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Black Lens: Part XIX

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 and Part 18.

The Cop

 

Jimmy Scott was in the pub, the day of his supposed murder.

Trying not to consider that very fact.

And stay sober.

Such a thought was enough to drive anybody to drink. Ran over the various scenarios, like what?

He’d go back to his room and the assassin

Assassin/s?

Would jump him?

He couldn’t picture it.

Continue reading “Black Lens: Part XIX”

Mick Ballou Looks at the Blank Screen

Blank TVIn the opening pages of A Drop of the Hard Stuff, Scudder mentions that his friend Mick Ballou is married now, to a much younger woman named Kristin Hollander.  Readers may recall Kristin from Hope to Die and All the Flowers Are Dying, but her relationship with Mick may come as news to them.  It was in fact noted in a vignette I wrote a couple of years ago, “Mick Ballou Looks at the Blank Screen,” but that was written for a limited-edition broadside published by Mark Lavendier; it sold out in a hurry.

I expect I’ll tuck it into my next collection of short fiction.  But in the meantime I thought some of y’all might like a look at it:

MICK BALLOU LOOKS AT THE BLANK SCREEN

“At first,” Mick Ballou said, “I thought the same as everyone else in the country.  I thought the fucking cable went out.”

We were at Grogan’s, the Hell’s Kitchen saloon he owns and frequents, and he was talking about the final episode of The Sopranos, which ended abruptly with the screen going blank and staying that way for ten or fifteen seconds.

“And then I thought, well, they couldn’t think of an ending.  But Kristin recalled the time Tony and Bobby were talking of death, and what it would be like, and that you wouldn’t even know it when it happened to you.  So that was the ending, then.  Tony dies, and doesn’t even know it.”

It was late on a weekday night, and the closemouthed bartender had already shooed the last of the customers out of the place and put the chairs up on the tables, where they’d be out of the way when someone else mopped the floor in the morning.  I’d been out late myself, speaking at an AA meeting in Marine Park, then stopping for coffee on the way home.  Elaine met me with a message:  Mick had called, and could I meet him around two?

There was a time when most of our evenings started around that time, with him drinking twelve-year-old Jameson while I kept him company with coffee or Coke or water.  We’d go until dawn, and then he’d drag me down to St. Bernard’s on West 14th Street for the butchers’ mass.  Nowadays our evenings started and ended earlier, and there weren’t enough butchers in the gentrified Meat Market district to fill out a mass, and anyway St. Bernard’s itself had given up the ghost, and was now Our Lady of Guadalupe.

And we were older, Mick and I.  We got tired and went home to bed.

And now he’d summoned me to discuss the ending of a television series.

He said, “What do you think happens?”

“You’re not talking about tv.”

He shook his head.  “Life.  Or the end of it.  Is that what it is?  A blank screen?”

I talked about near death experiences, all of them remarkably similar, with the consciousness hovering in midair and being invited to go to the light, then making the decision to return to the body.  “But there’s not a lot of eyewitness testimony,” I said, “from the ones who go to the light.”

Continue reading “Mick Ballou Looks at the Blank Screen”

Black Lens: Part XVIII

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, and Part 17.

 

I’M A FIVE AND DIME BASTARD.’

RANSOM ON HIS HERITAGE.

 

Before his final release, at the age of 32, Ransom, met, in the joint, a former inmate of

Alcatraz

And

Key member of Ma Barkers gang. Continue reading “Black Lens: Part XVIII”

Black Lens: Part XVII

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 and Part 16.


OLIVER CROMWELL.

( 1600 – 58)

Ireland’s first and only commoner Lord/lieutenant. Backed by a massive army, best known for his merciless destruction of the town of Drogheda and his policy of ‘No Prisoners’ He styled himself as a

Liberator

From

Irish barbarism

Royalist misrule

And

Catholic hypocrisy.

*

Rattigan came round, sitting in a hard chair, in his room at Sundance.

A beat.

Then, the image of the headless body flooded his mind and he screamed.

Opened his eyes, lit on Cromwell, who was sitting by the head, smoking a cheroot, his minder, to Rattigan’s left.

It was then that he noticed that the initial terror, horror, seemed to be receding, and a strange calm was building up from his chest.

Cromwell said

‘The sedative should be kicking in now, chilling you way down.’

It sure as hell was.

