Mar 192015
 

The post Lev AC Rosen on Future Noir appeared first on Mulholland Books.

Depth_Main_ImageLev AC Rosen’s new novel, Depth (published by Regan Arts), is a classic hardboiled mystery set in a future radically transformed by environmental catastrophe. Here, Lev explains how he hit upon that combination.

The Big Sleep is my favorite noir movie—of course, it has to be the 1946 version, which has more Bacall and Bogart scenes than the original version from the year before—that wasn’t actually released until much later. Don’t get me wrong, I love a lot of them: Laura, Double Indemnity, The Maltese Falcon, The Blue Dahlia… maybe I love all of them. But The Big Sleep is my favorite.

A lot of people don’t understand why I’d be so into a movie that, frankly, makes very little sense, even less sense than the first cut. (Supposedly, not even Raymond Chandler was sure who killed the chauffeur.) But it makes perfect sense to me—it’s the style. The Big Sleep is dripping in noir style that you just don’t see anymore. The glamour of Lauren Bacall coming down the steps at night in her dressing gown, the gruesomeness of her sister’s disorder, the dirtiness of all the (unnamed, because of the Hayes Code) crimes Philip Marlowe uncovers—drugs, sexual coercion, abuse, blackmail. The scenes between Bogart and Bacall are fantastic—the telephone scene, or the moment in his office when he tells her to go ahead and scratch, or the talk about her sister, or my favorite, the horseracing conversation. Nothing really captures, for me, the feel of noir like that movie.

So when I set out to write my own hardboiled noir detective fiction, I knew I wanted that feel. I thought about writing something period, but it felt too familiar. I tried writing it in the present day, but it didn’t have the glamour or the grit I wanted. So I did something that I’ve been told was either a brilliant idea or a very bad one: I set my story in the future. I imagined a world where the ice caps have melted and all that’s left of New York City is the tops of buildings, with worn bridges and decommissioned boats floating between them. A city of flotsam.

This was a world where my detective, Simone Pierce, who I tried to write as a female Bogie, could have hard-boiled conversations with the cops and her clients. Where a body could just vanish by being rolled into the water, where crime could flourish and justice was a wisp you would try to snatch out of the air (and probably miss). This was a world, in short, that felt noir.

I know, I know, I know. “You got scifi in my noir!” “You got noir in my scifi!” Now no one will want to eat it. I heard that (well, maybe not exactly that, but some variation on it) over and over, along with the “no one will know how to sell this because these are two different types of readers” refrain from various publicity departments, though ultimately I did find an editor and publisher who found the world of Depth as enthralling as I did. I didn’t do market research when I created this world. But I knew the feeling of the thing I wanted to write and I found my way of getting there. And I ended up with my lone detective in a ruined world, trying to keep everything as together as it can be. It might be less then traditional, but I do genuinely look at Depth as a noir that just happens to take place at the end of the world. Because the end of the world is where I found my noir voice.

Lev-by-Rachel-ShaneLev AC Rosen is the author of the critically acclaimed All Men of Genius and the middle grade novel Woundabout. He received his BA from Oberlin College and his MFA in Creative Writing from Sarah Lawrence College. Lev is originally from lower Manhattan, and now lives in even lower Manhattan, right at the edge of the water, with his husband and a very small cat. You can find him online at LevACRosen.com.

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Mar 162015
 

The post Visiting Inspector of the Dead: Radiant St. James’s Church appeared first on Mulholland Books.

David Morrell’s Inspector of the Dead is set on the harrowing streets of 1855 London. A gripping Victorian mystery/thriller, its vivid historical details come from years of research. Here are photo essays that David Morrell prepared about the novel’s fascinating locations. Read the first post about Mayfair and Belgravia, the second post about Constitution Hillthe third post about Lord Palmerston’s House, the fourth post about Jay’s Mourning Warehouse, and the fifth post about the Crystal Palace.

If asked to name the most impressive church in London, most people would say, “St. Paul’s cathedral.”

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They might be surprised to learn that its designer, the great English architect, Sir Christopher Wren, considered a quite different, small, simple church to be his favorite creation.

