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Start Reading Guilt By Association by Marcia Clark

April is the month we’ve been waiting for here at Mulholland Books. We finally get to bring our books into the world. Since this is the first day of our launch month, we thought we’d bring you a prologue from our debut novel GUILT BY ASSOCIATION by Marcia Clark. The book that James Ellroy called “a damn, damn, good thriller” and David Baldacci said was “as sharp as they come in the genre.”

PROLOGUE

He snapped his cell phone shut and slid it into the pocket of his skintight jeans. The last piece was in place; it wouldn’t be long now. But the waiting was agonizing. Unbidden, the memory of his only ride on a roller coaster flooded over him, like a thousand tiny needles piercing his face and body: eight years old, trapped in that rickety little car with no escape, the feeling of breathtaking terror that mounted as it click-click-clicked its slow, inexorable climb to the top of the sky.

He shook his head to cleanse his mind of the memory, then abruptly grabbed his long brown hair and pulled it tightly into a ponytail behind his head. He held it there and exhaled again more slowly, trying to quiet his pulse. He couldn’t afford to lose it now. With the lift of his arms, his worn T-shirt rode up, and he absently admired in the little mirror above the dresser the reflection of the coiled snake tattooed on his slim, muscled belly.

He started pacing, the motel carpet crunching under his feet, and found that the action helped. Despite his anxiety, he moved with a loose-hipped grace. Back and forth he walked, considering his plan yet again, looking for flaws. No, he’d set it up just right. It would work. It had to work. He stopped to look around at the dimly lit motel room. “Room” was using the term loosely—it was little more than a box with a bed. His eyes fell on a switch on the wall. Just to have something to do,he went over and flipped it on. Nothing happened. He looked up and saw only a filthy ceiling fan. The sour smell of old cigarettes told him that it hadn’t worked in years. There were stains of undetermined origin on the walls that he thought were probably older than he was. The observation amused him. Neither the stains, nor the foul smell of decay, nor the hopeless dead-end feeling of the place fazed him at all. It wasn’t that much worse than a lot of the places he’d lived during his seventeen years on the planet.

In fact, far from depressing him, the ugly room made him feel triumphant. It represented the world he’d been born into, and the one he was finally leaving behind… forever. For the first time in a life that had nearly ended at the hands of a high-wired crackhead while his so-called mother was crashing in the next room, he was going to be in control. He paused to consider the memory of his early near demise—not a firsthand memory since he’d been only two months old when it happened, but rather a paragraph in the social worker’s report he’d managed to read upside down during a follow-up visit at one of the many foster homes where he’d been “raised” for the past sixteen or so years. As it always did, the memory of that report made him wonder whether his mother was still alive. The thought felt different this time, though. Instead of the usual helpless, distant ache—and rage—he felt power, the power to choose. Now he could find her… if he wanted to. Find her and show her that the baby she’d been too stoned to give a shit about had made it. Had scored the big score.


In just a few more minutes, he’d say good-bye to that loser kid who lived on the fringes. He stopped, dropped his hands to his hips, and stared out the grimy window as he savored the thought of having “fuck you” money. He planned to extend a vigorous middle finger to the many foster parents for whom he was just a dollar sign, to all the assholes he’d had to put up with for a meal and a bed. And if he did decide to find his mother, he’d show up with something awesome for her, a present, like a dress or jewelry. Something to make her sorry for all the years she’d let him be lost to her. He pictured himself giving her whatever it was in a fancy, store-wrapped box. He tried to picture the expression on her face, but the image wouldn’t resolve. The only photo he had of her—taken when he was less than a year old—was so faded, only the outline of her long brown hair was still visible. Still, the thought of being able to play the Mac Daddy puffed him up, and for a moment he let himself go there, enjoying the fantasy of his mother really loving him.

The knock on the door jolted him back to reality. He swallowed and struggled for a deep breath, then walked toward the door. He noticed his hands were shaking, and he quickly rubbed them on his thighs to make them stop. He slowly released his breath and willed his face to relax as he opened the door.

“Hey,” he said, then held the door open and moved aside to let in his visitor. “What took you so long?”

“Lost track of the time, sorry.” The visitor stepped inside quickly.

“You have it all?” the boy asked, wary.

The visitor nodded. The boy smiled and let the door close behind him.

Keep reading.

Marcia Clark is a former LA, California deputy district attorney, who was the lead prosecutor in the O.J. Simpson murder case. She wrote a bestselling nonfiction book about the trial, Without a Doubt, and is a frequent media commentator and columnist on legal issues. She lives in Los Angeles.

Black Lens: Part X

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 and Part 9.

Having delivered his ultimatum Cromwell paused.

Watched his flock

Some calm

Resolved.

Some on edge

Clearly nervous

Steeling  themselves for

The foreordained

A collective bloodletting.

Continue reading “Black Lens: Part X”

As the Crow Flies (Part II)

Halls Of HorrorAndrew Vachss uses storytelling to teach, to protect, and to make the world a better place. Today,we celebrate the publication of his new novel, The Weight, with part two of his original story “As the Crow Flies,” continued from yesterday.

7.

