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The Lineup: Weekly Links

Police lineupThe Outdoor Co-Ed Topless Pulp Fiction Appreciation Society REALLY loves Lawrence Block! But don’t take our word for it—check the photos! Unless you’re at work, that is… If you are, you can’t say say we didn’t warn you …

Detectives Beyond Borders has a nice discussion of nicknames inspired by a passage from Eoin Colfer’s noir debut PLUGGED, with a few good ones in the comments. Best crime fiction nicknames thread? Anyone?

Patrick Melton, one of the writers behind the SAW franchise and a co-author of BLACK LIGHT, has an in-depth interview up at Dread Central about the book and upcoming film projects. Check it out!

You know what’s cool? Noir cowboys.

And in other Mulholland news, Hell and Gone received a starred PW review, spot-on reviews of A SINGLE SHOT and BLACK LIGHT are up at Shakefire.com, raves for BLACK LIGHT are in from Dreadful Tales and Anything Horror,  and did you see this review of THE WRECKAGE from the Williamsburg Regional Library’s Blogging for a Good Book?

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 mulhollandbooks@hbgusa.com or DM us on Twitter.

Ray Bradbury is my ‘Father’

Growing up in a small country town in Australia, my only experience of the wider world came through grainy black and white TV images and the magic of the books that I borrowed from the local library.

I remember being eight-years-old, in July 1969, when teachers assembled the entire school – barely a hundred students – into one classroom. They wheeled in a television and we watched Neil Armstrong emerge from the landing module of Apollo 11. We held our breath. One small step…one giant leap…

Everyone applauded except me. It’s not that I didn’t appreciate the enormity of the achievement, but I had already been to the moon and walked on the surface of Mars and smelt the pungent odor of Jupiter. I had traveled the universe with a writer called Ray Bradbury, who is perhaps the reason that I’m a novelist today.

Bradbury was born in 1920 in Waukegan, Illinois, the son of a lineman for the local power company, who moved often for work between Illinois and Arizona. When very young he developed a passion for the books of Edgar Allan Poe and L. Frank Baum, while immersing himself in popular culture such as cinema, comic strips and traveling circuses.

There were tragedies in his early life. His beloved grandfather and his baby sister died of pneumonia – which could explain why a sense of loss haunts so many of Bradbury’s stories and novels.

At the age of fourteen he moved to California and has lived there ever since. After he graduated from Los Angeles High School in 1938, he joined the Los Angeles Science Fiction League, befriending writers Robert Heinlein and Leigh Brackett. In 1940 he sold his first story to a literary magazine – and a career began that would span more than seventy years.

Apart from numerous books and short stories, Bradbury wrote for years for both Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Twilight Zone. He has penned the screenplay for the classic 1956 version of Moby Dick starring Gregory Peck and directed by John Huston.

I wasn’t born until 1960, but I discovered Bradbury when I graduated from picture books to short stories. From memory, the first I ever picked up was The Illustrated Man a collection of eighteen short stories that opens in Wisconsin where two men sit down to share a meal around a campfire and one unbuttons his shirt to reveal a canvas of ink-decorated skin. In the flickering firelight, the images begin to breathe and move. Each of the tattoos tells a story and gives a vision of humankind’s destiny. There were tales of star-travel, Martian invasions, junkyard rockets and technology awakening our worst instincts.

Continue reading “Ray Bradbury is my ‘Father’”

A Conversation with Michael Robotham and Mark Billingham: Part II

In our ongoing celebration of the publication of THE WRECKAGE, we had Mark Billingham, author of BLOODLINE and Michael Robotham discuss the passage of time for series characters, the origins of THE WRECKAGE, the joys of being an international author and more. Missed Part I? Read it first.

MB: What you say about your characters as friends is interesting. We did a few events together when you were over here recently, and I was struck by the way you talked about your characters – Joe, especially. You mentioned that you regretted giving him Parkinson’s disease for instance. It felt as though you were talking about a friend.

MR: It’s true. We’ve had this chat before – about how ‘real’ characters become. I know you feel that you’re always in charge of Thorne and your characters, but I find that mine lead me around at times…not doing as they’re told. Joe O’Loughlin is probably the closest to me in age and personality. He has two daughters. I have three. I really really love the guy and If I had my time over again, I would never have given him early onset Parkinson’s Disease.

MB: But you can control the rate of his decline, right?

MR: What I have to do is stop aging him in real time. It’s hard to get my head around the fact that he can age slower than I can.

MB: I took that decision with Thorne a few years ago. It’s pretty liberating. As long as you don’t get stupid about it and keep your characters at the same age for way too long…

MR: What do I do about the children? Can Joe stay the same age, but his daughters grow older? I like the idea that they are growing up. I get so much material from my own teenage daughters. In a perfect world, I’d stop them growing…or meeting boys.

MB: Playing God can get tricky, right? Now, as usual there’s clearly a lot of research behind the new book. Your journo years must have stood you in good stead when it comes to this kind of thing.

Continue reading “A Conversation with Michael Robotham and Mark Billingham: Part II”

A Conversation with Michael Robotham and Mark Billingham: Part I

"lost in time" - infrared photograph, AustraliaIn our ongoing celebration of the publication of THE WRECKAGE, we had Mark Billingham, author of BLOODLINE and Michael Robotham get together for a chat. In Part One of the conversation, they discuss ghostwriting, recurring characters and new challenges.