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This is St. James’s church in the southeastern corner of Mayfair. Located just south of Piccadilly, its elegant simplicity presents a dramatic contrast with St. Paul’s. Narrow, only three stories tall, the church is constructed of plain red brick, with white cornerstones and arched windows. Its steeple has a clock, a brass ball, and a weathervane. That is the limit of the outside decoration.

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But it wasn’t for its exterior that St. James’s acquired its renown. Wren designed the windows so that sunlight streams in, reflects off the white walls, and radiates glory throughout the relatively plain interior. This photograph was taken on a cloudy day, and yet the light blazing in from the right is palpable.

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As this 1806 illustration indicates, back then St. James’s pews weren’t arranged in rows, with an entrance on each side. Instead the partitions of each pew formed a sizeable compartment, known as a box. Some had pillows and carpeting. Some had a table on which hats and coats could be placed. Some even had curtains and a canopy. Members of the congregation rented these box pews, the doors to which remained locked, except during services. Pew openers kept the keys, dusted the pews, polished the wood, and unlocked the doors when the pew renters arrived. In Inspector of the Dead, the box-pew system has deadly consequences. (The objects in the aisle are seats where the poor were allowed to sit.)

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Mar 022015
 

The post Visiting Inspector of the Dead: The Magnificent Crystal Palace appeared first on Mulholland Books.

David Morrell’s Inspector of the Dead is set on the harrowing streets of 1855 London. A gripping Victorian mystery/thriller, its vivid historical details come from years of research. Here are photo essays that David prepared about the novel’s fascinating locations. Read the first post about Mayfair and Belgravia, the second post about Constitution Hillthe third post about Lord Palmerston’s House, and the fourth post about Jay’s Mourning Warehouse.

The first world’s fair took place in London in 1851. Championed by Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert, it demonstrated the might and majesty of the British Empire. Officially called the Great Exhibition, it quickly became known as the Crystal Palace exhibition because of the amazing building in which it occurred.Crystal1

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Essentially a large greenhouse, the Crystal Palace was composed of 900,000 square feet of glass plates secured in a wrought-iron framework. It occupied a massive fifty-eight acres of Hyde Park and stretched twelve stories high, so tall that full-grown elm trees were left in place as interior landscaping.

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So vast was the space that two huge organs, two hundred other instruments, and six hundred singers could barely be heard when the queen and Prince Albert attended the opening ceremony. Inspector of the Dead dramatizes that ceremony and a fateful historical incident that happened there, involving a real-life mysterious figure who emerged from the crowd and approached the queen.

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When the world’s fair ended in October of 1851, the Crystal Palace was disassembled and recreated at Sydenham Hill, a semi-rural area south of the Thames.

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There it remained, in a gradually deteriorating condition until fire destroyed it in 1936.

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The post Visiting Inspector of the Dead: The Magnificent Crystal Palace appeared first on Mulholland Books.

Feb 172015
 

The post Visiting Inspector of the Dead: Jay’s Mourning Warehouse appeared first on Mulholland Books.

David Morrell’s Inspector of the Dead is set on the harrowing streets of 1855 London. A gripping Victorian mystery/thriller, its vivid historical details come from years of research. Here are photo essays that David prepared about the novel’s fascinating locations. Read the first post about Mayfair and Belgravia, the second post about Constitution Hill, and the third post about Lord Palmerston’s House.

Victorian society was preoccupied about death, obeying elaborate rules about how to react to it. A grieving family was expected to put on severe mourning garments immediately after a loved one died and remain at home for several weeks following the funeral—except for a widow who stayed at home, in the blackest of clothes, for a year and a day.

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The link between grief and clothes inspired an entrepreneur, W.C. Jay, to create Jay’s Mourning Warehouse in 1841, selling bereavement garments of every type and size.

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Jay began with one address on fashionable Regent Street, but the death business became so brisk that he expanded into the shop next door. By the 1850s, he had expanded the business so often that it occupied most of the block.

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The most extreme case of grief involved Queen Victoria, who was one of Jay’s customers. Following the death of her husband, Prince Albert, in 1861, the queen dressed in mourning for the next forty years. In Inspector of the Dead, Jay’s warehouse and his funereal garments play a major role in the story.

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Feb 022015
 

The post Visiting Inspector of the Dead: Eerie Lord Palmerston’s House appeared first on Mulholland Books.

