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Spoiler Alert

Snakes in my eye

A recent, controversial  New York Times article by Stanley Fish uses the results of a 2011 psychological study to argue readers and viewers experience no negative effects from knowing the ending of a story in advance. We asked a few of our friends what they thought–check back regularly today for their responses.

Mr. Fish doesn’t think he owes us any warning when his reviews include spoilers. I think we all deserve a warning about Mr. Fish’s reviews, not to mention his misguided opinion – and definition – of spoilers.

He starts by stating that spoilers don’t really spoil anything. But the example he gives to support that notion – that the pleasures of a first read are only different, but no better than the enjoyment one gets from a second read – has nothing at all to do with spoilers. He states: “First-time readers or viewers, because they don’t know what’s going to happen, have access to the pleasures of suspense — going down the wrong path, guessing at the identity of the killer, wondering about the fate of the hero. Repeaters who do know what is going to happen cannot experience those pleasures, but they can recognize significances they missed the first time around, see ironies that emerge only in hindsight and savor the skill with which a plot is constructed. If suspense is taken away by certainty, certainty offers other compensations, and those compensations, rather than being undermined by a spoiler, require one.”

Certainly, readers can derive different kinds of pleasure from the first to the second read of a story. The first read gives us a chance to experience the thrill of the unknown; the second gives us a chance to more closely observe the craft of the writer since we now know the outcome. But what the hell does that have to do with spoilers? A first reading of a book is not a “spoiler.” A spoiler is a giveaway of the twist without the benefit of having the chance to read the whole story. It’s what some critics – one of whom is apparently Mr. Fish – might do in a review. When a review gives away a key plot twist, the reader has no chance to enjoy the suspense of the unknown, i.e. “is Mr. X the murderer? Or is it Ms. Y?” and “will the murderer get caught?” or “will our hero survive?” Thus, the term “spoiler” is apt, because it spoils the suspenseful aspect of the reader’s experience. But when the reader learns the plot twist by actually reading the whole story, that is not a “spoiler.” In that case the reader has been able to enjoy the full experience of following the story without knowing the outcome, of trying to guess who did it, whether the bad guy gets caught, etc. Now if the reader decides to go back for a second viewing in order to observe the story from a different vantage point, for example, to see how the writer built to the conclusion, why the “solve” did or didn’t work, that’s a voluntary choice and a whole different matter. The problem with “spoilers,” is that we readers don’t get to make that choice. The review that includes spoilers makes it for us. Continue reading “Spoiler Alert”

The Lineup: Weekly Links

Contrasted Confinement

Marcia Clark’s second Rachel Knight thriller GUILT BY DEGREES is in bookstores now–and the reviewers love it! John Valeri of The Examiner raves about how the novel “takes the strongest elements from an already assured debut and melded them into near perfection,” while Kirkus proclaims that Knight “transmutes the dull and ordinary into the bright stuff of legends…serious fun.” CNN champions its “fast-paced story” that “crackles with authenticity,” and the Financial Times called Clark’s newest a “blade-sharp read.”

Also check out the great love that Marcia’s newest is getting from bloggers like Christian Manifesto, Mystery Scene, The Review Broads, and S. Krishna’s Books.

Nick Santora’s recently released FIFTEEN DIGITS has also been receiving great blogger reviews from the likes of BookReporter and Booking Mama. And don’t miss Nick’s interview at Bitter Lawyer.

Joe R. Lansdale’s EDGE OF DARK WATER continues to earn rave reviews online, most recently from White Cat Publications, The Mystery Reader, and Serial Distractions. Kirkus also chimed in, calling the novel “a highly entertaining tour de force.” Even the self-proclaimed World’s Toughest Book Critics can’t resist this one!

In other news, Joss Whedon’s THE AVENGERS film had the biggest opening weekend, ever, by a longshot. Which already has industry blogs like Cinema Blend and LA Times’ 24 Frames pondering just what went so drastically right for the franchise. Two words: HULK…SMASH!

We’d shared this last week, but in case you missed it the first time around, Nick Santora’s video of the opening scene of FIFTEEN DIGITS is leagues better than most book trailers and well worth your time…

Did we missing something sweet? Share it in the comments! We’re always open to suggestions for next week’s post! Get in touch at or DM us on Twitter.

Rachel Knight’s LA: Guilt by Degrees edition

Tomorrow marks the publication date of Marcia Clark’s second Rachel Knight novel GUILT BY DEGREES. Celebrate with a tour of Rachel Knight’s Los Angeles as depicted in the novel that CNN recently proclaimed a “a fast-paced story” that “crackles with authenticity,” and the Financial Times called a “blade-sharp read.”

The Biltmore: Rachel Knight’s home: “A grand historical landmark in the heart of downtown L.A. I’d been lucky enough to score a sweet deal as a long-term resident after getting a sentence of life without parole for the murderer of the CEO’s wife. Recently, the CEO had upgraded me to a suite with two bedrooms, claiming it wasn’t getting much use anyway. I’d been a little reluctant to be on the receiving end of even more of his generosity. But when he continued to insist, I caved in. It did make sense that my old room, being smaller and more affordable, was easier to book.”


