Please take a moment to review Hachette Book Group’s updated Privacy Policy: read the updated policy here.

Don Winslow, Interviewed by Shane Salerno

Today, the film Savages, based on the Don Winslow novel of the same name, opens in theaters. Check out the trailer, if you haven’t already. Directed by Oscar winner Oliver Stone, the film’s screenplay is the product of a collaboration between novelist Don Winslow and screenwriter Shane Salerno. Winslow and Salerno have known each other for a long time – thirteen years to be exact. They have worked together, including creating the NBC TV series UC: Undercover, trust each other implicitly and often exchange early drafts of their work and talk on the phone every day, usually about film adaptations of Winslow’s work which Salerno produces. At our request, Salerno rang up his buddy Winslow who was in the middle of a cross-country book tour and interviewed the acclaimed crime writer about his life and work.

Salerno: What does it mean for you to be a writer?

Winslow: It means everything to me to be a writer. You know I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was a little kid. I grew up with great story tellers. My old man was a sailor, and I used to sit under the dining room table when he had his old Navy buddies over, and he’d pretend to think that I’d gone to bed and he’d let me sit there and listen to some of the best story tellers in the world so I always worshiped those guys. And we always had books around the house. My old man came out of World War II, you know 17 years old on Guadalcanal and what he wanted to do was ride around on boats, go to every zoo in the world and sit around and read books. So there were always books around our house and we were allowed to read anything we wanted at any age. There was no censorship, no nothing and so I imagined from when I was 5 or 6 years or so that if I could be a writer that would be the best thing in the world to be.

Salerno: Tell me 5 books that knocked you out?

Winslow: Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, George Eliot’s Middlemarch, James Ellroy’s L.A. Confidential–where am I? that’s three?–a book called A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry, it’ll come to me, a really beautiful Indian novel about Mumbai, and, without question, All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy.

Salerno: Name some authors’ you consistently admire in the genre?

Winslow: Well, James Ellroy, T. Jefferson Parker, Michael Connelly, Ken Bruen and John Harvey, Dennis Lehane and Lee Child.

Salerno: You’ve been married for twenty-five years, and yet all of your characters are a mess. How do you access that?

Winslow: [laughs] All of my characters are a mess?

Salerno: They’re a mess!–Every single one of them.–A beautiful mess in some cases but…

Winslow: Y’know, I think methods are interesting. You know what I mean? Vulnerability’s interesting. I don’t think like ‘steady’ is real interesting in fiction, you know? I think that a character’s flaws are what give a character depth and interest. So, I’ve been married for 25 years but I had a life before I was married. It’s a little hard to remember sometimes but I did and I think I was the same kind of flawed, kind of vulnerable kind of character so it is pretty easy for me to access that .

At the same time, I think, you know any writer looks around him. You know, you look at people you look at relationships, you look at other people you know, you look at people in restaurants and cafés, you sit there and you make up stories about them you hear snatches of conversation you see little bits of behavior and that finds its way into your work. But if I was to just sit and write about myself I think we’d have some damn dull books. It would be about some guy sitting alone in a room typing. Not very interesting

Salerno: Give us a short history of your childhood, your parents and growing up.

Winslow: Oh, man. There’s no short history. My dad was a Navy man, Marine in World War II, and then into the Navy, Childhood was spent on most of the destroyer ports on the East Coast. My mom was from New Orleans, my dad met her while he was on leave during World War II. They got married six weeks later, and she came from a family of gamblers. My grandmother was a ward healer for Huey Long after the depression, and then she worked for Carlos Marcello the Mafia chief who probably had Kennedy killed — who by the way I met as a child we used to go to parties at his house in Algiers.

