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When Truth is Stranger Than…

This week, we celebrate the release of Michael Robotham’s THE WRECKAGE, a book that Nelson DeMille called “One of the best novels to come out of the chaos of Iraq; a penetrating peek through the fog of war” and David Baldacci  said, “I have seldom read a more chilling and suspenseful tale.” Here, Michael tells the story behind the novel.

The writing of a novel begins with an idea, which is like an itch that you can’t scratch and nobody can do it for you because it’s in one of those moist private places that other people don’t want to touch. (No, it’s not something that requires a trip to the doctor and a course of antibiotics.)

My itch began in October 2007 when I read a brilliant piece of investigative journalism in Vanity Fair, written by James Steele and Donald Barlett two Pulitzer prize-winning reporters. Steele and Barlett exposed details of the largest airlift of US currency in the history of the Federal Reserve – twenty-one shipments over fourteen months – flown into Iraq in the aftermath of the Iraq War. Stacks of $100 bills were packed into bricks, assembled into large pallets and loaded onto cargo planes bound for Baghdad. It amounted to 281 million individual banknotes or 363 tons of money. Twelve billion US dollars in total – of which nine billion has never been accounted for.  Missing. Gone.

Having been an investigative journalist for nearly fifteen years, I was fascinated by the account and by the fate of the money. This was the itch I couldn’t quite reach. Because I was no longer, a journalist, I tried to ignore the idea, but it became a futile exercise in thought suppression.

Continue reading “When Truth is Stranger Than…”

Continue Reading Duane Swierczynski’s FUN AND GAMES

In just ten short days, we’ll be publishing FUN AND GAMES, the kick-a$$ first book in the kick-a$$ Charlie Hardie series. Continue reading the novel Josh Bazell called “insanely entertaining,” and which Booklist called “so bloody satisfying.”

Missed Chapter 1? Read it here.

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“California is a beautiful fraud.”—Marc Reisner

WHEELS WERE supposed to be up at 5:30 a.m., but by 5:55 it became clear that wasn’t gonna happen.

The captain told everyone it was just a little trouble with a valve. Once that was fixed and the paperwork was filed, they’d be taking off and headed to LAX. Fifteen minutes, tops. Half hour later, the captain more or less said he’d been full of shit, but really, honest, folks, now it was fixed, and they’d be taking off by 6:45. Thirty minutes later, the captain admitted he was pretty much yanking off / finger-fucking everyone in the airplane, and the likely departure time would be 8 a.m.—something about a sensor needing replacing. Nothing serious.

No, of course not. Continue reading “Continue Reading Duane Swierczynski’s FUN AND GAMES”

As Dark as Broad Daylight

We asked all the contributors to LA Noire: The Collected Stories to tell us about their story in the collection. Read Lawrence Block’s contribution “See the Woman” in LA Noire: The Collected Stories.

Available free (for a limited time) from your eTailer of choice. Amazon.com | BN.com | iTunes | Kobo | Sony

LA Noire?

I have to say it seems counter-intuitive.  After all, it never rains in Southern California, we have Albert Hammond’s word on that, and he’s always been reliable in the past.

Noir is the French word for black, but when we borrow it to categorize books and films, it morphs from color to mood.  It’s been defined in various ways; more often it’s left undefined, and one could say of noir what Potter Stewart famously said of pornography:  he knew it when he saw it.

The definition I like best is Charles Ardai’s.  He’s the publisher of Hard Case Crime, a line of books that is the very epitome of noir, and I can think of no one who’s more at home with the genre.  He defines it as crime fiction written by a pessimist, and the only change I’d make would be to tuck in the words “as if” between “written” and “by,” because the world of a novel does not necessarily reflect the world view of its author.

Dark crime fiction, pessimistic crime fiction.   It would seem to call for rain, or at the very least the threat of rain.  Dark streets, broken streetlamps, shadows in which something—anything!—might  be lurking.

But in Los Angeles?  Noir in the land of surf and sunshine?  Noir in Beach Boys Country?

You’re kidding, right?

Continue reading “As Dark as Broad Daylight”

Pure storytelling, pure action

We asked all the contributors to LA Noire: The Collected Stories to tell us about their story in the collection. Read Francine Prose’s contribution “School for Murder” in LA Noire: The Collected Stories.