The Tar Pit: “The cozy, art deco–style restaurant and bar on La Brea had great food and  amazing drinks. Though I was kind of a purist when it came to booze, anyone who was even slightly more adventurous raved about their cocktails, like the Fashionista and the Warsaw Mule.” Continue reading “Rachel Knight’s LA: Guilt by Degrees edition”

The Lineup: Weekly Links

Contrasted ConfinementThe Boston Globe ran what is quite possibly the best review of Joe R. Lansdale’s EDGE OF DARK WATER we’ve ever read. Reviewer Hallie Ephron, noting the novel’s “unforgettable characters” proclaims that this “terrific read” brings to mind “memories of Huckleberry Finn, To Kill A Mockingbird, and even As I Lay Dying with its journey to lay a soul to rest.” Ephron ends her amazing rave with this zinger: “When I reached the final page, something happened that I can’t remember ever happening with a book I’ve read for a review. I wanted to read it again.” Many congratulations, Joe!

Kirkus also has weighed in with high praise for Lansdale’s newest, calling the novel “a highly entertaining tour de force.”

Marilyn Stasio of the New York Times Book Review also had high praise for DARK WATER, calling the novel: “A charming Gothic tale….as funny and frightening as anything that could have been dreamed up by the Brothers Grimm–or Mark Twain.” And don’t miss the New York Times‘ amazing spotlight on Joe’s illustrious career as well.

Excited for Marcia Clark upcoming second Rachel Knight thriller GUILT BY DEGREES? Don’t miss the $0.99 digital short IF I’M DEAD, featuring the feisty LA prosecutor and the characters you’ve grown to love from Clark’s nationally bestselling debut GUILT BY ASSOCIATION.

We happen to be pretty big Josh Whedon fans at Mulholland Books, caught the critically acclaimed horror-thriller-with-a-twist CABIN IN THE WOODS this weekend and loved it. Did you catch it? What did you think?

Did we missing something sweet? Share it in the comments! We’re always open to suggestions for next week’s post! Get in touch at or DM us on Twitter.

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.

Download the full story from your eTailer of choice. | |iTunes | Sony 

Rachel Knight’s Los Angeles

Los Angeles at nightTThe paperback edition of Marcia Clark’s Guilt by Association is in stores now! Now’s the perfect time to check out the debut thriller about which People call a “gritty and intriguing thriller that sings.”

Marcia’s main character LA District Attorney Rachel Knight describes many favorite places in Los Angeles in Guilt by Association. Check out Rachel Knight’s LA:

Historic Biltmore Hotel, Gallery Bar, Downtown Los AngelesThe Biltmore Hotel: Rachel Knight’s glamorous home. “The sheer beauty of the hotel lobby struck me afresh: the stained glass set into the soaring dome ceiling, the ornately cut Lalique chandelier, the plushness of the huge oriental rugs spread over dark henna-colored marble floors. Walking into the lobby always felt like I’d been enfolded in the embrace of a Rubenesque duchess. “

Engine Company Number 28: Location for Rachel’s illicit lunch with the coroner’s investigator. “An LA staple for over twenty years, the restaurant in a restored firehouse is still a popular spot. The original firehouse that had stood on the same spot in 1912 was now restored with mahogany booths, brick floors and pressed tin ceilings – and the original fireman’s pole. “

Continue reading “Rachel Knight’s Los Angeles”

Chapter 3 of Guilt by Association by Marcia Clark

Keep reading GUILT BY ASSOCIATION by Marcia Clark, which is on sale now. If you missed the Prologue, Chapter 1 or Chapter 2, catch up here.


Lieutenant Hales pulled up to the Biltmore, guided me out of the car, and walked me to the front entrance. Through the fog of denial and disbelief, the shocked features of Angel, the doorman, floated before me.

“Rachel, what’s wrong?” he asked as he opened the door and took the elbow Hales wasn’t holding.

“She’s had a tough night,” Hales said tersely.

“I’ll take it from here,” Angel said proprietarily, with an accusatory glance at the lieutenant.

I didn’t have the energy or the sentience to explain that it was nothing the lieutenant had done. I remained mute as Angel led me inside and steered me toward the elevator.

He managed to get me to my room, and I meant to thank him, though I’m not sure the words made it out of my mouth. All I know is that the moment the door closed behind him, I pulled out the bottle of Russian Standard Platinum vodka someone had given me a while ago and poured myself a triple shot.

I looked at the television. Was the story being aired yet? I decided I didn’t want to know. And I couldn’t bring myself to call Toni. Talking about it would make it real. Right now, all I wanted was oblivion. I tossed down my drink, then poured myself another and didn’t stop pouring until I passed out cold.

