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Start Reading Point & Shoot

The day has finally come–the long-awaited conclusion to the Charlie Hardie series, POINT & SHOOT, is now on sale in bookstores everywhere. Can’t wait until the workday ends to get your fix? Take a sneak peek at the opening pages of the award-winning Hardie trilogy’s slam-bang final chapter. Then go pick up a copy already!


This isn’t going to have a happy ending.

Morgan Freeman, Se7en

Near Brokenland Parkway, Columbia, Maryland—Seven Months Ago

A twenty-three-year-old hungover intern with a broken heart saved the day.

The intern’s name was Warren Arbona, and he was in a stuffy warehouse along with five other interns scanning endless pieces of paper and turning them into PDFs that nobody would ever, ever fucking read. The whole operation was strictly cover-your-ass. The interns’ bosses wanted to be able to tell their government liaisons that, yes, every page of the flood of declassified documents they released had been carefully read and scanned by an experienced member of their legal team.

“Experienced” = interns who’d been on the job for at least two months.

The new president had made a big deal about declassifying everything, the shining light of freedom blasting through the deceptions of the previous administration. A democracy requires accountability, he said, and accountability requires transparency. Which sounded awesome.

But before the PDFs could be uploaded, the president’s intelligence advisers insisted that no sensitive secrets harmful to the security of the United States would be leaked to the general public. This still was the real world.

So a white-shoe law firm specializing in government intelligence was retained to painstakingly review every line on every scrap of paper.

Nobody in the firm wanted to deal with that bullshit, so they put the interns on it.

And Warren Arbona, the intern in question, wouldn’t have noticed a thing if it hadn’t been for his cunt ex-girlfriend. He couldn’t help it. The name just jumped out at him.

He stopped the scan and looked at the paper again. Were his eyes playing tricks on him?

Nope. There it was.

Charlie Hardie.

No, it wasn’t Christy’s dad. Her dad was named Bruce or some such shit. Balding. Big asshole. Deviated septum and beady eyes. But this Charlie guy was an uncle, maybe? Some other relative? Warren had no idea.

And really, who the fuck cared. Christy didn’t matter anymore; he’d do best to put her out of his head and finish up with this scanning so he could go home and get good and drunk again.

They were all working inside the abandoned warehouse set of a canceled television show, Baltimore Homicide. The rent was absurdly cheap, and the set already had the delightful bonus of real desks and working electrical outlets, thanks to a subplot featuring a fake daily newspaper office.

So all the law firm had to do was arrange for the reams of paper—nearly three trucks’ worth—to be backed into the building, plug in a bunch of laptops and scanners, and then set the interns loose. See you in September, motherfuckers.

The working conditions were less than ideal. While an industrial AC unit blasted 60,000 BTUs of arctic air into the fake office via ringed funnels, the warehouse itself had diddly-squat in the way of climate management. So every time you left to drag in another set of files, you baked and sweated in the stifling summer heat. And then when you returned, your sweat was flash-frozen on your body. No wonder everybody was sick.

Warren had been fighting a cold since May, when he first started scanning the documents. He believed that if he polluted his body with enough tequila, the cold virus would give up and abandon ship. So far, it hadn’t worked.

But the tequila also helped him forget about Christy Hardie.


Now the name popped up, and Warren couldn’t help but be curious. He started to read the document, which was a deposition.

Seems Charlie Hardie was an ex–police consultant turned drunk house sitter who was later accused of snuffing a junkie actress named Lane Madden.

Warren kind of wished someone had snuffed Christy after she confessed that she’d been blowing his best friend for, oh, the entire first year of law school.

Anyway, Warren remembered the Lane Madden story from a bunch of years ago. Apparently she’d been raped and killed by this house sitter guy who used to be a cop and kind of lost his mind. But the rest of the deposition was kind of boring, so Warren stopped reading and fed the pages into the scanner. Yes, they were all supposed to eyeball each page—even the partners weren’t foolish enough to tell the interns to actually read them. But Warren and his colleagues dispensed with the eyeballing crap somewhere in late May. If fingers touched a page, it was considered read. Osmosis, they decided.

Warren looked at the clock. Just two more hours until his brain went south of the border.