Continue reading “Don Winslow, Interviewed by Shane Salerno”

Ten Books, Plus a Few More

I’m dreadful at lists. I know it’s something that boys are supposed to be good at — semi-autistically drawn toward, even — but I’m hopeless at remembering what I ought to put in and always too aware of what I’m leaving out. It’s like colors. Does anyone have a favorite color after the age of about twelve? I don’t. There are *types* of colors I like, and a revolving cast of hues that most often please my eye, but I can’t just say “Blue. Oh, and purple”. Similarly I keep making playlists in iTunes, and then spend half my time skipping over songs or wishing I’d included others. It’s the same with books and films. I recall one deeply embarrassing occasion in Hollywood about fifteen years ago, after my agent secured me a sit-down with someone really very senior in a studio. I should have turned up with a list of projects I wanted to pitch. I didn’t. I should have come across as a go-getting man of action. I probably instead came across as sleepy, or hungover. I should at least have been able to respond perkily to the woman’s inquiry as to my favorite movies, but I suspect I left her office having given the impression that I’d never actually seen any films at all. It was a waste of a meeting, and I apologize to all those writers who would have made a far better job of it.

Oh well. Here’s a list of ten books which I’ve loved and still loved, and which have made a significant difference to my life and work… Continue reading “Ten Books, Plus a Few More”

Report from the Bookselling Front at The Mystery Bookstore Los Angeles

mulholland drive somewhereMulholland Drive is notorious in our town and around the world as a street of significant history—some of it quite shady, some of it fictional, some of it quite real. All of it makes for great crime (fiction). When we saw the name of the new Little, Brown imprint, we were intrigued.

It was when we saw the lineup of the authors that we started doing various versions of chair dancing. Okay, I did some chair dancing and some instantaneous Facebooking and Tweeting; Store Manager Bobby McCue—aka Dark Bobby—raised an eyebrow, nodded his head ever so slightly, and said, “Hmmm…this will be cool.”

Mulholland Books has gathered authors ranging from legendary and established icons to up-and-coming talents, with everything in between. And they’re reaching beyond our own American shores to the UK and Australia, and to various subgenres within the field. Most of these authors will already be known to our customers; many of these authors have become good friends to The Mystery Bookstore Los Angeles. All of these authors will be of great interest to our customers and staff.

The authors and the mission of Mulholland Books are so very much at the heart of The Mystery Bookstore Los Angeles: to promote the best of crime fiction, whether it’s from old friends or newcomers to the field. When I saw the press release on an author friend’s blog, I immediately fired off an email to Miriam Parker, head goddess/marketing director of Mulholland Books, and said, “Whatever we can do to help, let us know!” This is a party we want to be in on, from the very beginning—a venture that has The Mystery Bookstore Los Angeles written all over it!

Continue reading “Report from the Bookselling Front at The Mystery Bookstore Los Angeles”

See You in the Darkness

Barbara Stanywck and Fred MacMurray - Double Indemnity 1944One chilly February evening back in 2008, mystery writer Alan Gordon drove me home from a book launch for Queens Noir (Akashic, 2008), an anthology of dark tales set in my home borough. Both Alan and I live in Forest Hills, a pretty serene neighborhood set deep into Queens. As we approached the police precinct at the corner of Yellowstone and Austin that night, we noticed a burst of activity out front, including TV cameras and roving reporters. The next day, Alan e-mailed me: “So, all those camera crews at the precinct last night were about the arrest of the orthodontist’s wife for contracting his murder. My wife said, ‘I always knew she was crooked.’ ”

I knew the case vaguely. Back in October 2007, Daniel Malakov, a local man the newspapers described as a “prominent member” of Forest Hills’s Bukharian Jewish community, had been shot and killed in a nearby playground in full view of his four-year-old daughter. Ultimately, his estranged doctor-wife, Mazoltuv Borukhova, was convicted of first-degree murder and conspiring with a distant cousin to kill Malakov, with whom she was embroiled in a fierce custody battle. The key piece of evidence: a homemade silencer discarded at the scene. The silencer was traced to Borukhova’s cousin, whose fingerprints were on file for evading a subway fare. Shortly thereafter, police found that an astounding ninety-one calls had been made between the cousin and Dr. Borukhova during the three weeks preceding the murder. The jig was up.

