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If I’m Dead: An Excerpt

Excited for next month’s publication of the anticipated return of Rachel Knight GUILT BY DEGREES? Get ready with Marcia Clark’s new Rachel Knight short story IF I’M DEAD, an excerpt of which follows.

Damp, salty ocean air is hell on everything. Especially evidence. If we hadn’t lucked out and found the car so fast, we’d never have had a shot at getting DNA results out of that little drop of blood on the passenger seat of the SUV. But a young surfer looking for a new break near Point Mugu had spotted the vehicle and decided to call the police; the sight of the abandoned car had given him a “bad feeling.” I found out what he meant when I went out to the scene. And I got that same bad feeling every time I looked at the photograph that’d been taken that night—something I’d done often and was in fact doing right now.
The white SUV glowed in the moonlight, a ghostly beacon on an outcropping above a rocky stretch of beach north of Point Mugu. The “soccer mom” vehicle wouldn’t have merited a second look had it been in the parking lot of any shopping mall in the San Fernando Valley. But there, in the limitless darkness of a remote overlook on the Pacific Coast Highway, it was an ominous misfit. A car like that did not wind up in a place like this. Not overnight. And not in the dead of winter.

I couldn’t help being transfixed by the sight of that Ford Explorer, iridescent and isolated, in the endless black maw of ocean and night sky. Chilling, eerie, the photo emanated a sense of menace, a prelude to a violent demise.

At least I hoped it did. I planned to use that photograph—now enlarged to poster size—in my opening statement. I figured it would help me hit the ground running with the jury. Get their minds in the right place. I’m Rachel Knight, and I’m a deputy district attorney assigned to the Special Trials Unit—a small group of prosecutors that handles the most high-profile, complex cases in Los Angeles. Unlike most deputies, we get our cases the day the body is found and work alongside the detectives throughout the investigation. And the detective I’ve been working with almost exclusively for the past few years, who also happens to be my best friend, is Bailey Keller, one of the few women to gain entrée into the elite Robbery-Homicide Division of the LAPD.

The white SUV had belonged to Melissa Gibbons-Hildegarde, the only daughter born to Bennie and Nancy Gibbons, who combined old family money (hers) and a real estate empire (his) to wind up one of the most wealthy, influential couples in Los Angeles. Which, of course, meant that Melissa stood to inherit a very sizable fortune upon their demise. They may as well have painted a bull’s-eye on her back. The arrow that found that target came in the form of Saul Hildegarde, a charismatic community activist whose passion for welfare reform inspired Melissa to abandon her jet-set lifestyle and devote herself to higher pursuits. Unfortunately, it was only after they’d married that Melissa realized the welfare Saul was most passionate about was his own. But while Saul discovered a taste for the easy life of tennis, clubs, and parties, Melissa discovered a burning desire to help the impoverished, and so she dedicated herself to the support and founding of charities around the world. Especially those devoted to the welfare of children. And it wasn’t enough for her to just send money. Melissa took the hands-on approach and accompanied her checkbook around the world, helping to build huts in Somalia and set up clinics in Nigeria. She’d even spoken of adopting some of the children she’d helped during her travels. Her friends were uniformly stunned at Melissa’s transformation. It seemed as though she’d gone from party girl to Mother Teresa virtually overnight. But Melissa didn’t see much of her friends anymore; her charity work kept her plenty busy—likely too busy to ask for a divorce. Right up until the day she’d come home early from a trip to Botswana to find Saul in flagrante with a young coed who’d apparently volunteered to work on a more personal style of welfare reform. Melissa had announced her intention to get a divorce that same night.

Three weeks later, Saul reported her missing. And when her SUV had been found abandoned on a lonely stretch of the Pacific Coast Highway, the contents of her purse strewn across the passenger seat and the glove compartment rifled, it was initially believed that Melissa had been the victim of a robbery-murder, and that her body had been dumped in the ocean.

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Blood, Kin and Structure: A Conversation between Andrew Vachss and Joe R. Lansdale

mJoe Lansdale: First of all, I love this new book, That’s How I Roll, by Andrew. And I was telling him this, in an earlier conversation, that I never read any of his books so terrifically well constructed. They all are, but man, this was is like a bomb builder putting something together very, very carefully, because if you go just a little to the left or right or cross the wrong wire, the whole thing blows.

And the way that this is put together also makes it difficult to talk too directly about it because if you pull one wire here you blow the whole thing, so I got to be very, very careful about that. But I think that everything you do well is in this book, Andrew. I believe that, not only the writing—Andrew always says the writing is all right—but that’s bull, he’s a terrific stylist, he’s a beautiful stylist. And if you doubt that, you should also read his poetry; he also writes Haikus that are just beautiful, and this, everything that he writes to me is like an extended Haiku.