Available free (for a limited time) from your eTailer of choice. Amazon.com | BN.com | iTunes | Kobo | Sony

LA Noir is a world that exists in our heads, eternal and universal but at the same time highly specific: Los Angeles, 1947. It’s a world of hard-luck PIs working in dusty offices with pretty receptionists and shifty clients; of gruesome unsolved murders; of crime films not so much about murder as about dark and light, the inky pools of fear in a victim’s eyes and the stripes from a pair of Venetian blinds on the killer’s face. I loved the experience of writing a story for the collection, imagining that place and time and then letting my imagination go wild. Pure storytelling, pure action. An excuse to enter another world without having to stay there very long. Also for me part of the fun was that, purely coincidentally, my son Leon’s company, Truth and Soul Records, was producing a cut for the LA Noire promotional music download, a remix of Gene Krupa’s “Sing Sing Sing.”

Francine Prose is the New York Times bestselling author of A Changed Man, which won the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, Blue Angel, which was a finalist for the National Book Award, and fourteen other books.

Betty Short and Norma Jeane Baker Alive Again

We asked all the contributors to LA Noire: The Collected Stories to tell us about their story in the collection. Read Joyce Carol Oates’ contribution “Black Dahlia & White Rose” in LA Noire: The Collected Stories.

Available free (for a limited time) from your eTailer of choice. Amazon.com | BN.com | iTunes | Kobo | Sony

Writing ‘Black Dahlia & White Rose’ was an unnerving experience. After Blonde, my novel about the doomed Marilyn Monroe, which was published in 2000, I had not anticipated ever returning to the heightened and intense world of Los Angeles circa 1946-7. But here are ‘Betty Short’ and ‘Norma Jeane Baker’ alive again, living out cruelly prepared scripts in which they have no hand and of which they can have no awareness. That these beautiful and vulnerable young women are ‘Hollywood sisters’ of a kind seems absolutely right to me–in fact, inevitable.

Joyce Carol Oates is the recipient of the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in Short Fiction, the winner of the National Book Award, and the author of over fifty novels.

Black Lens: Part XX

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 and Part 19.

LOOK

BACK

IN

ANGER.

 

The cover of Sergeant Pepper’s,

If viewed under the light of the black lens, see Aleister Crowley, the so called,

Great Beast.

Crowley died in a modest guesthouse, in Hastings, a rundown resort, his deportation from Italy ringing in his ears.

That year, saw the birth of anger.

Kenneth Anger.

Who would eventually become the key lynchpin of the Satanist’s in the Sixties. If nothing else, this man was responsible for the merging of pop music and film.

He used Blue Velvet in ‘ Scorpio Rising’

Before meeting the Cabal Anger would dally with

Edith Piaf

Fellini

Genet

Coco Chanel.

When Jimmy Scott finally tracked him down, he carried a copy of

‘Hollywood Babylon’.

Not a writer on the planet is going to ignore you if

If

You have a copy of the loser’s book.

Continue reading “Black Lens: Part XX”

My Own Dark Places

We asked all the contributors to LA Noire: The Collected Stories to tell us their thoughts on why Los Angeles is so associated with noir. Read Jonathan Santlofer’s story “What’s In a Name?” in LA Noire: The Collected Stories.

Available free (for a limited time) from your eTailer of choice. Amazon.com | BN.com | iTunes | Sony

When Rockstar asked me to put together an anthology to accompany their darkly beautiful video game, LA NOIRE, I pounced. Having been enamored with noir both on the page and on the screen since my brooding teenage years, my mind was spinning Chandleresque tales before I wrote a single word or asked another author to contribute. I wanted to invite a hundred writers but it ended up a small collection, every story burnished black as ebony, all jittery gems that invite the reader to trespass along those sunny/seamy LA streets. For my own story I slipped into the mind of a killer and had fun mixing fact and fiction, bringing in shadowy underworld figures I’d only read about, like Mickey Cohen and Johnny Stompanato, real life bad guys who seem quaint, almost harmless, compared to my fictional psychopath, a true noir creation inspired in equal parts by the game LA NOIRE, postwar Los Angeles, and my own dark places.