David Morrell’s Inspector of the Dead is set on the harrowing streets of 1855 London. A gripping Victorian mystery/thriller, its vivid historical details come from years of research. Here are photo essays that David prepared about the novel’s fascinating locations. Read the first post about Mayfair and Belgravia, and the second post about Constitution Hill.

During the 1800s, Lord Palmerston (nicknamed Lord Cupid because of his numerous love affairs) was one of the most powerful English politicians: a war secretary, foreign secretary, home secretary, and prime minister.

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His famous Mayfair house, where he welcomed London’s rich and powerful, is located across from Green Park on Piccadilly. It’s readily identified because it’s the only Piccadilly property that’s set back from the street. The two gates and the curved driveway make it easy to recognize.

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In 1850, the residence was known as Cambridge House because Queen Victoria’s uncle, the Duke of Cambridge, owned it. On 27 June, the queen visited him and attracted so much attention that by the time she emerged from the house, a considerable crowd blocked the street, preventing her carriage from leaving.

One member of the crowd, Robert Francis Pate, was more interested in walking onward than looking at the queen. Angry that his way was blocked, he pushed his way toward the royal carriage, raised his cane, and struck Queen Victoria across the forehead. Shockingly, he drew blood. (For the full scene, preorder Inspector of the Dead.) Pate was the fifth man to threaten the queen. Declared as insane as it’s possible for a sane person to be, he was exiled to Van Diemen’s Land (present day Tasmania).

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After the Duke of Cambridge died, Lord Palmerston bought the property, which continued to be known as Cambridge House. Following Lord Palmerston’s death in 1865, it was acquired by the Naval and Military Club, which placed traffic-direction signs—IN at one gate and OUT at the other—causing the property to be nicknamed the In and Out Club. If you look closely at the initial photograph of Cambridge House, you can see the modern versions of the signs. Also, note how different the front wall looked in 1850 compared to now.

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Deserted since the 1990s, Cambridge House fell into disrepair. Although two billionaire brothers announced their intention to renovate it for £214 million and make it the most expensive residential property in London, repairs had not begun as of early 2014, and the ghost of Lord Palmerston seemed to haunt it.

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Beyond a fence on the opposite side of Piccadilly, this is the spectacular view of Green Park that Lord Palmerston would have enjoyed. The middle path leads down to Buckingham Palace. In Murder as a Fine Art, Thomas De Quincey flees for his life through this park.

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Jan 232015
 

The post Genre Blending for Rebels appeared first on Mulholland Books.

Deadly Spells by Jaye WellsI dare you to read this essay by Jaye Wells and not fall under her spell. This Texas-raised, USA Today bestselling author grew up reading everything she could get her hands on, and it shows in her passionate argument for blending the conventions of crime fiction with tropes from other genres. Wells’s forthcoming novel is called Deadly Spells, and Orbit Books will publish it on February 10th. You’d do well to pre-order a copy.

“You can’t do that.”

This sentence had been the driving force behind most of my success as a novelist. See, I write books that are a blend of genres. I like to mix things up, but I’m also pretty stubborn. So if someone tells me that I can’t, say, mix fantasy with crime fiction, it’s pretty much a dare that I will take every time.

The pitch for my Prospero’s War speculative crime fiction series is The Wire with wizards. I got the idea while binge-watching that show. I thought the show was awesome but couldn’t stop thinking it would be cool if Omar and Stringer Bell were wizards.

But, people told me, that’ll never work. For one thing, they claimed crime fiction fans don’t like any hocus pocus messing up their mysteries. Oh yeah?

What if magic is a metaphor for drugs? What if the covens of wizards who sell addictive magic potions are more dangerous and resourceful than drug gangs? But what if the cops who are trying to break up the covens are as hamstrung by politics, budget cuts, and regulations as real cops?

Some people might not see the point. I mean, we already know there’s a war on drugs. People already know cops are hamstrung and that there are lots of problems with the justice system. This is where combining fantasy with the crime becomes important.

See, the beauty of fantasy stories is that they filter the world through metaphor. By using symbols, archetypes, and, yes, magic, these stories allow us to test drive our world in an imaginative way. This metaphorical language of imagination helps us see the problems of humanity and our world in a new light.

