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Chapter 2 of Guilt By Association by Marcia Clark

Keep reading GUILT BY ASSOCIATION by Marcia Clark as we prepare for the book’s publication on April 20th. If you missed the Prologue or Chapter 1, there’s time to catch up here. Stay tuned to the site next week for a Marcia Clark Extravaganza.

2

Scott turned and wove through the throng of police and firemen and made his way into the motel. I slid into the driver’s seat and tried not to think about the “passengers” that’d ridden around in the cargo space behind me.

A few more clouds of smoke drifted out as firefighters began to emerge from the building. One of them was rolling up the hose as he walked. They’d been here only a few minutes; if they were already wrapping up, this couldn’t have been much of a fire.

I watched the hunky firefighters at work and was pondering the truth of the old saying—that God made all paramedics and firemen good-looking so you’d see something pretty before you died—when a deep, authoritative voice broke my concentration.

“Miss, are you with the coroner’s office?”

I’d been sitting sidesaddle in the van, facing the motel. I turned to my left and saw that the owner of the voice was somewhere around six feet tall, on the lean side but tastefully muscled under his blue uniform, his dark-blond hair just long enough to comb. His eyes were a gold-flecked hazel, and he had wide, pronounced cheekbones, a strong nose, and a generous mouth. The bars on his uniform told me he was brass, not rank and file. His nameplate confirmed it:

LIEUTENANT GRADEN HALES.

His skeptical look annoyed me, but his presence made an already weird scene even more so. What the hell was a lieutenant doing here? I mustered up my best “I belong here” voice and replied, “I’m a DA, but I’m waiting for Scott.”

I expected that my status as a prosecutor would end the discussion. Wrong.

Continue reading “Chapter 2 of Guilt By Association by Marcia Clark”

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.

Why Crime?

The Burning of BooksWhy crime? This is the question most crime writers get asked more than any other. For a long while I couldn’t answer it. Honestly, I had no idea. To start with I didn’t read crime, which is a weird confession to make and one that could see me strung up by my thumbs above a bonfire of copies of The Wreckage, a very combustible read.

In my very first newspaper interview I was famously misquoted as having read only one crime book— which became the headline for the entire piece. The mistake has haunted me ever since with people desperate to know “which one.” Either it was the very best crime novel ever written, or the worst one—why else would I have stopped?

What I tried to tell the journalist (and obviously failed) was that I tried to read one of each because there are so many new crime writers emerging every year. We live in a golden age of mystery and crime fiction, with some truly brilliant practitioners of the craft. We all have our favorites. We all find our level.

But I go back to the original question: Why crime?

I can answer the question now. I know why I write crime novels. I can even pinpoint the day when the seed was planted (although it took more than twenty years to germinate).

On April 2, 1980, a young man called Raymond John Denning hid amid prison garbage and became the first inmate in eighty years to escape from Grafton Jail, 400 miles north of Sydney, Australia.

I was nineteen at the time, a cadet journalist on the old Sydney Sun, working the graveyard shift, midnight to eight.

Denning was serving a life sentence for the savage bashing of a prison warder during an earlier attempted escape. The warder later died. Although only in his early twenties, Ray was already a hardened criminal who had been in and out of prison since he was fifteen, and was notorious for his many escape attempts.

Denning was immediately classified as the second-most-wanted man in Australia (behind Russell “Mad Dog” Cox, who comes into the story later). He was almost caught within days in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, when police stopped a car being driven by a girlfriend. Denning fled into dense bushland and evaded police roadblocks and helicopters.

He spent the next twenty months on the run, not just avoiding the police, but taunting them. He managed to turn himself into a modern day folk hero by pulling publicity stunts designed to embarrass the police.

Continue reading “Why Crime?”

Sinking the Titanic

Man with Tommy GunBest interview question I’ve ever been asked: What’s the worst thing your parents think you’ve done? Not actually done, but that they think you’ve done.

My answer: Heroin.

I love doing research. It’s like cheating, but with permission.

Here are some of the things I have done in the name of Research: learned to ride a motorcycle; became a certified EMT for both New York State and Monterey County, California; had my sneakers stick to the floor in a peep-show booth back when Times Square was not a place where you took the kids; drunk tea with nuns; crawled through the Portland Shanghai Tunnels; watched a domme flog her sub in an S&M club while he hung on a St. Andrew’s Cross; visited the Oregon State Police Crime Lab; learned to play guitar from a former member of Everclear; learned how to field-strip an M1911; gone on countless ride-alongs in countless cities; fired an HK MP5 on single, three-round, and full-auto; fired a Tommy Gun (only full-auto); fired many other types of firearms; hung out with junkies; hung out with methheads; hung out with rock bands; argued politics with a Political Officer at the State Department; gotten bronchitis standing in Lancashire fields taking reference photographs; been politely asked to leave the premises of Vauxhall Cross; run a day-long “scavenger hunt” through New York City and the boroughs (had to see if the route was possible, and to get the timing down); gotten sick-drunk with men who wouldn’t talk to me sober; been attacked by rats; trespassed; eavesdropped; learned the best way to burn someone alive; used a Starbucks bathroom seat-cover dispenser for a dead drop; been laughed at, mocked, threatened, and ignored.