I knew who he was. Just like I knew Alfred Hitchcock hadn’t been his first one.

I didn’t need his name, because I had his path. His kind, they always move in straight lines. You may not know where they’re going, but you always know where they’ve been.

The local paper keeps the crime reports on a separate page. Not big crimes, like an armed robbery or a murder. Around here, something like that’s so rare it would make headlines. The “Crime Beat” page is just a printout of the entire police blotter. Drunk driving takes up most of it, with some domestic violence sprinkled in. Lately, a lot of meth busts, too. But you also see things like shoplifting, disorderly conduct, urinating in public . . . any petty little thing you could get arrested for.

The library has a complete archive, going all the way back for years and years. I read three years’ worth. Found seven little notices that qualified: five “animal cruelties”–no details; it wasn’t that kind of newspaper–and two fires they called “arson, unsolved.”

After I marked the locations on my close-terrain map, I could see they were all within a two-and-a-half-mile area. You wouldn’t need a car to cover that much ground, no matter where you started from.

I began leaving the door of my den open all the time, even when I wasn’t around.

Under the bookshelves, there’s a cabinet. It has a lock built into it, but I sometimes forget to use it. You can tell that by looking–the key is still in the lock, sticking out.

There’s magazines in there now. All kinds, from Soldier of Fortune to Playboy to the stuff I bought on that last visit to the city.

It took a couple of weeks for one of those new ones to go missing. Whoever took it would never notice that I had removed the staples and replaced them with a pair of wire-thin transmitters.

Those transmitters were real short-range, but I was sure I wouldn’t need much. I knew he was close. Continue reading “As the Crow Flies (Part II)”

As the Crow Flies

pitbullAndrew Vachss uses storytelling to teach, to protect, and to make the world a better place. This week, we celebrate the publication of his new novel, The Weight, with an original story and much more to come.

1.

Alfred Hitchcock is dead. He’s lying there dead, and I don’t know what to do about it.

I wasn’t surprised when I found him dead on the ground. The woods behind our house are wild—-a country where Darwin makes the rules. I’m no philosopher to be saying that; it’s just that I’ve been in places like that myself, so I know how they work.

Alfred Hitchcock was one of those crow-raven hybrids you see around this piece of the coast all the time–too big for a crow, but without that classic thick raven’s beak. You couldn’t miss him, even at a distance. He had a white streak along one side of his head, like the fire-scar a bullet leaves when it just kisses you on the cheek as it goes by.

He hadn’t shown up for a few days, but that didn’t worry Dolly. She loves all her animals, but she doesn’t regard them as pets. “They have their own ways,” is what she always says. Continue reading “As the Crow Flies”

Cathartic Thrills

AirplaneA few years ago I was on a book tour in Spain, where I spent two days in a hotel being interviewed by reporters. Interestingly, nearly all of them posed a similar inquiry: What’s it like not to write serious fiction?

I admit, at first I was thrown by the question. But in the end I answered it with an inquiry of my own. How many times have seen a person reading War and Peace on an airplane? None of the reporters answered me, so I offered the answer for them. None. Then I asked a second question: How many times have you seen someone reading a thriller on an airplane? Of course, the answer was obvious. Many. I followed up these two questions with a statement: I doubt that Tolstoy could have written a popular thriller. Which is similar to my doubt that I could write like Tolstoy. That doesn’t make either one of us better than the other, it simply makes us different.

It’s true, no thriller will ever win the National Book Award or the Pulitzer Prize or the Nobel Prize for Literature. They rarely win anything (except of course the Thriller awards, bestowed each July by the International Thriller Writers, of which I am currently the co-president). And it could be argued that no thriller will change the face of world literature. Great analyses will not be written about them, and rarely are they favorably viewed by any of the major book review outlets.

Those things also don’t make them bad, they simply make them different.

Thrillers perform one simple task: they entertain. For a short while they allow readers to escape their own world, to forget their own troubles, and to just have a good time. Luckily, the genre is packed with a multitude of sub-genres, each geared to its particular audience, who savor those subdivisions with a zeal that has long helped to sustain publishing houses.

A few months ago I received an email from a reader. He’d gone through a difficult divorce, then was involved in a car accident. While recuperating he’d read a number of thrillers, including all of my Cotton Malone series. He wanted me to know that my stories had helped him through a difficult time. They’d allowed him time to relax, and he said that without them his recovery period would have been unbearable. And he’s not alone. Nearly every week I receive emails from servicemen and -women stationed overseas. They too want me to know that my stories were a welcome relief from the horrors they witness every day.

So what’s it like not to write serious fiction?

Not bad.

Not bad at all.

Steve Berry is the New York Times bestselling author of The Balkan Escape, The Paris Vendetta, The Charlemagne Pursuit, The Venetian Betrayal, The Alexandria Link, The Templar Legacy, The Third Secret, The Romanov Prophecy, and The Amber Room. His books have been translated into thirty-seven languages and sold in fifty countries. He lives in the historic old city of St. Augustine, Florida. He and his wife, Elizabeth, have founded History Matters, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving our heritage. Visit www.steveberry.org to learn more about Berry and the foundation.