Craig McDonald is a finalist of the Edgar®, Anthony, Gumshoe and CrimeSpree Awards for his first novel, Head Games, introducing Hector Lassiter, a larger-than-life crime writer.
The other novels in the Hector Lassiter series include Toros & Torsos (a frequent selection for many year’s best lists), Print the Legend (“an epic masterpiece” — Michael Connelly) and Roll the Credits (St. Martin's Press, 2010).
Hector Lassiter also centers highly-praised short stories that appear in two crime fiction anthologies, The Deadly Bride & 19 of the Year’s Finest Crime and Mystery Stories, (Carroll & Graf, 2006) and Danger City II (Contemporary Press, 2006).
Head Games is soon to appear in graphic novel format from First Second Books, an Eisner Award winning imprint of Henry Holt & Company.
Craig McDonald is also an award-winning journalist and the author of two highly praised non-fiction volumes on the subject of mystery and crime fiction writing, Art in the Blood (PointBlank, 2006) and Rogue Males, (Bleak House, 2009). Craig McDonald was also a contributor to the 2004 New York Times non-fiction bestseller Secrets of the Code.
His short stories and articles have also appeared in the Mississippi Review, Hard Luck Stories, Crime Factory, Crimespree and Thuglit.
THE HECTOR LASSITER SERIES
Head Games is equal parts road novel, caper and historical fiction: a black comedy and wistful ballad of lost America rooted in borderland myth and history.
An American soldier-of-fortune was arrested for stealing Pancho Villa’s skull. Many believe he was hired by the grandfather of U.S. President George W. Bush. Prescott Bush was a member of the secretive Yale Skull and Bones Society.
Head Games’ narrator is Hector Lassiter, a larger-than-life crime writer who knew Hammett and Chandler … a boozing, brawling, much-married charmer who fished with Hemingway and bedded Hollywood starlets.
The breakneck chase extends across 1957-1970 America — from the cantinas of old Mexico to the Venice, California set of Orson Welles’ noir classic Touch of Evil, to the sanctum sanctorum of Yale’s infamous Skull and Bones Society. The cast of characters includes Orson Welles, Marlene Dietrich, Jack Webb and a young and gone-missing National Guardsman named “George W.”
All rights available ex: English N/A (Bleak House); French (Belfond for trade edition, Univers Poche for mass-market paperback); Russian (AST); Japanese (Shueisha). Graphic novel adaptation: First Second Books (Macmillan US) Audio book: Recorded Books, USA.
TOROS & TORSOS
Hector Lassiter is a crime novelist who writes what he lives and lives what he writes. But Hector goes a step beyond: frequently forcing those around him into the tawdry and turbulent territory of his crime stories and novels.
This startling novel takes it cue from all-too-real recent scholarship postulating the existence of a dark underground of misogynistic and possibly homicidal surrealist artists, photographers and art collectors that flourished in Europe and United States through most of the Twentieth Century. These extremist surrealists engaged in a parlor game they dubbed “Exquisite Corpse” — a twisted collaborative artistic pursuit that may have found its most infamous and sublime expression in the 1947 murder of would-be actress Elizabeth Short.
Toros & Torsos pits Lassiter, the hard-living pulp author, against the ultimate performance artist in a duel to the death extending across three decades and three continents.
The novel is set against the vivid backdrops of a killer hurricane that nearly destroyed the Florida Keys in 1935, the Spanish Civil War, post-war Los Angeles and the final days of the Batista regime in Cuba.
This wildly original noir saga also boasts a cast of characters including Ernest Hemingway, John Dos Passos, Orson Welles, Rita Hayworth, Man Ray, Salvador Dali and John Huston.
In a blood-limned haze of deception, murderous metaphor and devastating betrayal, nothing is what it seems and obsession and creativity collide in a wicked and unexpected climax that shakes the art world to its foundations.
All rights available ex: English N/A: (Bleak House); French ( Belfond).
PRINT THE LEGEND
It was the shot heard ’round the world: On July 2, 1961, Ernest Hemingway died from a shotgun blast.
It’s 1965, and two men have come to Ketchum, Idaho to confront the widow Hemingway — men who have serious doubts about the true circumstances of Hemingway’s death. One is crime novelist Hector Lassiter, the oldest and best of Hemingway’s friends…the last man standing of the Lost Generation. Hector has also heard intimations of some surviving Hemingway manuscripts: a “lost” chapter of A Moveable Feast and a full-length novel written by a deluded Hemingway that Hector fears might compromise or harm his own reputation.
Paulson and his young, pregnant wife Hannah, herself an aspiring writer, have come to interview Mrs. Hemingway who believes Richard Paulson intends to write her hagiography.