Continue reading “Black Lens: Part XVII”

Let’s Get Lost: A Matthew Scudder Story (Part II)

In our ongoing celebration of the publication of A DROP OF THE HARD STUFF, which has been called “the perfect introduction to Scudder’s shadow-strewn world and the pleasures of Block’s crisp yet brooding prose” (Time), “a book right up there with Mr. Block’s best” (Wall Street Journal) and “as rich and rewarding as it is devastating” (Pulp Serenade). To read an interview with the man himself, visit Ransom Notes.  we present part two of a Matthew Scudder short story by the Grandmaster himself. (If you missed Part I, start reading here.)

“There are a couple of problems,” I told them.  “A couple of things that could pop up like a red flag for a responding officer or a medical examiner.”

“Like. . .”

“Like the knife,” I said.  “Phil opened the door and the killer stabbed him once and left, was out the door and down the stairs before the body hit the carpet.”

“Maybe not that fast,” one of them said, “but it was pretty quick.  Before we knew what had happened, certainly.”

“I appreciate that,” I said, “but the thing is it’s an unusual MO.  The killer didn’t take time to make sure his victim was dead, and you can’t take that for granted when you stick a knife in someone.  And he left the knife in the wound.”

“He wouldn’t do that?”

“Well, it might be traced to him.  All he has to do to avoid that chance is take it away with him.  Besides, it’s a weapon. 
Suppose someone comes chasing after him?  He might need that knife again.”

“Maybe he panicked.”

“Maybe he did,” I agreed.  “There’s another thing, and a medical examiner would notice this if a reporting officer didn’t.  The body’s been moved.”

Interesting the way their eyes jumped all over the place.  They looked at each other, they looked at me, they looked at Phil on the floor.

“Blood pools in a  corpse,” I said.  “Lividity’s the word they use for it.  It looks to me as though Phil fell forward andTeeth wound up face downward.  He probably fell against the door as it was closing, and slid down and wound up on his face.  So you couldn’t get the door open, and you needed to, so eventually you moved him.”

Eyes darted.  The host, the one in the blazer, said, “We knew you’d have to come in.”

“Right.”

“And we couldn’t have him lying against the door.”

“Of course not,” I agreed.  “But all of that’s going to be hard to explain.  You didn’t call the cops right away, and you did move the body.  They’ll have some questions for you.”

Continue reading “Let’s Get Lost: A Matthew Scudder Story (Part II)”

Let’s Get Lost: A Matthew Scudder Story (Part I)

J. W. Dant Whiskey BottleIn our ongoing celebration of the publication of A DROP OF THE HARD STUFF, we present a Matthew Scudder short story by the Grandmaster himself.

When the phone call came I was parked in front of the television set in the front room, nursing a glass of bourbon and watching the Yankees.  It’s funny what you remember and what you don’t.  I remember that Thurman Munson had just hit a long foul that missed being a home run by no more than a foot, but I don’t remember who they were playing, or even what kind of a season they had that year.

I remember that the bourbon was J. W. Dant, and that I was drinking it on the rocks, but of course I would remember that.  I always remembered what I was drinking, though I didn’t always remember why.

The boys had stayed up to watch the opening innings with me, but tomorrow was a school day, and Anita took them upstairs and tucked them in while I freshened my drink and sat down again.  The ice was mostly melted by the time Munson hit his long foul, and I was still shaking my head at that when the phone rang.  I let it ring, and Anita answered it and came in to tell me it was for me.  Somebody’s secretary, she said.

I picked up the phone, and a woman’s voice, crisply professional, said, “Mr. Scudder, I’m calling for Mr. Alan Herdig of Herdig and Crowell.”

“I see,” I said, and listened while she elaborated, and estimated just how much time it would take me to get to their offices.  I hung up and made a face.

“You have to go in?”

I nodded.  “It’s about time we had a break in this one,” I said.  “I don’t expect to get much sleep tonight, and I’ve got a court appearance tomorrow morning.”

“I’ll get you a clean shirt.  Sit down.  You’ve got time to finish your drink, don’t you?”

I always had time for that.

Continue reading “Let’s Get Lost: A Matthew Scudder Story (Part I)”

A Master On Top of His Craft: A Review of A Drop of the Hard Stuff

Lawrence Block is one among a very small number of true masters of crime fiction, and A Drop of the Hard Stuff is a delight to readers who really care about seeing the right words on the page.

Ex-cop and detective Matt Scudder, a favorite Block character with fifteen novels worth of cases behind him, has always had a problem with the hard stuff.  As I recall, many years back, in Eight Million Ways to Die, he used to like his whiskey “straight, just the way God made it.”  Now he’s been fighting the urge with mixed success for some time.  He’s in Alcoholics Anonymous, and has been seeing a lady friend named Jan, who is also sober, regularly on Saturday nights and Sunday mornings.  When an acquaintance and AA member named Jack Ellery is murdered, Scudder is the natural one to begin an informal inquiry.