Some of the things I’ve done.

Continue reading “Sinking the Titanic”

King Pleasure

more super rainI work in midtown, an area of Manhattan that isn’t often accused of having an excess of personality. Good restaurants within a few blocks’ radius are hard to come by. Chains dominate in all endeavors. But whenever I need to pop out at lunch for a few minutes of sweet escape from the nonconventional bookshelves, I’m glad the office is within easy walking distance of at least one New York underground staple: Midtown Comics.

Like Jonathan Santlofer, Brad Meltzer, and Max Allan Collins—like a whole lot of other crime and suspense addicts out there, I suspect—I, too, initially cut my teeth on the monthlies. It somehow became a tradition in my family that, after my father took me into town to get a haircut, we’d drop by the local independently owned comic store and I’d get to pick out one issue to add to my small but growing collection.

For me, it was less Batman or horror rags—I was a Marvel kid to start, mainly thanks to The Amazing Spider-Man around the time the villains Venom and Carnage were created.venom vs carnage

Whether or not all of my selections were age-appropriate is up for debate—I was young enough to still enjoy being read aloud to on occasion. During the recitation of a particularly climactic issue of X-Men, in which Magneto uses his power to forcefully expel all of Wolverine’s adamantium from his body—essentially gutting him like a fish—my father was horrified enough to refuse to continue right in the middle of a text box.

From then on, I kept my reading mostly to myself.

Like any self-respecting comic store, Midtown Comics has a section devoted to back issues many times deeper than the new offerings. This was my destination—not for one of the Marvel giants that initially drew my eye, but for something a little more obscure: Malibu Comics’ Solitaire #1. An origin story that has stuck with me to this day, of special note because it’s more than just derring-do, babes and bad guys. It’s a crime story. Continue reading “King Pleasure”

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”

The Mulholland Muse

Most people know the name Mulholland Drive from the eponymous David Lynch movie. If you go deeper, you recognize the roman à clef elements that were interpreted into the plot of Chinatown — the Noah Cross character played by John Huston is heavily derived from the machinations of William Mulholland during the period know as the “California Water Wars.”

An Irish immigrant who became chief engineer of the Los Angeles Water Department, it was Mulholland who conceived and oversaw the construction of the Los Angeles Aqueduct, that “stone river” that bisects most of the San Fernando Valley, scene of innumerable auto chases in cinema (you’ll know it when you see it) and best remembered as the place a gang of giant, atomically mutated ants established an L.A. beachhead in Them! Mulholland also helped build the Panama Canal, the Colorado River Aqueduct, and the Hoover Dam.

Mulholland’s biggest folly was the construction of the St. Francis Dam near Saugus in San Francisquito Canyon. Built in 1926, the dam burst at three minutes before midnight on March 12, 1928, wiping out a sixty-five-mile swath between Oxnard and Ventura, virtually destroying everything between it and the Pacific Ocean under twenty-five feet of water, with blast waves cresting at seventy-five feet. More than five hundred people died. Mulholland, acquitted of malfeasance, later committed suicide in 1935 at the age of seventy-nine. The sole monument to him is a fountain in the Los Feliz area of Los Angeles.

Continue reading “The Mulholland Muse”

Why Mark Billingham is a Badass

Viaduct, Birmingham, England 1982Mark Billingham has been a crime-fiction sensation in the UK since his first novel, Sleepyhead, was published in 2001 to great acclaim and success. The protagonist of that book, Detective Inspector Tom Thorne, has appeared in many subsequent novels and is now a beloved figure in British crime lit.

Billingham earned his success. Raised in Birmingham, he has been an actor, screenwriter, and stand-up comedian for most of his adult life. He continues to work in those fields, but it’s obvious from reading his books that his major love is writing novels. He’s ambitious in the best way; he wants to write good books, and, like any author worth a damn, he’s getting better at it over time. I’ve enjoyed all of Mark’s books to varying degrees, but I do think his last few have been flat-out fantastic. Bloodline, which Mulholland Books is bringing out in the States, is one of my favorites.