Often drunk and mildly deluded, Mary nevertheless proves dangerous quarry, quickly sensing the scholar has a hidden agenda that threatens her and her late-husband. The Paulsons and Hector soon learn a mysterious stranger is stalking the streets of Ketchum and Sun Valley — a murderer seemingly intent upon seeing old secrets remain buried, whatever the cost.
Print the Legend is a literary thriller about Hemingway's death and the patina that perceived suicide lends the author's legend…an exploration of the sinister shadow play and co-dependence that binds authors and their academics.
It is a love story that finds the aging Hector Lassiter striving to protect Hannah as sinister forces gather around her, threatening her and her unborn child.
It is a propulsive page-turner that completes the “Hemingway Trilogy” that is the heart of the Hector Lassiter series — a startling novel that could forever change how readers regard the death of Ernest Hemingway.
All rights available ex: English N/A: St. Martin's Press / Minotaur (Feb. 2010), French (Belfond). Edited m/s available.
ROLL THE CREDITS
Through three critically acclaimed novels, Craig McDonald has afforded readers tantalizing glimpses of the secret history of the 20th Century. Now comes the fourth novel in the Hector Lassiter saga which has been called “epic” (Michael Connelly) and “lush and sprawling” (Megan Abbott).
Hector’s activities during the Second World War have been hinted at and alluded to through earlier novels. Roll the Credits at last reveals the crime novelist/screenwriter’s storied adventures in the European theatre in a globetrotting, decades-spanning historical thriller.
1940: Hector is smuggling expatriate icons Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas out of occupied Paris to the comparative safety of the “Free Zone” in the shadow of the Alps when he runs afoul of Werner Höttl, a German filmmaker and Nazi propagandist Hector encountered during the First World War.
In a series that George Pelecanos calls “bold” and “ambitious,” — a cycle of novels that has won the love of an enthusiastic international readership — Roll the Credits represents the apex of the Hector Lassiter series. It is a thundering adventure tale of love, friendship, hatred and betrayal…of shattering secrets and the battle to win the last good fight.
Roll the Credits is also a haunting study of the entwined history of pulp noir and the German expressionist cinema…of racial hatred and righteous revenge.
With a supporting cast including icons of the Lost Generation and heroes of the French resistance, this is the novel Hector Lassiter’s readers have been waiting for: Hector as OSS spy and guerilla chief; as unlikely father figure and husband…Hector’s war as fought through the bars, bedrooms and countryside of Europe and beyond.
All rights available ex: English N/A: St. Martin's Press / Minotaur (2010)
PRAISE FOR "HEAD GAMES"
Every now and then you run into a book that has it all: humor, a delightfully dark tone, a world-weary and larger-than-life protagonist and a wildly inventive storyline. Craig McDonald's Head Games is such a novel. A darkly humorous story, using a cast of real-life mid-century luminaries: Marlene Dietrich, Orson Welles, Ernest Hemingway, Jack Webb (of Dragnet fame) and a laconic Yale frat boy who goes by the name "George W." A book with a premise as unorthodox as this could easily dissolve into farce, but McDonald skillfully avoids that trap, crafting a clever and only slightly over-the-top slaughter-fest worthy of James Ellroy or James Crumley. - BookPage (chosen as September 2007 "Mystery of the Month")
Craig McDonald, a genuine expert on the history of crime fiction (with a wonderful book of author interviews, "Art in the Blood," to prove it), gives free rein to all his obsessions in a debut novel that's a berserk 1957-based caper running roughshod through the politics and pop culture of the latter half of the 20th century. His hero, Hec Lassiter, a pulp fiction writer, gets caught up in plot involving Ivy League skulduggery (yes, the Bush family appears), Mexican federales and revolutionaries and an assortment of real-life icons (Hemingway, Dietrich, Welles) - all whipped into a violent, frothing frenzy. McDonald stomps hard enough on the gas that there's no time to reflect on the preciousness of it all. Strap in, hold on, enjoy the ride. - San Francisco Chronicle, Eddie Muller's Top 10 list in crime fiction for 2007
In McDonald's fun, deft debut, set mostly in 1957, Sen. Prescott Bush has sent out the call: bring me the head of Pancho Villa, the late Mexican revolutionary. Aging writer Hector Mason Lassiter, author of pulp novels like The Land of Fear and Dread and Border Town, gets caught in the crossfire between Mexican nationalists and frat boys out to place Villa's head in Yale's Skull and Bones Society trophy case. Along the road to hell, Lassiter picks up a young love interest while dropping in on Orson Welles and Marlene Dietrich on the set of Touch of Evil, but that doesn't slow down the action ("it's a tricky thing, firing for flesh wounds with a machine gun at close range"). Reminiscent of James Crumley's Milo Milodragovich PI novels but Crumley lite, this slick caper novel touches chords of myth, history, loss and redemption just enough so you can hear echoes faintly under the gunfire. - Publishers Weekly