This is an example of that—where it’s just beautifully constructed. And I think a lot of people will say it’s grim, and it is grim. But it’s also beautiful.  I would say—not to give anything away—I would say when you get to the end you have it come to—this grim story—you actually have it come to be an uplifting story. And I think that’s important, because that’s a part of Andrew’s life, because here’s a guy who has actually changed the laws to protect children. Not just one or two, he’s changed the very view of how people look at child abuse. You see it everywhere in the air now. But I’ve now Andrew for many, many years, and I know that when he first started trying to make people aware that this was going on, and the struggle about it, it wasn’t received that way. Am I right, Andrew?

Andrew Vachss: You could not be more right.

JL: I know you don’t want to brag about yourself, I’ll do the bragging for you.

AV:  I’m not bragging.

JL: But them is the facts Jack, right?

AV: Oh, yes. Continue reading “Blood, Kin and Structure: A Conversation between Andrew Vachss and Joe R. Lansdale”

TORSO Revisited

Earlier this month, Marvel reintroduced a refreshed and reformatted edition of the classic, Eisner Award-winning crime comic TORSO, by Brian Michael Bendis and Marc Andreyko to graphic novel readers everywhere. Read on for an interview with Brian Michael Bendis and an excerpt from the comic’s opening pages.

How did the writing of TORSO influence your later crime comic work including SCARLET?

Torso was one of the biggest challenges of my career. Taking on the responsibility of a true story but abstracting it in graphic novel form is a very large mountain to climb. When Mark Andreyko  brought up the idea he was thinking of it only in movie terms, but I became obsessed with the idea of how to do the story is a graphic novel.

Once you delve into that level of reality and research on one project, it becomes the standard to which every other project, whether it is Scarlet or even Spiderman, must rise to. Continue reading “TORSO Revisited”

Gun 101

GunfightI just finished reading the galley of a bestselling author’s soon-to-be-released thriller. Early in the book the author describes how the main character loads a 17-round magazine for a revolver. I realized I had my work cut out for me.

Unless one has hands-on experience with firearms, it’s easy to make mistakes. At a mystery writers’ workshop, I asked the audience how many had used firearms in their mysteries or thrillers. Almost every hand went up. I then asked how many had ever shot a firearm. Less than half the hands went up. If we’re going to write in these genres, let’s know a little about the weapons our characters use.

So, let’s look at some basics. First, how is a revolver different from a semi-automatic pistol? The first mass-produced, modern revolvers were developed in the early 1800s. Black-powder and a lead ball were loaded into the gun’s cylinders by hand. Not until the Civil War did self-contained cartridges appear. Continue reading “Gun 101”

Dark Valentine

Rose Macro: Fractalius - IMG_8032-fraEnjoy this twisted slice of fiction from the brilliant mind behind Prison Break and Breakout Kings, and the novels  FIFTEEN DIGITS and SLIP AND FALL, coming from Mulholland Books in April 2012.

“This is called Candy Cane,” the sales girl said, handing me the small bottle.

I unscrewed the top and sniffed it.

“It doesn’t smell like candy canes; it’s just candy cane red,” she pointed out.

“Yeah … I know,” I said, playing it off. “I’ll take it – with all the other stuff too.”

The girl rang up the order, placing eye shadow, rouge (I called it rouge, the sales girl called it blush), Berry Juicy lipstick and Candy Cane nail polish into a CVS bag. I gave her a twenty.

“It’s $63.17,” she said, embarrassed for me.

“What for?”

“Um … the make-up.”

“Man,” I said, digging into my pocket. “When I was a kid, my mom could do a whole week’s grocery for sixty bucks.”

Sales Girl said nothing, just stared through me. She could care less. When I was a kid she was 20 years from being born.

I shoved some more bills at her and left before she could give me my change. I didn’t have time to wait for some seventeen-year-old to count out $1.83 … because it was Valentine’s Day and my sweetheart was waiting for me. Continue reading “Dark Valentine”

Continue Reading A Single Shot

If you missed Part I of the excerpt from A SINGLE SHOT, start reading here.

He loses sense of time and objectivity. He sits down on a small rock next to the body and, as the sun heats his naked back, declares himself a murderer. For the moment, he forgets that the body is even there. He focuses only upon his act of killing another human being. He would like to spread the blame around, but can find no one else to fault, not even the dead girl for wearing tan and white in the woods, because it’s not even hunting season and John, after all, is a trespassing poacher.

He picks a small stick up from the quarry floor and doodles with it in the dirt. The blue jays perched above him begin to sing again. A red fox wanders into the quarry, stops and sniffs the deer carcass, then, possibly sensing John’s presence, turns and bounds out again. A hog snake slithers over the dead girl’s feet. The crows caw, alerting others to the death.

