L.A. Mental: A Thriller

L.A. Mental: A Thriller

by Neil McMahon


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“As much a mind game as it is thriller, a scientific puzzle buried in a murder mystery, all set against the surreal world of Hollywood filmmaking. . . . I can’t wait for the next book!”—James Rollins

Acclaimed mystery writer Neil McMahon, coauthor of the James Patterson thriller Toys, delivers a fast-paced psychological thriller from the heart of a city gone insane: America’s myth-making capital, Los Angeles, has become a bedlam of murder, drugs, conspiracy, and obsession, and only one man has the power to put things right. Fans of science-tinged suspense from authors like Patrick Lee, William Gibson, and Greg Bear, will thrill for L.A. Mental’s taught, high-stakes story of one man’s accidental immersion in an underworld he never knew existed—one which will require every last reserve of his intelligence, ruthlessness, and cunning to escape.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061340789
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 09/27/2011
Pages: 304
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Neil McMahon holds a degree in psychology from Stanford and was a Stegner fellow. He has published ten novels, in addition to the bestselling thriller Toys, coauthored with James Patterson. He lives in Missoula, Montana, where his wife directs the annual Montana Festival of the Book.

What People are Saying About This

James Patterson

“L.A. Mental caught my interest immediately and held it until the last page. A very cool concept beautifully executed.”

James Rollins

“Neil McMahon’s L.A. MENTAL is as much a mind game as it is thriller, a scientific puzzle buried in a murder mystery, all set against the surreal world of Hollywood filmmaking. Blurring genres and expectations, this is a book that challenges and thrills in equal parts.”

Michael Moore

“Sure storytelling and elegant writing…. An intoxicating blend of psychology, mind control, physics and movies, leavened with the more familiar plot devices of money, sex and power.”

Andrew Schneider

“McMahon offers up a killer so cutting edge and secretly lethal that I’m sure that Homeland Security believes he got into their intelligence files. . . . Twist after turn of wonderfully crafted words.”

Michael Koryta

“With L.A. Mental, Neil McMahon heads into the territory of William Gibson in a fast-moving, compelling tale that’s a blend of detective novel and might-just-be-possible science fiction, sure to leave readers hungry for more.”

Jason Kehe

“[A] punchy, potent genre mash-up-part thriller, part mystery, a pinch of sci-fi-about a Los Angeles on the verge of a mental breakdown.”


Behind L.A. Mental by Neil McMahon

A certain amount of paranoia, I've come to believe, is a healthy survival instinct, and I practice what I preach. My old friend Jim Crumley (author of the iconic detective novel The Last Good Kiss—if you haven't read it, you're missing a real pleasure) once told me that I had the right to write thrillers because I was the most spooked-out person he'd ever known.

Paranoia can also be a great tool for a writer. I think it's safe to say that thrillers are largely driven by fear of some sort, which pervades the characters' lives (and keeps the reader turning pages). The novels often focus on a particular kind of fear (with numerous gradations, variations, and combinations): for instance, up-close-and-personal (as in: "Whoa!—is this charming stranger I just jumped into bed with really the slasher who's been all over the news?"); the larger-but-contained scale (terrorists on the brink of taking out hostages, who usually include the President and/or the head cop's squeeze); and the all-out panic of a major disaster (ticking nuclear bomb, pandemic disease, alien invasion).

My own earlier novels tend toward the first end of that spectrum, deriving their tension and suspense largely from a sense of immediate personal danger to the characters. But looking back on my books (I've never really thought about this before), I can see a gradually increasing focus on a more widespread brand of peril (sinister genetic manipulation in Blood Double, domestic terrorism in Revolution No. 9).

L.A. Mental then makes a much bigger jump in that direction, and also to outright paranoia as the major driving force behind the developments in the increasingly dangerous life of the main character, Tom Crandall. The threat at the heart of the novel is an enormous one, potentially affecting everyone on the planet, and it's peculiarly insidious—secret mass mind control via the new, mushrooming, and some might say, out-of-control science of nanotechnology. And in keeping with another tradition of the paranoia sub-genre, Tom Crandall is the only one who's aware of it.

There's no single clear-cut answer to why I took on this new subject, but rather, several factors were involved. As I mentioned, I'd already made forays in this direction, so in a sense it was a natural progression. Around the time I started work on the book, another great friend, ace journalist Andrew Schneider, was researching the nano-revolution and put it on my radar. The possibilities there seemed striking (even alarming) enough to warrant writing about. I was already interested in mind-control research, and had a smattering of knowledge about resonance theory. All that came together slowly, with the story evolving in layers and continually demanding new elements as I tried to integrate the existing ones. Eventually, after a long mix of finessing and bludgeoning things into shape, I had what I felt was a workable plot.

But I'll note one crystallizing moment. Like Tom Crandall in the novel, I've spent a fair amount of time (informally) observing vultures. When the idea hit me to bring them into the story, a scene flashed into my mind as clear as lightning—Tom on a ridgetop, covertly watching the twisted genius Gunnar Kelso in the meadow below with a microwave transmitter, controlling a flock of buzzards overhead like drone airplanes. From that point on, the nanotech aspect took on a life of its own.

While much of the information I present is factual, I hasten to admit that the scenario itself is largely pseudo-science. But there's no doubt that mind-control research is very much a reality that's been going on for decades, especially since the Cold War. (If you're curious, go online and check out CIA programs like MK-ULTRA and HAARP. There's plenty of unsettling information available, and you can bet there's a whole lot more that's not available. Tom elaborates on these, and related, points in the novel.)

To bring this back around, I'll close by saying that writing this piece has made me realize (with a touch of pride) that my paranoia has grown with the job, from the modest scope of my early efforts, to the threat of mankind being mentally enslaved by subliminal commands from unseen masters.

And arguably the most frightening thing about this hypothetical scenario is that it would be difficult or impossible for us even to know if it were becoming a reality.

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