Scudder’s investigation is an elegant piece of plotting.  Victim, witnesses, informants, and suspects are all in the closed world of recovering Manhattan alcoholics.  People’s lives are lived within a geography and a schedule that consists of the Sober Today Group on Second Avenue and Eighty-Seventh Street, the midnight meeting at the Moravian church, Scudder’s regular meeting at St. Paul’s, the Commuters Special near Penn Station, the meeting near Grand Central. Scudder makes his way from lead to lead with the sure expertise of a seasoned cop covering his own turf. Of course he finds his man, but when he does, it doesn’t look easy—it looks like fate constructed by competence and persistence.

A Drop of the Hard Stuff is a wise and fascinating addition to the Matthew Scudder cannon.  It could not be more welcome, nor could it have been written with more understated craftsmanship.  The dialogue sounds exactly like things people say to each other, but it isn’t.  It’s better, quicker, smarter.  Read this book attentively.  It’s much more fun than taking lessons.

Thomas Perry was born in Tonawanda, New York in 1947. He received a B.A. from Cornell University in 1969 and a Ph.D. in English from the University of Rochester in 1974. He has worked as a park maintenance man, factory laborer, commercial fisherman, university administrator and teacher, and a writer and producer of prime time network television shows. He is the author of eighteen novels. He lives in Southern California.

Black Lens: Part XV

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 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13 and Part 14.

‘Blood is our only permanent history, and blood history does not admit of revision.Or
So
Some
Of us
Believe.’
–Harry Crews

The Cop

The hotel was, he’d tried to warn her, a shit hole.

C’mon, if he knew he was going to, um … score, would he have been there?

Yeah, right.

Said

‘You ever read the English writer, Patrick Hamilton?’

No.

But on the side of etiquette, she asked, like she could give a fuck-

‘What did he write?’

Where to start, ok, go with the movie, always an in,

‘Rope?’

Nope.

Moving on

Continue reading “Black Lens: Part XV”

Mulholland Books and Rockstar Games

We’re thrilled to announce that we will be publishing, in conjunction with Rockstar Games, a series of short stories some of which are based on characters and cases from the world of L.A. Noire, Rockstar’s forthcoming new video game. “L.A. Noire: The Collected Stories” will be available for digital download on June 6, 2011 through all major eBook retailers.

Authors with stories in the anthology include such renowned writers as Megan Abbott, Lawrence Block, Joe Lansdale, Joyce Carol Oates, Francine Prose, Jonathan Santlofer, Duane Swierczynski and Andrew Vachss. 1940s Hollywood, murder, deception and mystery take center stage as readers reintroduce themselves to characters seen in L.A. Noire. Explore the lives of actresses desperate for the Hollywood spotlight; heroes turned defeated men; and classic Noir villains. Readers will come across not only familiar faces, but familiar cases from the game that take on a new spin to tell the tales of emotionally torn protagonists, depraved schemers and their ill-fated victims.

Read Megan Abbot’s story “The Girl” on Rockstargames.com.

Read the full press release here.

Preorder from BN.com | iTunes | Amazon

Start reading A Drop of the Hard Stuff by Lawrence Block

Next month we are publishing A Drop of the Hard Stuff by Lawrence Block, the newest installment in the celebrated Matthew Scudder series. Start here with the prologue to the novel Booklist, in a starred review, called: “Genius…the prose, as always, is like the club soda Scudder sips in the opening pages: cool, fizzy, and completely refreshing.”

LATE ONE NIGHT . . .

“I’ve often wondered,” Mick Ballou said, ” how it would all have gone if I’d taken a different turn.”

We were at Grogan’s Open House, the Hell’s Kitchen saloon he’s owned and operated for years. The gentrification of the neighborhood has had its effect on Grogan’s, although the bar hasn’t changed much inside or out. But the local hard cases have mostly died or moved on, and the crowd these days is a gentler and more refined bunch. There’s Guinness on draft, and a good selection of single-malt Scotches and other premium whiskeys. But it’s the joint’s raffish reputation that draws them. They get to point out the bullet holes in the walls, and tell stories about the notorious past of the bar’s owner. Some of the stories are true.

They were all gone now. The barman had closed up, and the chairs were on top of the tables so they’d be out of the way when the kid came in at daybreak to sweep up and mop the floor. The door was locked, and all the lights out but the leaded-glass fixture over the table where we sat with our Waterford tumblers. There was whiskey in Mick’s, club soda in mine. Continue reading “Start reading A Drop of the Hard Stuff by Lawrence Block”