In my reply to Alan’s e-mail, I remember noting that the whole story was in fact the classic noir tale — wife hires man to kill husband, only to find herself trapped in her own web of deception. Double Indemnity come to life. But, of course, beneath the genre staples, the case speaks to something far more elemental about the enduring attraction of crime fiction — particularly noir, with its emphasis on the fickle finger of fate. There is a tendency to dismiss crime novels as lurid, as trivial, as escapist. These dismissals always strike me as anxious attempts to diminish the genre’s actual, visceral lure. That, instead of being disposable yarns to be consumed quickly and tossed aside, crime novels speak to our very essence, to the often painfully compelling (impelling) emotions that, for all the layers of “civilization” and modernity that lay atop us, still can’t be soothed. Desire. Greed. Wrath. Envy. Revenge. These are timeless drives. Universal ones.

Continue reading “See You in the Darkness”

’70s paranoia thrillers and why we need them now more than ever . . .

It was never going to last that long. Golden ages rarely do. But for a while there in the 1970s, that’s what we had.

Ten years after Richard Hofstadter coined the phrase “the paranoid style” (in a lecture he delivered just days before JFK was assassinated), the national traumas of Vietnam and Watergate were in full swing. Hofstadter’s point was that “they” weren’t out to get you at all — you really were being paranoid. But by the early ’70s, this paradigm had been shattered. The point now was that they really were out to get you, whether you knew it or not, and generally you didn’t until it was too late.

This dark mood of suspicion and disillusionment was reflected at the time in a glorious run of movies — including Alan J. Pakula’s great troika Klute, The Parallax View, and All the President’s Men; Sydney Pollack’s Three Days of the Condor; and Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation. In an almost fetishized landscape of impersonal architecture and encroaching technology (with taut, dread-laden scores, usually by Michael Small or David Shire), these movies chart the gradual alienation and disempowerment of the individual in modern society, the stripping away of privacy, and the growing influence of shadowy power structures.

Although very different from these, Roman Polanski’s Chinatown (sun-drenched 1930s L.A., unforgettable noir score by Jerry Goldsmith) is perhaps the greatest of them all. That moment at the end when Lieutenant Lou Escobar instructs Loach to handcuff J.J. Gittes to the wheel of a car, thus rendering him powerless to determine the outcome of events, was a major psychological turning point in American cinema, and it mirrored the greater shift going on outside the movie theater. It was like a changing of the guard. Here, suddenly, were serious, challenging stories where the individual had no moral compass anymore and could casually be crushed by malign, unknown forces.

Continue reading “’70s paranoia thrillers and why we need them now more than ever . . .”

Mulholland Books Mission Statement

Mulholland Drive is a winding stretch of road that follows the ridgeline of the Hollywood Hills. Its hairpin turns, sharp cliff-faces and breathtaking views of Los Angeles are shrouded in secrecy and imbued with drama, making them synonymous with suspense. The mysteries of Mulholland have inspired countless novels, films and works of art, from the classic mysteries of Raymond Chandler and James M. Cain to the voices of James Ellroy, Michael Connelly, Michael Mann, and David Lynch.

The goal of Little, Brown’s Mulholland Books is simple: to publish books you can’t stop reading. Whatever their form—crime novels, thrillers, police procedurals, spy stories, even supernatural suspense—the promise of a Mulholland Book is that you’ll read it leaning forward, hungry for the next word. With a focus on online community building, internet marketing and authentic connections between authors, readers and publisher, Mulholland Books will be at the center of a web of suspense.

The history of suspense is long and storied, and Mulholland Books is proud to be part of its future. Unexpected, fresh, and with a 21st century approach to publishing, meet Mulholland: you never know what’s coming around the curve.