Jonathan Santlofer is the editor of LA Noire: The Collected Stories, as well as the author of 5 novels. 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 have appeared in every top mystery/crime anthology. He is also the artist behind Ken Bruen’s serial novel BLACK LENS.

Noir Seal of Approval

As a contributor to LA Noire: The Collected Stories, we asked Andrew Vachss to give us his thoughts on noir. Read Andrew Vachss’s story “Postwar Boom” in LA Noire: The Collected Stories.

Available free (for a limited time) from your eTailer of choice. Amazon.com | BN.com | iTunes | Sony

I learned, a long time ago, that people can read for entertainment and come away with enlightenment, so long as the vein of truth runs throughout and doesn’t detract from the narrative force. I understand there are those who believe “noir”—or “hardboiled,” or whatever term they prefer to lavish upon themselves—writing shouldn’t be cluttered up with “that other stuff.” As if littérature engageé is only acceptable in “magical realism” novels translated from original Incan scrolls. All these “outlaws” who want me to live by their rigid little rules … good luck to them. I understand I am too “pulp” for the literati, and too “literate” for the pulpsters. Lost a lot of sleep over that. I’d rather burn a bridge than crawl over it, and genre- worship isn’t one of my disabilities. Apparently, as with all religions, some people believe they can dictate definitions. I don’t ask these self-appointed high priests for the “Noir Seal of Approval” that only they (think they) can grant.

Andrew Vachss has been a federal investigator in sexually transmitted diseases, a social-services caseworker, and a labor organizer, and has directed a maximum-security prison for “aggressive-violent” youth. Now a lawyer in private practice, he represents children and youths exclusively. He is the author of two dozen novels, including The Weight, his latest. To read an excerpt from this crime-fiction novel about Sugar, an old-school professional thief, visit http://vachss.com/weight.

Chapter 3 of The Wreckage

In just a few weeks’ time, The Wreckage will be available in bookstores across the nation. Start reading the book that Booklist called (in a starred review), “Fine and ambitious with characters who are wonderfully human–smart, determined, decent, and flawed. Thoroughly compelling.”

Need to catch up? Read the Prologue and Chapter 1 and Chapter 2.

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LONDON

Sunshine crashes through the lace curtains. Ruiz opens one eye. The ceiling comes into focus, dead moths in the domed light fitting. His right nostril is grouted closed. His mouth tastes like a small animal has crawled inside and died. Continue reading “Chapter 3 of The Wreckage”

Start Reading Duane Swierczynski’s Fun and Games

In just a few short weeks, we’ll be publishing FUN AND GAMES, the kick-a$$ first book in the kick-a$$ Charlie Hardie series. Start reading the novel Josh Bazell called “insanely entertaining,” and which Booklist called “so bloody satisfying.”

THE PIERCING screech of tires on asphalt.

The screams—

His.

Your own.

And then—

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It’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye. —Popular saying

SHE DISCOVERED Decker Canyon Road by accident, not long after she moved to L.A. A random turn off the PCH near Malibu shot her up the side of the mountain, followed by twelve miles of stomach-flipping twists and hairpin turns all the way to Westlake Village. And she loved it, hands gripping the wheel of the sports car she’d bought with her first real movie check—because that’s what you were supposed to do, right? Blow some of that money on an overpriced, overmuscled convertible coupe that popped a spoiler when you topped 75. She never cared she was going thirty miles faster than any sane driver would attempt on this road. She loved the ocean air smashing into her face, the feel of the tires beneath as they struggled to cling to the asphalt, the hum of the machine surrounding her body, the knowledge that one twitch to the left or right at the wrong moment meant her brand-new car, along with her brand-new life, would end up at the bottom of a ravine, and maybe years later people would ask: Whatever happened to that cute actress who was in those funny romantic comedies a few years ago? Back then, she loved to drive Decker Canyon Road because it blasted all of the clutter out of her mind. Life was reduced to a simple exhilarating yes or no, zero or one, live or die.

But now she was speeding up Decker Canyon Road because she didn’t want to die.

And the headlights were gaining on her. Continue reading “Start Reading Duane Swierczynski’s Fun and Games”