“For the second book, [I was] interested in Detroit, especially the “ruin porn” photographs we see coming out of the city. It’s incredible to have this decay in the middle of a powerful, wealthy country. But it’s also my secret way of writing about Johannesburg again, as I did in Zoo City—the cities have a lot in common. They look like blighted, terrible places from the outside, with boarded up buildings and crime and poverty and squatters—just brokenness. It becomes a symbol for everything that’s wrong with South Africa and I think people feel the same way about Detroit. But both Johannesburg and Detroit are places that people live and I wanted to get to the spark and fire underneath it all, and explore the ways that makes the place home.”—Lauren Beukes talks to Bustle about the setting of her new novel, Broken Monsters.
“We need to confront fear. A lot of these issues going on around the world right now are about humanity at their worst. People often talk about monsters—”Oh, that man is such a monster, he murdered all those people. He’s inhuman. How could he do that?” But the fact of the matter is, there aren’t any monsters. It’s only us and everything we’re capable of. And I think we absolutely have to look that in the eye, unflinchingly. We have to confront the darkness, and stare at the abyss, and find that the only thing staring back is us, and what we do, the good and the bad. And we have to find a way of living with that—of living with ourselves, and also attacking it.”—Lauren Beukes, author of Broken Monsters
“We all want to be great – however you define that – and we so often aren’t. We’re all just in the muck trying to believe we’re capable of greatness, but closer to breaking than we want to admit. And we tell ourselves stories – about ourselves, but maybe also all these stories about other people, about characters – as a way to hide from how small we are.”
“Maybe it’s not hiding. Maybe they help us not be so small.”
“Women and girls are more familiar with the business end of the human capacity for cruelty and evil than Chandler’s old-fashioned man of honor would ever suspect; so many become acquainted with it at a tender age. But they are also tougher and more dangerous than he’d suspect as well. Tough enough to recognize that walking down those mean streets alone is the coward’s way out. Far greater challenges await within.”—Salon posted this incredible essay about why today’s most exciting crime novelists are women. The icing on the cake: Lauren Beukes is featured.
“Is there any way around the fact that our brains buzz from the inside, mostly engaged with sending out little worrying parties into the very near future?”—David Shafer, author of Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, in a beautiful essay about being present for the excellent things in your life.
“I’ve read enough John le Carré and Eric Ambler and Robert Ludlum to grow suspicious when people carrying valuable items die moments before they reach their meetings with important officials.”—David Shafer connects the dots between his grandfather, the CIA, a sudden death, and a mysterious photo album in an essay for the New York Times.
“I once bum-rushed a coked-up transvestite down a flight of stairs without spilling my beer. I was pretty proud of that, not spilling the beer.”—Richard Lange talks to BULL about the time he worked the door at a nightclub. He’s the author of Angel Baby and the forthcoming story collection, Sweet Nothing.
Lauren brings some intriguing ideas to the table in each of those books. I will not spoil in this review; if you haven’t read her work yet, I envy you the experience of being able to read her for the first time. She brings an intuitive understanding of great stories to the table. It would be unfair to box her as a “mystery writer” or “thriller writer” or “scifi writer”. Pigeonholing impoverishes the work and the reader.
I find her dystopias utterly believable, barbaric and sophisticated in a way seldom seen since Gibson’s seminal works. Speaking of, note to self: reread them. Her works recall that great stories are made not on technology or magic, but on people. Her characters are real, and we react viscerally to their plights. This is a hallmark of a good writer.
Hear, hear! Did you all know Lauren Beukes has a new novel on the way? It’s called Broken Monsters, and it’s out in September.
Chatting with James Sallis About the Republication of Death Will Have Your Eyes
The Reading Room:How does it feel to have the novel back out in the public eye (with a striking new cover!) for a generation of readers who perhaps missed it the first time?
James Sallis:Well, considering that almost everyone seems to have missed it the first time, it feels great. Tremendous. The book’s had a tiny group of ardent fans over the years, was even optioned for some time, but it more or less remained among the good dishes you don’t bring out often.
RR:Tell us about your writing process. Do you have a particular routine – things that you prefer to have in place – or is it more of a free for all? And has it changed over the years?
Sallis:The thing I have “to have in place” is butt in chair, and that’s definitely become more difficult over the years. No more three- and four-hour writing jags; I can’t sit for more than forty minutes or so before I’m up, wandering about the house, reaching for a mandolin or guitar. There’s a lot more wandering about in the story itself, too: rummaging, poking it with sticks, seeing what comes to the top.
RR:What needs to happen on page one of a novel to make for a successful book that urges you to read on?
Sallis:The writer must lean close to me and whisper “I have something important to tell you.”
“The stakes are not merely life or death, but the difference between a blundering through one’s life and fully possessing it.”—Laura Miller in Salon perfectly describes why Whiskey Tango Foxtrot by David Shafer is a thriller unlike any other. I can’t wait for you all to read it when it goes on sale next Tuesday.