Blurring the lines between historical fact and fiction, Craig McDonald’s triumphantly twisted first novel is one of the most unusual, and readable, crime-fiction releases to come along in years. … Crime-fiction fans looking for an original voice should check out this exceptional debut, which blends Jack Kerouac’s picaresque narrative style and James Ellroy’s noir sensibilities with a heaping helping of urban legend, subtle social commentary and a trunkful of decapitated heads. - Chicago Tribune
In his debut novel McDonald mixes history, legend, and fantastic characters to play the best kind of Head Games with his readers. Where has this guy been? Sit back, curl up and get ready for a timeless adventure. The newest recipe for great fiction? One pulp novelist, one poet, two Hollywood legends, a secret society and a plot scored by Sergio Leon. This is Head Games. A magic carpet ride in a Chevy Bel Air. The end result is a trip no mystery fan should miss. Hector Lassiter is a tarnished hero with a lustrous shine. Next book please Mr. McDonald. - Crimespree Magazine
A turbulent tale of murder, conspiracy and political intrigue. The grisly carnage in McDonald’s Spillane-like fictional debut has its roots in a real historical question: Did the Bush family really help hide Pancho Villa’s head in the inner sanctum of Skull and Bones? Despite the intriguing premise, not for the faint-hearted. - Kirkus Review
…An exuberantly over-the-top romp conflating real events with legends and filled with murderous federales, murderous old Villistas, additional decapitations, mercenaries, unhinged Yale frat boys, CIA spooks (also Yalies), and enough gratuitous violence to fill several Steven Seagal films. …Much of Head Games reads like a picaresque adventure, but McDonald’s portraits of Welles, Dietrich, and Pancho Villa are beguiling and seem knowing.- This one is simply great fun!Booklist
Past guest editor, Craig McDonald has his first novel, Head Games, coming out this September from Bleak House. The book has been getting amazing reviews, and anyone who has read Craig's short fiction here on Hardluck or elsewhere knows he's a writer of immense talent. This is one book I'm looking forward to, and given Craig's dark sensibilities Hardluck readers should be looking forward to this also. - Hard Luck Stories
Reading Craig McDonald's HEAD GAMES was like reliving those wonderful and exciting, tequila-fired weekend border-town tours of my youth in the '50's. A different character, vivid and lively, waiting around every new corner of the artfully twisted plot. The time and place are captured perfectly, and story never falters as it dashes to the surprising ending. - James Crumley
Few writers can blend a contemporary feel with what drew us to old-style pulp and original paperbacks: that momentum, that craziness, the thrill of the downhill slide and crash. Head Games is smart, it's funny, and it moves like a roach when the lights go on -- what's not to love? - James Sallis
“You’ve got to find what you love and let it kill you.” Jesus… I’d kill for those lines. The book just took me breath away… This is like the old master in his 70s, producing one last masterpiece to stun them… Stunned me… Over and over. The beautiful understated humour running like a sad song all through the whole novel. I stake me whole reading career on calling this a full formed masterpiece. I’m beyond impressed.” - Ken Bruen
HEAD GAMES is terrific, a real discovery, informed by -- but never weighed down by -- Craig McDonald's intimate knowledge of pulp fiction, politics, history, literature, film noir and all manner of frontiers. A truly original debut that leaves one eager to see what this writer will do next. - Laura Lippman
Head Games is that one in a million read (which happens to be a debut) that most of us six and seven tries down the road wish we could come up with just once. Head Gamesis fast, funny, furious, heart wrenching, real smart and totally unapologetic … a five-star page turning sizzler in a four-star world. - Charlie Stella
HEAD GAMES is contemporary noir at its finest. Prose that bites like a guillotine blade. A voice that sings in your skull. And in aging pulpster/adventurer Hector Lassiter, a hero who's the real deal — morally complex and damned funny. - Allan Guthrie
HEAD GAMES is a gravel and mescal cocktail, a one-day burn, a novel of genuine piss and vinegar, the kind of book you thrust on people with the wild eyes and intent of a PCP freak. Craig McDonald knows the tough guy, has created one of the very finest, a pulp writer called Lassiter who knew Hemingway, Welles and Dietrich, and who I wish wasn't fucking fictional so I could hunt for his books. He spits in the eye of the pansy-ass authority hero that has glutted the crime market, reminiscent of Crumley at his best and with Ellroy's sick historical verve. Bottom line, McDonald's a talented bastard. - Ray Banks