MB: So another great day in Sydney? How the hell do you write dark twisted mysteries sitting there in paradise?

MR: I must admit I do have trouble glancing out my window and imagining the mean streets. Instead I have sun, sand, surf and…kookaburras. That’s why I don’t write books set in Australia.

MB: Right, we don’t have too much trouble with sunshine in this country.

MR: I wrote a novel years ago – my great unpublished Australian masterpiece – set in a small fishing village. It was on the verge of being published in the UK, but missed out at the final publishing meeting. I was told that if I had set the story in Ireland, Scotland, Wales or England, it would have published it in a heartbeat. That was twenty years ago. Thankfully things have changed a lot since then. Readers are picking up books from all over the world.

MB: Were you attracted to writing stuff set here in the UK after all the years you spent working here as a journalist?

MR: I think I was more realistic having been a journalist and then a ghostwriter in the UK. I’d been making a living from writing for so long, I wasn’t prepared to live on oranges in some freezing garret. I knew that a UK setting would give me a bigger market. We writers aren’t supposed to talk about the commercial side of what we do. We’re supposed to do it for love. But let’s face it. We have bills to pay. Mortgages. School fees.

MB: Too right!. So let’s talk for a bit about the ghostwriter business. How hard is it to write in the persona of someone else? Someone real, I mean.

MR: I did 15 autobiographies for the great and the good…and less good. It was all about capturing the voice, which is not much different to fiction only I was dealing with real characters instead of fictitious ones. It meant living with them for weeks, taping their stories, having them cry on my shoulder. I became part therapist, part-confidante, and part best friend…

MB:  And there are still some that you aren’t allowed to name, right?

MR: I can name about half of them. Otherwise I’d have to kill you.

MB: Well I won’t push it then! Were there some subjects that were just impossible to work with?

Continue reading “A Conversation with Michael Robotham and Mark Billingham: Part I”

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…”

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.

3

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”

Chapter 2 of The Wreckage

Next month we are publishing The Wreckage by Michael Robotham. 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.

2

LONDON

Being measured for a new suit was not something Vincent Ruiz expected to happen until he was lying cold and stiff on an undertaker’s slab. And if that were the case, he didn’t suppose he’d care about an effeminate stranger nudging a tape measure against his balls. Maybe he’s weighing them. Every other measurement has been taken. Continue reading “Chapter 2 of The Wreckage”

Chapter 1 of The Wreckage

Next month we are publishing The Wreckage by Michael Robotham. 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.”

Have you killed?”

“Many times.”

“Were you scared?”

“No.”

“Never?”

“It’s not hard to take a life when a life has been taken from you. It is not about embracing revenge or nurturing hatred. And forget about taking an eye for an eye. Equality is for the weak and stupid. It’s about pulling the trigger… simple as that. One finger, one movement…”

“Who was the first?”

“A schoolgirl.”

“Why?”

“I can’t remember, but I’ve never forgotten the warmth of the day, the blinding glare, the dust on the leaves of the apricot trees. It was apricot season. In that final instant everything slows down—the cars, the buses, voices on the street. Everything goes quiet and all you hear is your own heartbeat, the blood squeezing through smaller and smaller channels. There is no other moment like it.”

“Why do they call you the Courier?”

“I deliver messages.”

“You kill people?”

“People kill every day. Nurses push needles. Surgeons stop hearts. Butchers slay beasts. You’re doing something good here. You and the others are going to be famous. You are going to create a day that will live forever, a date that doesn’t need an explanation. History made. History changed. These things begin somewhere. They begin with an idea. They begin with faith.”

“Why me?”

“The others will also be tested.”

“Are you going to film it?”

“Yes. Here is the gun. It won’t bite you. This is the safety. Pull back the slide and the bullet enters the chamber.”

“Nobody will see my face?”

“No. Now walk through the door. He’s waiting. Seated. He will hear you coming. He will beg. Don’t listen to his words. Press the barrel to the back of his head and pull off the hood. Make him look at the camera’s red light: the drop of electrified blood.”

“Should I say something? A prayer.”

“It’s not what you say—it’s what you do.”

1

BAGHDAD

The most important lesson Luca Terracini ever learned about being a foreign correspondent was to tell a story through the eyes of someone else. The second most important lesson was how to make spaghetti marinara with a can of tuna and a packet of ramen noodles.

There were others, of course, most of them to do with staying alive in a war zone: Do not make an appointment to see anyone you do not trust absolutely. Do not go out before checking whether any suspicious vehicles are loitering outside. Do not assume that a place that was safe yesterday will be safe today.

These security measures were followed by all western reporters in Baghdad, but Luca had added a few of his own over the years—advice that came down to possessing three vital tools for survival: a natural cowardice; several US hundred-dollar bills sewn into his trouser cuffs; and a well-developed sense of the absurd.

The first call to prayer is sounding. Sunrise. Luca had been woken by the racket of washing machines, TV sets and air conditioners coming to life simultaneously. The government can only provide electricity during certain hours, which means the appliances trigger at random times, day or night, creating a strange symphony of music and metal.

Continue reading “Chapter 1 of The Wreckage”