John thinks about how he has grown up in and around these woods—on the Nobie side of the mountain—and, like his father and grandfather, has hunted them since he was a boy, and though they fought in wars and he didn’t, he is the first among them to kill someone. He thinks that if his father hadn’t lost the Moon family farm, with its rolling meadows and three hundred acres of game-rich forest, John would not have to trespass and poach to feed his wife and son. They might even still live with him. He looks at his watch. Almost an hour has passed. His left shoulder throbs. His shirt is damp around the wound, but the bleeding, for the most part, seems to have stopped.

He forces himself to stand up, walk over to the dead girl, look down at her lying in the grass like a rag doll casually tossed aside. Boiling with black flies, wine-colored blood slowly oozes from her open chest. John reaches down, brushes several of the flies away, then pulls back his hand wet with blood starting to congeal. He thinks of the hundreds of animals he has shot, gutted, and cut into strips of meat. All the blood he has seen. The wounded deer that he chased for miles to kill. Blood is blood, he thinks, wiping the girl’s on his pants. And dead is dead.

He moves his gaze from her chest to her face. She is beautiful, he thinks, not like a greenhouse flower, but like a wild rose raised in bright sunshine, bitter cold, torrential rain. Sun-chapped lips, parted as if to speak, a bent nose, slightly running, make her seem still alive. A tiny anchor-shaped birthmark mars her right cheek. Kneeling down near her head, John smells orange-blossom perfume, the same three-dollar-a-bottle fragrance he used to buy for his wife. What is your name? he silently asks her. Where are you from? What were you doing in the quarry by yourself? He bends forward and tenderly kisses her lips, then, shocked at his own behavior, quickly rears back and glances around the canyon, up the rock walls, into the white-pine and cedar-tree forest orbiting the upper rim, as if someone might be watching him. Suddenly John feels certain someone is. The thought hits him like a punch: she wasn’t alone. He sees nothing to substantiate this, though. He reaches down and with his index fingers gently closes the girl’s eyes.

Continue reading “Continue Reading A Single Shot”

Black Lens: Part XXVIII

Story by Ken Bruen and Russell Ackerman

Ken Bruen is one of the most celebrated crime novelists of our time.

Black Lens is his most secret project.

Read on as the unveiling continues.

Every Wednesday on Mulholland Books.

With art by Jonathan Santlofer.

Fade in…

Read Part 1, Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6Part 7Part 8Part 9Part 10Part 11,Part 12, Part 13Part 14, Part 15, Part 16, Part 17, Part 18, Part 19 Part 20, Part 21, Part 22, Part 23, Part 24, Part 25, Part 26 and Part 27.

                                                       ‘Fame is a vapor, popularity an accident, the only eternal certainty is oblivion.’

Mark Twain.


Cooper, the Texas Ranger, was en route to intervene with the New York ex-cop.

In one of those coincidences, that not even a cozy writer could venture, he was about to cross High Street Kensington , his shit kicker boots resounding on the pavement when a wiry guy crashed into him.

About forty, with a long battered leather jacket, faded jeans, he stopped, said

‘Hey cunt, watch where you’re fooking going.’

Cooper was so surprised he laughed and the guy snarled

‘Funny is it, yah bollix, I’ll put that smile on the other side of yer ugly mug.’

Yah believe it.

A, NY encounter in old blighty.

Cooper shrugged and the guy moved on, muttered

‘Better watch yer step yah shite head.’

Continue reading “Black Lens: Part XXVIII”

Start Reading Triple Crossing by Sebastian Rotella

On August 10th, we’ll be publishing TRIPLE CROSSING by celebrated journalist and investigative reporter Sebastian Rotella. Start reading the novel Michael Connelly calls “one of the most accomplished first novels I have ever read,” and which Booklist called “a strongly choreographed, authentically detailed, and sharply funny tale of cultural complexity and raging global criminality.”

Fog at the border.

Border Patrol Agent Valentine Pescatore urged the green Jeep Wrangler through the shroud of mist on the southbound road. Hungover and sleepy, he slurped on a mug of convenience-store Coke. Carbonation burned behind his eyes. He braked into a curve, trailing a comet of dust.  Jackrabbits scattered in his headlights.

Braking sent a twinge of pain through his ankle. He had blown up the ankle months earlier while chasing a hightop-wearing Tijuana speedster through a canyon. He had intended to snare the hood of the punk’s sweatshirt and jerk him to a neck-wrenching stop, confirming his status as the fastest trainee in his unit.

But instead Pescatore went down, sprawling pathetically, clutching the ankle with both hands.

Border Patrol agents gathered around him in the darkness. Tejano accents twanged. Cigarettes flared. A cowboy-hatted silhouette squatted as if contemplating a prisoner or a corpse.