But at fifteen minutes until closing, something strange happened. Continue reading “Start Reading Point & Shoot”

J.J. Abrams’ Next Project, a Novel, to be Published by Mulholland Books

Written by Doug Dorst, based on a story by J.J. Abrams
J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst

J.J. Abrams has created, written, produced, or directed groundbreaking television shows such as the Emmy and Golden Globe Award–winning Lost and Alias, and Felicity and blockbuster films such as Star Trek, Cloverfield, Super 8, and Mission: Impossible. His work is renowned for its sense of wonder and invention, and for helping reshape what’s possible in film and television today.

S., conceived of and developed by Abrams and written by award-winning author Doug Dorst, is Abrams’s first foray into publishing and will be released by Mulholland Books/Little, Brown and Company on October 29, 2013. At the core of this multilayered literary puzzle of love and adventure is a book of mysterious provenance. In the margins, another tale unfolds—through the hand-scribbled notes, questions, and confrontations of two readers. Between the pages, online, and in the real world, you’ll find evidence of their interaction, ephemera that bring this tale vividly to life.

“We are thrilled to be publishing J.J. Abrams, in partnership with someone as critically acclaimed as Doug Dorst,” says Mulholland Books editorial director Josh Kendall. “S. will be a literary event, and is truly a love letter to the printed word.”

Abrams’ production company, Bad Robot, will be promoting the book leading up to and at publication time.

The cover of S. will be released at a later date.

J.J. Abrams is a multiple Emmy Award–winning producer, writer, and director. Doug Dorst is the award-winning author of Alive in Necropolis and The Surf Guru, as well as a former Jeopardy champion, one of only two novelists in the show’s long history.

Preorder S.: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Other Retailers

Thomas De Quincey and Murder as a Fine Art: A Conversation with David Morrell and Robert Morrison

Murder as a Fine Art

Robert Morrison: I love the idea behind Murder as a Fine Art. John Williams commits a series of sensational killings in 1811. Thomas De Quincey writes his most powerful essay about the killings in 1854. Somebody reads De Quincey on Williams and decides to produce his own version of the killings, far exceeding them in terror. How did this idea come to you?

David Morrell: Robert, coming from a De Quincey scholar, your enthusiasm means a lot to me. I studied De Quincey years ago when I was an undergraduate English student. My professor treated him as a footnote in 1800s literature, giving him importance only because De Quincey was the first to write about drug addiction in his notorious Confessions of an English Opium-Eater. I forgot about him until I happened to watch a movie about Charles Darwin, Creation, which dramatizes the nervous breakdown Darwin suffered while writing On the Origin of Species. In the movie, someone says to Darwin, “You know, Charles, people such as De Quincey believe that we’re controlled by elements in our mind that we’re not aware of.”

Robert: It sounds like Freud.

David: Yes. But Freud didn’t publish until half a century later. In fact, because De Quincey invented the word “subconscious,” Freud may have been influenced by him. Anyway, I took down my old college textbook, started reading De Quincey, and became spellbound. I read more and more of his work. Then I got to his blood-soaked essay about the terrifying Ratcliffe Highway murders, “On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts.” The idea came to me that someone would read the essay and, for complicated reasons, replicate the murders on a more horrifying scale. De Quincey, the Opium-Eater who was obsessed about murder, would then be the logical suspect. You wrote a terrific biography about De Quincey, The English Opium-Eater. What caused your own interest in this brilliant author?

The English Opium-Eater

Robert: I first heard of De Quincey many years ago when I was a graduate student at Oxford. My tutor was Jonathan Wordsworth, the great, great, great nephew of the poet.

David: What an experience that must have been.

Robert: For one of my tutorial assignments, Jonathan asked me to read De Quincey’s Confessions. I had no idea what to expect, and certainly no idea that I was going to spend the next thirty years “hooked” on him. Of course I found the drugs and addiction part of the narrative very interesting. But what really grabbed me was how well De Quincey wrote. He could be, by turns, humorous, conversational, elaborate, or impassioned. And this great ability as a stylist made it possible for him to chart his experience with remarkable depth and energy. After that, and like you, I just kept reading. One of the wonderful things about Murder as a Fine Art is how vividly it brings De Quincey to life, and how compellingly it exploits his fascination with dreams, violence, memory, and addiction. It’s not only a superb thriller, but it also packs an intellectual punch. How did you bring these two elements together so successfully?