So while it may seem simple to use clean and dirty magic as a metaphor for pharmaceuticals and street-level narcotics, it also allows us to explore the issues in non-threatening and expanded terms. Suddenly, we’re not talking about crack and meth anymore. We’re also talking about human nature’s tendency toward addiction in general. We’re able to discuss the false dichotomy of good versus evil, and think about the roles of policing and the struggles facing our cities in new ways.

Or not. Because that’s the other beauty of fantasy: it allows us to not explore those issues at all if we don’t want to. We can read the story and simply enjoy the action and suspense without being forced to face the gritty reality of our own world. In short, we can decide how shallow or deep our reading experience will be.

So when people tell me that it’s a waste of time to expect crime fiction readers to want to read books about magic junkies, I just smile and say, “Wanna bet?”

Jaye Wells is a USA Today-bestselling author of urban fantasy and speculative crime fiction. Raised by booksellers, she loved reading books from a very young age. That gateway drug eventually led to a full-blown writing addiction. When she’s not chasing the word dragon, she loves to travel, drink good bourbon and do things that scare her so she can put them in her books. Deadly Spells, the third book in her Prospero’s War series, releases on February 10.

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Jan 152015
 

The post Why I Write Thrillers (And, Maybe, Why You Read Them) appeared first on Mulholland Books.

Give a big welcome to Gregg Hurwitz! He dropped by our site to share with us an epiphany he had while writing his novel Don’t Look Back, which was published in August by St. Martin’s Press.

OaxacaA friend of mine introduced me to the beautiful Mexican state of Oaxaca, where Don’t Look Back takes place. He gave me access to all the experts and adventures my evil thriller writer mind required. I hiked through ruins. I learned how to drink mezcal properly—with orange slices and salt made with ground-up worms. I ate crickets and desiccated caterpillar. I stepped on giant snakes. I enjoyed some fairly dangerous runs on a Class IV white-water rafting trip through the jungle. Just before we launched the raft, I got stung on the eyelid by a still-not-identified wasp which made my eye swell up to cartoonish proportion. In Mexico, this doesn’t elicit sympathy; it means you get made fun of more. I learned how to make soap and mezcal. I walked (carefully) through crocodile lagoons and got close to a few snaggle-toothed monsters. I went horseback riding across beaches. I dodged a marching line of millions of sweeper ants devouring everything in their path. You can see that this setting has everything a novelist wants. It was a great blend of adventure and manic fun. I always want the reader to have a front-row seat to the action and in order to do that for Don’t Look Back, I had to experience everything myself so I could bring to life the sights, scents, and sounds of this unique part of the world.

As you can see, I loved researching and writing this one. But this book also holds a very personal meaning for me. Smack in the middle of my last tour, my wife was told she had to have brain surgery. I remember exactly where I was when I found out: heading into a literary event in Berkeley where I was expected to address a room full of devoted readers. So the things I was called to do that night—talking to readers (which I love) and being patient (with which I have been known to have my struggles)—were even harder for me.

What was at stake if the surgery went wrong was my wife’s memory—to be precise, her short term memory conversion. So what we were looking at if things went badly was basically Memento (without the tattoos) or 50 First Dates (without Adam Sandler and a ukulele). Though I suppose in the latter instance, if one has to contend with Adam Sandler and a ukulele, one might prefer to have some short-term memory challenges.

My wife’s surgery went as well as it could have. She retained her memory—in fact, her most recent MRI noted that she has an “unremarkable brain,” which I believe is the only context in which that is flattering. I also try to remind her of this when we disagree, though it doesn’t go over quite as well as you might think. But there was a protracted period during which we didn’t know what would happen, so for a while we were really peering into the abyss. That changes you. It made me reconsider the past—how I spent my time, what choices I made and would I make them again. It made me view the present differently—each breath unique, every moment freighted only with the meaning we ascribe to it, good or bad, if we choose to notice it at all. And it made me look at the future differently, as something you can’t wait for, can’t count on, can’t plan for with any measure of confidence. Because at any moment, it can sweep in—a car crash, a hurricane, a cavernous hemangioma—and wipe out any version of your future self.