Hell, muchacho, time to nominate you for a Einstein award.

Was that a female tonk you were chasing, Valentine? Playing hard to get, eh?

Hey, you’re not gonna catch them all. Slow down. Foot speed don’t impress us


The voices in his memory gave way to the dispatcher’s voice on the radio, asking his position. Pescatore increased speed, rolling through the blackness of a field toward the foothills of the Tijuana River Valley. With a guilty grimace, he pushed a CD into the dashboard player. Bass and cymbals blared: the song was a rap version of “Low Rider.”

Another night on the boulevard

Cruisin’ hard

And everybody’s low-ridin’

Continue reading “Start Reading Triple Crossing by Sebastian Rotella”

A Conversation Between Lawrence Block and Robert Silverberg: Part II

Two months ago, Lawrence Block and Robert Silverberg met in San Francisco for an epic conversation that spanned nearly every topic imaginable…and far more. Mulholland Books has transcribed the dialogue between these two masters of storytelling and will present it to you in two parts.

(Read Part I here.)

LB: Should we take questions from some of these people?

RS: Yeah.  They don’t want to hear about our ancient pulp stuff.  They want to know about the Playboy stories.

Audience Question: When did the two of you first meet?  And what was the nature of that meeting?

LB: It was quite recent.  It was three or four years ago…

RS: He’s getting old.  Actually, we met in the 60s at a Science Fiction party.  He doesn’t remember it.  You and Westlake came to the Hydra club somewhere in Manhattan.

LB: It must be somebody else.  I never went to the Hydra club.  <singing> “Oh yes, I remember it well…” <singing>  Continue reading “A Conversation Between Lawrence Block and Robert Silverberg: Part II”

Black Lens: Part XXVI

Story by Ken Bruen and Russell Ackerman

Ken Bruen is one of the most celebrated crime novelists of our time.

Black Lens is his most secret project.

Read on as the unveiling continues.

Every Wednesday on Mulholland Books.

With art by Jonathan Santlofer.

Fade in…

Read Part 1, Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6Part 7Part 8Part 9Part 10Part 11,Part 12, Part 13Part 14, Part 15, Part 16, Part 17, Part 18, Part 19 Part 20, Part 21, Part 22, Part 23 Part 24 and Part 25.

Big hunkering black dude, in his cell, going

‘I’m going to eat your porridge in the morning.

Fuck asshole, welcome to it.


Jesus, it was like code for a train

Thru his


And then, bingo, he released.

No charge, a caution to behave his own self in future.

Came out those Dicken-sian gates, got to hand it to the UK, they did real prisons.

And a BMW idling on the kerb.

For him?


The Brits had given him bus fare.

Holy fucking tomatoes, who rode buses save in Compton and even then the Boyz put 100 caps in it just to get the day kicked off.

The car door opened and he heard

‘Get yer ass in gear.’

It sounded like good news, right?

The driver was rent- a –thug.


Big ( very)

Morose ( came with the script)

And Benedict, looking resplendent in an Armani Suit, Beckham shades ( Like some gobshite actually paid hard bucks for this con?)

Rhatigan slid in and tried to look contrite as he settled in beside Benedict. Thought

‘No shit, looks like a wet bar?’

Dare he?

Dare fucking not if the look from Benedict was  a clue.

The jail mobile moved into drive and they were out of there. Rhatigan tried to begin and was shushed with a wave.

Benedict said

‘You are going to be huge.’

No shit, really, he


‘No shit, really?’

Benedict gave the snarl/smile, said

‘We’ve reserved the Penthouse for you at the Waldorf premiere Leicester Square.’

He checked his Rolex, added

‘If Jake, Glydnhall to you, has checked out.’

Rhatigan was in overdrive, his mind going

‘Fuck, holy fuck, Jake!’

Benedict asked

‘How much do you know about Ransom?’

He answered

‘Like in a kidnap?’

Benedict whipped off his crap shades, said

‘No, like in infamous movie star killer.’

They were gliding into Leicester Square and a band of Paparazzi were in a feeding frenzy outside the hotel. Benedict said

‘Welcome to fame.’

Ken Bruen has been a finalist for the Edgar and Anthony Awards, and has won a Macavity Award, a Barry Award, and two Shamus Awards for the Jack Taylor series. He lives in Galway, Ireland. Learn more at

Russell Ackerman is Guillermo del Toro’s Development Executive. He is currently working on the film MAMA to be directed by Andy Muschietti, DROOD based on Dan Simmons’ novel of the same name, adapted by Brian Helgeland, and MIDNIGHT DELIVERY written by Neil Cross, all set up at Universal Pictures. He lives in Los Angeles.