The newest addition to the Mulholland Classic series is James Sallis’s Death Will Have Your Eyes. This espionage novel is suffused with music references. For the optimum reading experience, press play on the playlist above, pour yourself a cup of coffee (black), and crack open this slim, spare book to enter the world of a re-activated spy.
“The nature of modern warfare, modern espionage, is that it has truly become global – there is no one front, it’s all the front. In the same way that terrorism and organized crime have synthesized into one organism, we’re seeing the same in regard to military and espionage operations. To depict that, the whole world had to be open for play.”—Greg Rucka talks to The Reading Room about widening the scope of Jad Bell’s world in his new novel, Bravo.
Before I sat down to write BRAVO, I wrote a short-story that was half-character study and half in service of a very good cause, that of supporting the Muskego Public Library. The short story in question, “The End is Never Pretty,” was first published inMurder and Mayhem in Muskego, edited by Jon and Ruth Jordan of Crimespree Magazine.
The story is part of the “Bell canon,” though it is not itself a story about Jad Bell at all, but rather about Petra Nessuno, who plays a very large and very crucial part in the new novel. Petra herself recounts a somewhat edited version of this story to Bell in the course of BRAVO. The story served as the introduction of Petra and Heath both, as well as an explanation as to how Petra ends up where she is at the start of the novel. It is by no means required reading to enjoy BRAVO, but it certainly is, as they say, “value added content.”
“We’re all just in the muck trying to believe we’re capable of greatness, but closer to breaking than we want to admit. And we tell ourselves stories—about ourselves,but maybe also all these stories about other people, about characters—as a way to hide from how small we are.”—Doug Dorst, S. (via quoted-books)
David Morrell Talks About the Historical Hero of His Novel, Murder as a Fine Art
Society Nineteen:Why do you feel that Thomas De Quincey is significant?
David Morrell:He was the first person to write about drug addiction at a time when opium in the form of laudanum was in everybody’s medicine cabinet and was used the same way we use aspirin. Many people were addicted to the drug, but the hypocrisy of the time was so severe that when De Quincey openly discussed his opium use, he became notorious and was called the Opium-Eater for the rest of his life. De Quincey was also an inventor of the true-crime genre. He was obsessed with the Ratcliff Highway mass murders of 1811. The first publicized multiple killings in English history, they paralyzed the entire country and created terror comparable to that of Jack the Ripper three-quarters of a century later.
BOLO Books Interviews Marcia Clark About Her New Novel, The Competition
BOLO Books:Did you and/or your publisher have any trepidation about centering your latest novel around a school shooting—with it being such a grim and hot-button topic of discussion these days?
Marcia Clark:People want to talk about this subject. They need to talk about it. We can’t push this under the rug and pretend that’ll make it all go away. We have to get out ahead of the problem and we can’t do that unless we to learn as much as we can, talk about it and find ways to spot these killers before they can act. That is, ultimately, our best protection. But it’s a difficult subject, to say the least. So putting it into a fictional setting creates somewhat of a remove, a safer forum to learn about it and think about it. I’ve been very glad and relieved to see all the positive reviews and reactions, and all the discussions the book has sparked.
“It is my hope that The Competition will inspire some meaningful discussion about who these killers are, what we should watch out for and how we can protect ourselves and each other with that knowledge.”—Did you know Marcia Clark spent a LOT of time studying psychopathy and sociopathy? Her research shines in her new novel, The Competition.Read her full interview with the Hartford Books Examiner for a taste.
I read Alpha and loved it so I plan on buying Bravo ASAP but I wanted to ask which other authors have influenced your work?
There is such a long list, man. SUCH a long list. I could got back to childhood and Conan Doyle, or high school and Douglas Adams (who remains a primary influence to this day; arguably the most significant influence on my writing, and I know that’s not readily apparent); to Stephen Crane and Hemingway and Hawthorne and Chandler and Cynthia Ozick and Tim O’Brien (I cannot recommend the collection The Things They Carried highly enough) to Glenn Cook to Lawrence Block to Ruth Rendell to Bill Pronzini and these are all just off the top of my head.
I could go on and on.
I didn’t even talk comics, there.
On and on and on. We do not work in the vacuum, you know what I mean? I’m influenced to greater or lesser extent by so much of the work I ingest, that I’m exposed to. I’m influenced by my peers, far too many to list.
BRAVO is, perhaps strangely, strongly influence by the late Donald Westlake, specifically his Parker stories which he wrote under the pen name of Richard Stark.
“I love reading about characters placed in impossible situations and forced to become instruments of their own redemption.”—Stephen Lloyd Jones, author of The String Diaries, is interviewed about how his reading preferences influenced his writing style.
“How can the man holding a Ph.D. in American literature, which he taught for 16 years at the University of Iowa, also be the man who created one of the great pulp heroes of the last several decades?”—Santa Fe’s New Mexican describes the David Morrell Paradox, which is reconciled by Murder as a Fine Art: a novel that is as smart as it is gory.