Continue reading “Chapter 3 of Guilt by Association by Marcia Clark”

A Dream Come True

So far this week, Marcia Clark has appeared on Good Morning America, NPR’s Morning Edition, WPIX and Good Day New York. The Los Angeles Times published a feature on the origins of her novel.  The Richmond Times-Dispatch praises how “Clark develops her plot with ingenious twists and laces it with plenty of humor and a bit of romance….the writer’s pen is a perfect fit in Clark’s deft hands.” The Boston Herald runs a Q&A with Clark as well and the Hartford Books Examiner calls GUILT BY ASSOCIATION “a dazzling debut that marks the emergence of a new literary luminary…Our verdict: It would be criminal to miss this book.” And, don’t miss rave reviews from Jen’s Book Thoughts, Linus’s Blanket, Bermuda Onion, Booking Mama, and Pop Culture Nerd. Here, Marcia tells us a bit about the origins of the novel.

I’d dreamed of writing fiction since I was a kid, and every so often, ideas for books would occur to me, but I never actually made the commitment and put pen to paper. Then I became a criminal lawyer. And a few years later, I joined the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office. And so came the stories, the people, the adrenaline rush of trial; suddenly I was awash in the best material any writer could hope for. But I was in the thick of it, too busy living the ride to step back and write about it.

It wasn’t until years later, after I’d written scripts for television, that I found myself thinking seriously about finally writing a novel. And then, inspiration came from an unexpected source. A friend recommended the series of novels, “Tales of the City” by Armistead Maupin. From the very first page, I was entranced with the beautiful, exciting, warm and witty world he’d created, a world filled with fun, quirky and interesting characters. That’s when I realized that it was time to write that novel, and that what I really wanted to do was revisit my happiest years as a prosecutor, and create a world that would be an ongoing series with recurring characters who’d – hopefully – also be fun, loveable and interesting.

Continue reading “A Dream Come True”

A Conversation with Marcia Clark and Sebastian Rotella

Criminal Courts buildingFormer Los Angeles deputy district attorney Marcia Clark, and reporter Sebastian Rotella, a former correspondent and bureau chief in Paris and Buenos Aires for the Los Angeles Times, both took the “write what you know” adage to heart when they sat down to write their first novels. Clark’s novel, Guilt By Association, out this week, features Los Angeles D.A. Rachel Knight, who takes on the case a young woman who was assaulted from a prominent family. Rotella’s novel, Triple Crossing, an August publication, is a thriller about the criminal underworld at work along both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border, and a young cop who goes undercover to bring it down. Here, the two writers talk about how their day jobs have influenced their writing, in both obvious and subtle ways.

Marcia Clark: For me, one of the best parts of the experience of writing Guilt By Association was if I didn’t have enough evidence, I could back up and add more. “Backspace, backspace, backspace… and we found a fingerprint, a fiber, DNA!” I could make a case as strong or weak as I wanted to.”

Sebastian Rotella: There’s no doubt about that. When you’re writing stories about the Latin American underworld or terrorism, you’re so careful about what you can and can’t say. You might be using a document that tells the truth to a certain point, but then you have to limit yourself from making the connection. When you’re writing a novel, it’s good to apply those rigors, but then you say, “Hey, wait a minute, I’m in charge here!” It’s a good exercise to make it as realistic as possible, but there is the fun of having that creative control over how the action is going to unfold. I think both of us went through that.

MC: I think that’s where you and I come from the same place. We’ve both been limited by the truth and what can be proven in the past. But with a novel, you can say the things you suspect or even know, but can’t necessarily prove. But the experience of having been a prosecutor or a journalist makes you write fiction that’s logical; you build a case on the page that makes sense based on what you know could have been proven in a courtroom. Yes, you have the freedom from restrictions but you don’t want to stray so far that it becomes insane.

Continue reading “A Conversation with Marcia Clark and Sebastian Rotella”

Five Favorite Female Crime Fighters

This week, the world will meet Rachel Knight, the heroine of Marcia Clark’s new novel GUILT BY ASSOCIATION. Marcia has provided us with 5 of her favorite female crime fighters.Tell us your favorites in the comments. We’ll choose 3 to receive signed first editions of GUILT BY ASSOCIATION. Don’t miss Marcia on Good Morning America this morning.

Emma Peel (aka Diana Rigg) of “The Avengers”: Before it was cool to let women fight and carry guns, this woman did it all, and in a black cat suit no less.

Detective Chief Inspector Jane Tennison in “Prime Supect”: Jane is brilliant, tough, straight-talking; a woman who walked the walk without ever resorting to the cartoonish extremes of either trying to be a man or the outrageous coquette. And Helen Mirren is literally the only person who could play her.

Rita Fiore: The hottest female lawyer on two spectacular legs (thanks, Robert B. Parker!). She was Spencer’s “go-to” gal for all kinds of help and information. Every bit as predatory, tough and smart as any man, she and Spencer shared a perpetual, yet unrequited lust.

Scully of the “X Files”: Cool as a cucumber, the rational, scientifically-minded counter-part to Mulder. Scully was a woman who could run without pin wheeling arms and wield a gun with believable authority. And, for a change, a woman was the logical, more emotionally balanced end of the team.

Nancy Drew: one of the earliest intrepid females and the heroine of my early childhood. In fact, she’s one of the reasons I wanted to be a thriller writer. At eighty years old (yep, eighty) she’s still out there crushing crime.

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.

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