David: A reviewer once called me “the mild-mannered professor with the bloody-minded visions.”

Robert: Ha!
Continue reading “Thomas De Quincey and Murder as a Fine Art: A Conversation with David Morrell and Robert Morrison”

San Pedro La Laguna in Guatemala’s Western Highlands

Looking out over trees to San Pedro volcano with houses visible on the verdant hillsides.
San Pedro Volcano and the town of San Pedro La Laguna. Photo © Stefan Ember/123rf.
Map of San Pedro La Laguna, Guatemala
San Pedro La Laguna

On the lake’s southwest corner and accessible by frequent boats or road, San Pedro is second in popularity only to Panajachel and has a hip international atmosphere. The place has grown by leaps and bounds, from a once-scruffy village to a rather pleasant lakeside town with a solid international presence. You’ll see signs in English, Spanish, French, and even Hebrew as you walk along the paths winding through town. The atmosphere in San Pedro embraces a simpler state of being and you’ll have no trouble slowing down to the local pace of life amidst the serene tropical foliage.

The town flanks the northern slopes of San Pedro Volcano, a popular climb for which the town is ideally suited as a base. It has increasingly become home to a number of language schools, some of dubious quality, collectively offering some of Guatemala’s least expensive tuition rates. While it was originally a backpacker Shangri-La, there have been recent additions to the hotel infrastructure, making for suitable accommodations to house the non-backpacker crowd.

The bulk of the tourist hotels and services are between two docks, on the southeast and northwest sides of town, and in the areas adjacent to them. The first one serves boats to/from Panajachel and the rest of the lake towns; the other is for boats to Santiago Atitlán. They are about one kilometer apart. The area between them is known as El Otro Lado (The Other Side). Street numbers and names are not generally in use here. From the Santiago dock, go up about 50 meters and turn right on the footpath known as 7th Avenue to get to El Otro Lado and continue to the Panajachel boat dock. From the latter dock, go up one block and turn left to get to the other side of town. Numerous hand-painted signs will direct you almost anywhere you want to go.

In recent years there’s been some tension in San Pedro due to the proliferation of evangelical churches and their congregants who sometimes look upon San Pedro’s foreign presence as an unwelcome, “sinful” hindrance. On at least one occasion, congregants have surrounded a well-known bar and forced it to shut down for the night. The palapa lounge at the Israeli-owned Zoola restaurant and hotel has been burned down twice, leading some to wonder if the attacks were perpetrated in the name of anti-Semitism. The lounge has since been replaced with a less flammable canvas substitute.

San Pedro Volcano

The volcano became a national park in 2006, so it is hoped that, as was the case with Pacaya Volcano, its newly protected status will result in greater police presence and an end to the robberies that frequently happen near the summit. For now, check with locals before heading up the volcano. Under no circumstances should you attempt this hike alone. Always go with a local guide. There is a visitors center at the trailhead, which is just off the road to Santiago. The hike is fairly strenuous, as the trail runs straight up the mountain with very little in the way of switchbacks. It takes about 4-5 hours to reach the summit, which is still very much covered in thick cloud forest. There’s a small gap in the trees at the top from which there are views of Santiago and the lake. Start your hike early in the day to avoid the midday heat and the clouds that typically gather at the summit of the lake’s volcanoes in the afternoon.

Recreation in San Pedro La Laguna

Activities include horseback riding and hikes up a mountain known locally as “Indian Nose,” as its shape resembles the profile of a Mayan nose like those depicted on stelae. Horseback riding is available from Rancho Moiseís (next to Zoola hotel, tel. 5967-3235). Next door to Chile’s restaurant on 8a Calle, Restaurante Elena rents kayaks for $2 an hour.

Walking to other villages from here makes sense from a logistical perspective, though too frequent reports of robberies along the trails prevent me from recommending this as a viable activity. If you do decide to go on any of the hikes, bring only that which you wouldn’t mind losing.

You can swim from either of the docks (watch out for boat traffic) or anywhere along the lakeshore, though recent pollution concerns have made a dip in the lake much less appealing. Your best bet to beat the heat is La Piscina de San Pedro (on the street heading up from the Santiago boat dock, about 50 meters, tel. 4708-3905, 11 a.m.-dusk daily), where it costs $2.50 to swim (children $1.25) in a pleasant, clean swimming pool surrounded by tropical plants and mural art. A lively bar keeps things hopping. There’s a weekly bocce ball tournament and southern-style barbecue on Saturdays starting at 1 p.m. and costing about $8.