I get asked all the time why I write thrillers. And why people read them. What’s the allure? Who wants to be scared when there’s so much uncertainty and tragedy in real life? And we get the usual answers—I’ve given them myself: Order out of chaos. Finding meaning in the seemingly pointless. But going through this crisis with my family made me realize that there is something more literal about the relationship we have between the lives we live and the stories we devour.

In thrillers, we meet characters when they’re thrust into crises such that their world hums like a live wire. They, too, are reconsidering their past, the choices they made that landed them here. They are viewing the present differently, breath to breath. They are reimagining a future they hope to survive to see, and they are redefining themselves in the process. And most often, they are fighting to emerge intact for their children, their families, and themselves. Some of us have been through that ourselves. All of us have loved ones who have. And this book is dedicated to my wife for going through it and coming out the other end.

Don’t Look Back features my first female protagonist, Eve Hardaway. She’s recently divorced, is a single mother to a seven-year-old boy, and has recently switched jobs. But the daily grind is wearing her down, and she’s losing track of herself, of who she used to be. She and her ex had long-standing tickets to celebrate their ten-year anniversary, a trip to a small eco-lodge way up in the jungles of Oaxaca, cut off from civilization.

Rather than cancel the trip, she decides, nine exhausting months after her husband has left her for a younger woman, that she’s going to go anyway. She’s going to leave her son in the care of his beloved nanny for a week, travel alone, and rediscover herself in the jungle.

Now because I’m me, I can assure you: This will not go smoothly for her. On her first day, she strays from the group into the jungle and sees something she’s not supposed to see. And it involves A Very Bad Man.

He clues in to the fact that she saw him. Just as he starts to zero in on her and this small band of tourists at their eco-lodge, a tormenta blows in—a tropical storm that can dump up to a meter of rain a day. When you’re in one, it’s hard to find the air in the air. And Eve, single mother and nurse from the suburbs, finds herself pursued through the jungle in the middle of a storm by a brutal man who can outflank, out-fight, and overpower her. She realizes that if she ever hopes to get back home and see her son again, she is going to have to find that unbreakable part of herself, outlast, and prevail. As I said above, at different times in our own lives, we’re all called to do that in less obvious and more commonplace ways. But for now, I’m content to leave it to Eve Hardaway.

The post Why I Write Thrillers (And, Maybe, Why You Read Them) appeared first on Mulholland Books.

Jan 032015
 

The post Visiting Inspector of the Dead: The Killing Ground of Constitution Hill appeared first on Mulholland Books.

David Morrell’s Inspector of the Dead is set on the harrowing streets of 1855 London. A gripping Victorian mystery/thriller, its vivid historical details come from years of research. Here are photo essays that David prepared about the novel’s fascinating locations. Read the first post about Mayfair and Belgravia.

Almost every day for many years, Queen Victoria’s schedule included a carriage ride at 6 p.m. Her timetable was printed in London’s newspapers. Her route was usually the same. The carriage left Buckingham Palace, turned left onto Constitution Hill, rode up to Hyde Park, veered left into the park, came back to Constitution Hill, and returned to the Palace.

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This is Constitution Hill as it appears today. Buckingham Palace is to the left, out of sight.

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In the 1840s, four men took advantage of Queen Victoria’s predictable schedule and shot at her from this approximate spot. In fact, one of them (Edward Oxford) shot at her twice, and another (John Francis) tried to shoot at her two days in a row. All told, from 1840 to 1882, seven men tried to attack her.

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The first attacker was Edward Oxford. In this 1840 watercolor, Oxford stands next to the horse on the right, aiming one of his two pistols. Note the spiked fence and Green Park in the background. The fence has a prominent role in Inspector of the Dead.

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This alternate, highly romanticized watercolor of Edward Oxford’s attack shows his second pistol (in his left hand). Prince Albert did not try to shield Queen Victoria as this depiction indicates. Beyond the commotion, note the Palace wall on the opposite side of Constitution Hill. Like the spiked fence at Green Park, that wall has an important role in Inspector of the Dead.

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The second man to shoot at Queen Victoria was John Francis in 1842. This crude newspaper engraving pretends to be a depiction of the event, but it is actually a clumsy recreation of one of the watercolors showing Edward Oxford’s attempt.

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The fourth man to shoot at Queen Victoria was William Hamilton in 1849. Again, note the spiked fence on one side of Constitution Hill and the Palace wall on the opposite side.

