Mulholland Drive, a two-lane highway meandering through the Hollywood Hills, figures largely in the fiction of Raymond Chandler, James Ellroy, and Michael Connelly and gave the title to film director David Lynch’s memorable neo-noir thriller. So Mulholland Books would seem to be the perfect name for Little, Brown’s new suspense imprint, launching in April 2011. So far, says Mulholland editor John Schoenfelder, the reaction to the name and the imprint have been pretty much what we had hoped for from the beginning. People seem to have understood our vision.
That vision comes from the understanding that the thriller‚ a genre that grips you right away and yet has application to the real world, offers Mulholland publicist Miriam Parker‚ is a powerfully growing presence in publishing. In recent years, Little, Brown alone has had astonishing success with Connelly, James Patterson, George Pelecanos, Denise Mina, and Michael Koryta, among others, and everyone sensed that more could be done. Little, Brown publisher Michael Pietsch is a fan of this kind of fiction, explains Schoenfelder, and has felt for some years that he might be missing out on similar talent. The aim here is to grab and develop that talent while attracting even more readers, especially the younger crowd, to the genre.
Mulholland aims to draw readers partly through its already available website (www.mulhollandbooks.com), which promotes not just the imprint’s books but the genre itself. Loaded with columns, reading lists, and exclusive content from Mulholland authors‚ not to mention guest post by the likes of Nelson DeMille, Nick Tosches, and Megan Abbott‚ the site is meant to serve as a central platform where thriller addicts of all stripes can go to get their daily dose of news and insider information, says Parker. Other outreach efforts include a panel at Bouchercon, an iPhone application, and plenty of social networking. In fact, if you don’t start hearing more about Mulholland Books soon, consider yourself out of the loop.
Eventually, Mulholland will publish 24 books a year, about one hardcover and one paperback (both original and reprint) a month. The books won’t fit a mold, with the launch list ranging from debut authors to Lawrence Block and Eighties throwbacks to edgy, up-to-the-minute stuff. There are no thrillers in translation yet, but they’re coming. The first titles, appearing in April, include a fast-paced legal thriller from former L.A. prosecutor Marcia Clark that Schoenfelder compares to Linda Fairstein’s oeuvre and The Bayou Trilogy, a paperback compendium of three earlier works by the surefooted Daniel Woodrell. (See Fiction for details.)
Why are thrillers so unswervingly popular? As Schoenfelder says, we’re used to the media telling us stories that effectively crystallize and codify our experiences, and thrillers do that, too. Go all the way back to the Twenties, and it’s evident how well Dashiell Hammett captured the essence of his time, and we see the same thing in thrillers today. For example, while not focusing specifically on the war, Michael Rotbotham’s The Wreckage (June 2011) gives us an understanding of Iraq that we haven’t seen in journalism, says Schoenfelder.
Mulholland is well positioned for a great leap into the thriller market, and it would seem to have all the perquisites for success. Even as it explores social nuance through nail-biting suspense, the imprint is building on a solid foundation. We rest on a very significant legacy in terms of both wider creativity and the writing done in suspense fiction over the years in the United States and at Little, Brown, affirms Schoenfelder, and we want to continue that tradition.