If you like your water bathtub-warm, you have at least two options for soaking in hot tubs. Both places feature concrete tubs filled with water that is solar-heated in black plastic tubing and pumped into reservoirs of various sizes. (You’ll need to call ahead or visit with at least one hour’s prior notice so they can draw the bath.) It costs $7 for one person, but you can split the cost with others sharing the same pool. The first of these, Solar Pools (7a Avenida 2-22, Zona 2, tel. 5770-5119,, 8 a.m.-11 p.m. daily), is located on the main strip of El Otro Lado. Of the two, Solar Pools holds the slight edge in landscaping and it has an adjacent snack bar, Tzan Saqarib’al, serving light fare. You can reserve by phone. Closer to the lakeshore and a short walk down a side path is Los Termales (8:30 a.m.-11:45 p.m. daily), the town’s self-proclaimed original hot tub operation. Its biggest draw is the sylvan lakeside setting. They prefer that you pre-book your tub in person.

Guide Companies

Excursiones Big Foot (tel. 7721-8202), on the main drag as you come up the hill from the Panajachel dock and turn left, is San Pedro’s most reliable outfitter and has been in operation since 1995. It offers trips to San Pedro Volcano with knowledgeable guides and security for $14, including park admission. Big Foot can also guide you to Indian Nose with a four-person minimum for $5 p/p. Casa Verde Tours (tel. 5837-9092 and 7721-8344) just down the street from the Panajachel boat dock, is the town’s other recommended outfitter. They also have a variety of daily shuttle departures.

Information and Services in San Pedro La Laguna

There’s a Banrural (with ATM) in the heart of town, reached by heading straight up the street from the Panajachel dock for about a kilometer. You’ll pass the town market on your right, two blocks before the bank, which will be on your left. From the Santiago dock, head up the street and turn left at the market. There’s also an ATM machine just off the Panajachel dock.

For Internet and phone calls, D’Noz is just off the Panajachel dock, or you can head up the street one block to Casa Verde Tours (tel. 5837-9092 and 7721- 8344), your all-in-one stop for Internet, laundry, international calls, and full-service travel agency including shuttle buses to Antigua, Guatemala City, and Xela. On the main drag, turning left at Casa Verde as you come up from the Panajachel dock, you’ll find Café Jardín (7:30 a.m.-9 p.m.), serving breakfast and snacks in addition to offering Internet access. Both charge about $1 for an hour online.

Recommended language schools include the following: Casa Rosario (Canton Sanjay, tel. 7613-6401) and Corazón Maya (first left up the street from Santiago dock, tel. 7721-8160). Also along this street is Sol de Oro Spanish School (tel. 7614-9618). In the El Otro Lado sector between the two docks are Escuela de Español Casa America (tel. 7767- 7718,, Mayab’ Spanish School (tel. 7815-7722), and San Pedro Spanish School (tel. 7721-8176).

Getting There

There are boats every half hour to Santiago (30 minutes, $2) from the dock at the northwest part of town. Lanchas also leave throughout the day for the lakeshore villages of San Marcos ($1.50), Jaibalito ($2), Santa Cruz ($2.50), and Panajachel ($3). All leave from the dock on the southeast side of town. The last boat going in either direction usually leaves around 5 p.m.

There are buses to Quetzaltenango ($3, 2.5 hours) leaving from in front of the church in the main part of town at 4:30, 5, 5:30, 6, 7, 8, 10:30, and 11 a.m. Monday through Saturday. On Sundays these buses leave at 5, 5:30, 6, 8, and 11 a.m. There are buses to Guatemala City from San Pedro departing Monday through Saturday at 3:30, 4, 5, 5:30, 6, 8, and 10 a.m. Afternoon buses depart at noon and 2 p.m. on the same days. Sunday departures for Guatemala City are at 6 and 7 a.m. and noon, 1, and 2 p.m. There are frequent pickups to the villages as far as the road goes to San Marcos and in the other direction to Santiago. Shuttle vans ($25) leave from San Pedro (Casa Verde) at 9 a.m. daily for Antigua and Xela.

Excerpted from the Fourth Edition of Moon Guatemala.

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