The fifth man to attack Queen Victoria was Robert Francis Pate in 1850. The event occurred outside Lord Palmerston’s famous house on Piccadilly. For an engraving of that attack, please stay tuned for the final photo essay in this series.

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Dec 222014
 

The post Visiting Inspector of the Dead: Mayfair and Belgravia appeared first on Mulholland Books.

David Morrell’s Inspector of the Dead is set on the harrowing streets of 1855 London. A gripping Victorian mystery/thriller, its vivid historical details come from years of research. Here are photo essays that David prepared about the novel’s fascinating locations.

Much of Inspector of the Dead takes place in London’s wealthy Mayfair district. Ironically, in the 1600s, it was a disreputable field where drunken May Day (or May Fair) celebrations were held. By the 1700s, as London expanded westward, Mayfair became a fashionable area, its impressive residences acquiring a uniform look because of the Portland stone that was used to construct them.

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This is Half Moon Street, off a major street known as Piccadilly. In the novel, several shocking murders occur in one of these magnificent buildings.

By the 1820s, an even wealthier area became fashionable. Located southwest of Buckingham Palace, Belgravia sounds like a mythical kingdom in an operetta, but in fact, the name derives from the aristocratic Belgrave family, who developed the area. Its adjacent white-stuccoed houses rivaled those of Mayfair, with the added luxury that the streets were wider. Many of the buildings now function as embassies.

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This is the Chester Square section of Belgravia. The shaded area contains a garden. Commissioner Mayne, co-founder of London’s Metropolitan Police, lived here. In Inspector of the Dead, he fights for his life in one of these splendid buildings.

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Oct 042014
 

The post What Do You Do With A Pile Of Jim Thompson Books? appeared first on Mulholland Books.

We sent Rob Hart, the associate publisher of MysteriousPress.com, all 25 of the Jim Thompson paperbacks that we reissued in August. He wrote in to report on what he did with them.

Working in publishing comes with a few perks.

Say, for example, you’re grabbing breakfast with a pal and you profess your love for Jim Thompson. Turns out, that pal masterminded the re-release of a good portion of Thompson’s oeuvre in paperback and eBook.

Then one day you come home from work to find this pile of beauties sitting on your doorstep: Pile of Jim Thompson books

That is a lot of Jim Thompson. And it begs the question: What exactly does one do with such a giant pile of books? Not wanting to miss an opportunity, I came up with a couple of ideas…

Post a picture of the stack to Facebook so that your friends will seethe with jealousy. Rob Hart Facebook chat

Use them to get to hard-to-reach spots… like a locked window. Jim Thompson stepladder

Load them into a pillowcase. They’re softer than locks, but still good at delivering a message, without the risk of breaking bones. Jim Thompson is not soft.

They’re great for smuggling weapons. Jim Thompson weapons

Use them to weigh down a gas pedal. This is especially helpful if you need a car to go over a cliff and then explode so that any lingering trace evidence will be burned up. Jim Thompson on the gas pedal

Read them! A Swell-Looking Babe

Thompson rakes his fingernails across your soul. I mean that in the best way possible.

I remember my first: Pop. 1280, recommended to me by a writing instructor. It’s a slim volume, and such a slow burn. The narrator, Sheriff Nick Corey, comes off as a buffoon—at least, in the beginning. But as the story shambles forward, you learn there’s something very dark beating under the floorboards of Corey’s soul. To say any more would be a disservice to those who haven’t read it. Luckily, while it’s not pictured here, it’s one of the 25 Thompson books re-released by Mulholland.

I’m not going to pretend like I’m not jealous—I would have loved to have these books available in our catalogue of backlist titles at MysteriousPress.com. But I’m happy to see that they’ll be more easily accessible to a new generation of readers. Thompson transcends genre and is truly one of history’s great writers. His prose is so immediate, his descent into the depths of the human condition so complete, he’s one of those writers who deserves to be read.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some reading to do…

Rob Hart is associate publisher at MysteriousPress.com and class director at LitReactor. He is the author of The Last Safe Place: A Zombie Novella, and his debut novel, New Yorked, will be released by Polis on June 9. Learn more at his website, www.robwhart.com

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