Gone (the sequel to Fun and Games). The Wheelman was written between semesters of teaching college journalism 101, and just for fun, not to sell — I wrote it to convince myself that I could write a “straight” crime novel in the vein of Richard Stark and Dan J. Marlowe.

Fun and Games was a fairly easy birth: I was playing around with the idea for about six months before Mulholland bought it on a partial manuscript (50 pages), and then I spent a few months simultaneously writing and researching. (This was last summer, when you gave me that amazing tour of the Hills and — what else? — Bronson Cavern.) I knew where the story was headed, but I mostly winged it. As I drove back across the country that August, Fun and Games started to just gush out of me and delivered by mid-September.

What about you? Do you have a “typical” process, or does each book demand its own? Continue reading “Swier Words: A Conversation with Duane Swierczynski, Part II”

Swier Words: A conversation with Duane Swierczynski, Part I

Can’t get enough FUN AND GAMES? You’re in luck–Mulholland Books is pleased to present a conversation between David Schow, author of Gun Work, Internecine, Bullets of Rain, and screenwriter of The Crow, and our very own Duane Swierczynski. It begins…

DJS: Fun and Games.  One of my favorite Outer Limits episode titles, by the way.  But it begs the question:  How are you with titles?  Are they an afterthought, a nuisance, or essential?  Do you nail them before or after the process of writing a book?

DS: I obsess over titles long before an editor (or even my agent) see anything.  I pretty much have to have the right title on a novel before it’ll flow; I’ve never started one with TK Title at the top.

DJS: Have you abandoned working titles, or had titles changed on you? Continue reading “Swier Words: A conversation with Duane Swierczynski, Part I”

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