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Alta Journal’s Issue 25 / David L. Ulin’s “Thirteen Question Method” Celebration
October 25, 2023 @ 6:00 pm
In Thirteen Question Method, a man hides out in a Hollywood apartment from a past he doesn’t want to remember and a present he is desperate to avoid. The summer sky is thick with ash, and across the courtyard, his neighbor won’t stop screaming. When she asks for help in an inheritance dispute with her estranged stepmother, he is drawn into a web of fear and manipulation, until he begins to lose sight of what is real. Echoing the work of Dorothy B. Hughes and James M. Cain, David Goodis and Albert Camus, Thirteen Question Method is a churning psychological thriller, set against the backdrop of contemporary Los Angeles. In a novel inspired by classic noir, David L. Ulin excavates the depths of a disintegrating soul.
David L. Ulin is the author or editor of nearly twenty books, including Sidewalking: Coming to Terms with Los Angeles, shortlisted for the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay, and the novel Ear to the Ground. His fiction has appeared in Black Clock, The Santa Monica Review, Scoundrel Time, and Zyzzyva, among other publications. The recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Lannan Foundation, and Ucross Foundation, he is the books editor of Alta Journal, and a Professor of English at the University of Southern California, where he edits the literary magazine Air/Light.
“In Thirteen Question Method, David L. Ulin brings out the chiaroscuro of Los Angeles, the brightness of its glamour contrasted with the deep shadows of its sordidness. You can feel the heat rise from the sidewalks as it does from this book, until the moment everything explodes. By then, Ulin has expertly guided the reader through the streets and then into the canyons, ultimately taking us into the deepest abyss of all—the human soul. It’s hot there, but also cold. That strange and frightening paradox is all too typical of the city, and Ulin makes sure we will never forget it with this indelible novel. No one knows Los Angeles, or noir, quite like he does.” — Viet Thanh Nguyen, author of The Sympathizer
“[W]ith its unreliable, unnamed narrator and twisted turns, and taking cues from classic noir and devil-at-the-crossroad blues, the novel is one long blast of existential despair … the ill wind whipping through these pages leaves its mark.” – Kirkus Reviews
“I haven’t read a book as incendiary, relentless, and downright sinister as Thirteen Question Method. With this novel, David L. Ulin joins the ranks of crime fiction heavyweights like Raymond Chandler, James M. Cain, and Patricial Highsmith. The voice is stylish and sexy, full of jagged edges and liquid smooth curves that will leave readers holding their breath until the very end. A lesson in how to write noir and all the deliciously disturbing things that come with it.” — Alex Espinoza, author of Still Water Saints and Cruising: An Intimate History of a Radical Pastime
“A masterclass in noir that both honors and elevates the genre, Thirteen Question Method is in a category of its own. Ulin’s novel is sharp, nasty, and unsettling in all the best ways.” — Ivy Pochoda, author of Sing Her Down, These Women, Wonder Valley and Visitation Street
“There hasn’t been a Los Angeles noir novel as dark-hearted as David L. Ulin’s THIRTEEN QUESTION METHOD since Charles Willeford’s THE WOMAN CHASER. Go ahead and rewrite the canon and put Ulin’s first crime novel on the top of the list – this is fast, sexy, weird, and completely unhinged. You’ll read it quickly and then you’ll read it again, just to make sure you didn’t miss a single word. An instant classic.” — Tod Goldberg, New York Times bestselling author of The Low Desert and the Gangsterland trilogy.
“This is either Josef K in a Raymond Chandler plot, or Boethius caught like Vincent Price in the most Los Angeles story there is. Either way, this one grabs you by the face and drags you through the forest dark, which turns out to be more familiar than you want.” — Stephen Graham Jones, author of The Only Good Indians
“David L Ulin’s Thirteen Question Method is a smart shot of a crime novel — so intelligent, so creepy, so noir. The anxieties of every character (including the great city of Los Angeles) burn off the pages in this ode to the worst of us.” — NYT and WSJ bestselling novelist Rachel Howzell Hall
“Spare, brutal, and laced with the dark, dizzying smoke of California wildfire, Thirteen Question Method is a hot shot of Los Angeles noir from one of our city’s finest writers.” — Steph Cha, author of Your House Will Pay