In Bloodline, a series of violent deaths are linked by relation to the work of an infamous, long-deceased serial killer. Thorne and his coinvestigators (Hendricks, Holland, Kitson, et al.), an intriguing bunch, all finely drawn, methodically go about the task of finding the murderer who is committing the deadly tribute. Mystery and police procedural aficionados will be very satisfied with the proceedings and will also be treated to a rich character study and a heady snapshot of contemporary London. The dialogue is drolly, organically funny, and the plot speeds to a gripping denouement. It’s a boss performance by Billingham, through and through.

This fall a television series based on two of the Thorne novels, Sleepyhead and Scaredy Cat, will be broadcast on British television. It stars David Morrissey as Thorne, Aiden Gillen (Tommy Carcetti on The Wire) as Hendricks, Sandra Oh, and Natascha McElhone, memorable from John Frankenheimer’s excellent Ronin.

Billingham’s books are as compulsively readable as Michael Connelly’s. I’m on record as saying that Connelly is the best mystery writer in the world, so I can’t give you a more respectful recommendation than that. Don’t let the British milieu or slang scare you; trust me, you’ll get it. American readers will be highly rewarded by giving Billingham a try.

George Pelecanos is the author of fifteen crime novels set in and around Washington, D.C. He is an award-winning essayist who has written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, GQ, Sight and Sound, Uncut, Mojo, and numerous other publications. Esquire magazine called Pelecanos “the poet laureate of the D.C. crime world.” He was a producer, writer, and story editor for the acclaimed HBO dramatic series, The Wire, winner of the Peabody Award and the AFI Award. He was nominated for an Emmy for his writing on that show. Pelecanos lives in Silver Spring, Maryland, with his wife and three children. He is at work on his next novel.

The Dark Heart of Noir

Chess BoardSeven years is a long time for anyone to do anything; on the basis of stamina alone you gain a reputation for being some sort of expert. Perform cerebral commissurotomies for seven years, and you lose the right to start sentences with, “Well, I’m no brain surgeon, but . . .” Edit a line of noir crime novels for seven years, and people will look to you for insights on what makes the genre tick, doubly so if you’ve been foolhardy enough to write three of the things yourself.

Which is why I periodically get e-mail asking me to explain what noir is.

It’s a question germane to Mulholland Books because although the line has a much broader mandate than just noir, its initial presentation to the world — even its name — owes much to iconic elements of film noirand noir literature, and several of its authors are ones sometimes thought of as noir writers.

So, what does it mean when people describe a crime novel as “noir”? That it’s dark, to be sure (sometimes, that it’s dark and French).  But all crime fiction is dark. Even comic crime fiction concerns matters such as murder, assault and robbery, incidents that are dark in substance, however light the presentation might be. And even the stoniest noir purists wouldn’t deny the existence of noir comedies.

What, then, is the particular shade of darkness that we label “noir”?

The five dozen books I’ve published in the Hard Case Crime series would offer at least five dozen different answers to this question, as would the squabbling denizens of the invaluable Rara-Avis discussion group, who lob competing definitions at each other like soldiers manning mortars on the Maginot Line. But there’s a definition that I haven’t seen bandied about that has grown on me in recent months, and I present it here for your consideration:

Noir is crime fiction written by pessimists.

Continue reading “The Dark Heart of Noir”

Dead Mower Dreams and the Weeds of Boo Radley

When someone asks me why I think there’s been a resurgence in dark crime, hard-boiled, and noir fiction, I tell them the story about the house across the street.
Razer

It’s a two-floor split-foyer that nowadays sort of looks like Boo Radley’s place. It’s become one of those legendary homes where kids are dared to run up to the porch on Halloween. Obviously, no one lives there anymore. The weeds are chest high. Part of the fencing has toppled. A leaf-strewn trampoline lies collapsed in the backyard, and sun-faded flyers and newspapers litter the stoop.

Eighteen months ago it looked like every other place on the block: well-tended, colorful, lively, active. There was always plenty of noise over there, but not the kind that gets on your nerves. Teenagers shot hoops in the driveway while younger kids played volleyball in the yard or drew chalk pictures and hopscotch boards on the sidewalk. There was a lot of laughter.

This was before my neighbor defaulted on his third mortgage and fled in the night with his family in a box truck, without saying a word to anyone on the street.

Two weeks ago I got so tired of looking at the shabby lawn that I dragged my mower over there and spent an hour doing my best to trim back the jungle. I struggled, sweated, and failed. A third of the way through, the mower started coughing smoke and spitting sparks. Then it let out a shriek like a well-stacked scream queen and died. I haven’t been able to get it started since.

Continue reading “Dead Mower Dreams and the Weeds of Boo Radley”