PRAISE FOR "TOROS & TORSOS"
Spanning the years from 1935 to 1959, Edgar-finalist McDonald's second novel to feature crime novelist Hector Lassiter (after 2007's Head Games) deftly mixes myth, history and a serial killer who arranges dead bodies to resemble surrealistic art. Lassiter, whose work embodies the “write what you live and live what you write” ethos, loves hard, drinks hard and keeps an eye on avenging the loss of the beautiful blonde he meets in a Key West bar on page one. …Solidly grounded in such actual events as the Key West hurricane of 1935, the Spanish Civil War and Cuba's last days before Castro, McDonald's imaginative tale takes an enjoyably different approach to art and murder. - Publishers Weekly
ADVANCED PRAISE FOR "PRINT THE LEGEND"
"Ingeniously plotted and executed, Print the Legend is an epic masterpiece from Craig McDonald. Beginning to end, I was riveted by this story of character, history and intrigue." - Michael Connelly
"The competition for the future of crime fiction is fierce, as it should be, but don't take your eyes off Craig McDonald. He's wily, talented and - rarest of the rare - a true original. He writes melancholy poetry that actually has melancholy poets wandering around, but don't turn your backs on them, either. I am always eager to see what he's going to do next." - Laura Lippman
"Print the Legend is a landmark book. Lassiter for me is the Flashman/ Zelig of the new era, but with a ferocious literary knowledge that is worn so lightly. A book beyond genre, stunning." - Ken Bruen
"What critics might call eclectic, and Eastern folks quirky, we Southerners call cussedness -- and it's the cornerstone of the American genius. As in: "There's a right way, a wrong way, and my way." You want to see how that looks on the page, pick up any of Craig McDonald's novels. He's built him a nice little shack out there way off all the reg'lar roads, and he's brewing some fine, heady stuff. Leave your money under the rock and come back in an hour." - James Sallis
ROGUE MALES, Conversations & Confrontations About the Writing Life
Crime novelist Duane Swierczynski (The Wheelman, The Blonde) declares Craig McDonald's first book of interviews Art in the Blood “A must-read collection of interviews with crime writers at the top of their game by an interviewer who’s at the top of his.”
Rogue Males is a second book of interviews with major American and European crime fiction authors, including James Crumley, Daniel Woodrell, Alistair MacLeod, Andrew Vachss, James Ellroy, Max Allan Collins, Stephen J. Cannell, Craig Holden, Pete Dexter, Randy Wayne White, Lee Child, Elmore Leonard, Tom Russell, Kinky Friedman, James Sallis and Ken Bruen.
Rights available: English ex. North America (Bleak House Books, May 2009); world translation rights ex. French (Editions Moisson Rouge).
PRAISE FOR "ROGUE MALES "
"A fascinating follow-up to the 2006 Art in the Blood dialogue with leading crime writers, this collection by journalist and fiction writer McDonald (Head Games) underlines the “rogue male” theme by putting some of the most influential crime fiction wizards under the spotlight. Among the personalities of murder and mayhem interviewed are Elmore Leonard, James Crumley, James Sallis, Daniel Woodrell, James Ellroy, Ken Bruen and Lee Child. There are choice nuggets in the chatter between McDonald and the scribes, Leonard revealing the secret to James Patterson's profitable corporate brand, Andrew Vachss endorsing the merits of print journalism and Ellroy labeling the late poet Anne Sexton “hot but doomed.” Wannabe writers will savor the various tidbits of information about novelization and screenwriting from veterans Max Allan Collins, Stephen J. Cannell and Pete Dexter. The troubadour section of the book has its crowning glory with a howling yuk-fest by singer/ writer Kinky Freedman and an insightful tit-for-tat by literary mavericks James Sallis and Ken Bruen. Informative, compulsively readable and mentally spicy." - Publishers Weekly
"McDonald, author of two novels starring raffish crime writer Hector Lassiter, is also a critic and interviewer. In Art in the Blood (2006) he compiled 20 uniformly fascinating interviews with major crime writers. The second volume covers the same territory. As a writer and an unabashed fan of the hard-boiled style and worldview, McDonald brings a knowledge and point of view to his questions that unlock the personality behind the public persona in all of his subjects. … A must for the fans of the "rogue males" who populate the edgiest crime fiction." - Booklist
"Craig McDonald's outstanding interview collections provide a steady supply of insight, inspiration, and fascination, and will become cornerstones of this crime writing generation's history. These are writers who understand and love their craft, interviewed by a writer who understands and loves his craft. If here's a better combination than that for a rare level of insight into the minds behind the work, I can't imagine what it might be. Rogue Males, like its predecessor, Art in the Blood, is a treasure." - Michael Koryta, author of Envy the Night