Thursday, July 23, 2015


Starting July 23 (2015) and continuing for one month, HEAD GAMES, my debut novel and the book that originally launched the Hector Lassiter series, will be a featured title in Amazon-Australia's ongoing Winter Sale.

Even if you haven't read the other Lassiters, this is the perfect point to jump on board since, in its first incarnation, it was the very first Lassiter novel to appear.

(Betimes Books, the series' current publisher, is now releasing the titles in something approximating chronological order.)

Of all my novels, HG has traveled the widest, become the most translated, and is now in the final steps of being transformed into a graphic novel by First Second Books.

Some extras for this version include a new afterword, the short story “The Last Interview” that was my first Lassiter work (and one that informs the latter going of HEAD GAMES). This version of HG also includes reader discussion questions for book groups interested in further exploring the novel’s themes.


• 2008 Edgar® Nominee for Best First Novel

• 2008 Anthony Award Finalist

• 2011 Sélection du prix polar Saint-Maur En Poche

• 2008 Gumshoe Award nominee for Best First Novel

• Head Games shortlisted for 2008 Crimespree Magazine award for Best First Novel

"One of the great American road novels."
   —Heirloom Books

"This slick caper novel touches chords of myth, history, loss and redemption just enough so you can hear echoes faintly under the gunfire."

“In a dusty cantina on the far side of the Rio Grande, larger-than-life and recently widowed crime writer Hector Lassiter and Bud Fiske, a callow young poet sent by True Magazine to profile Hector, are handed a carpet bag. Inside they find the stolen head of Mexican general Francisco ‘Pancho’ Villa—a long missing relic that may point the way to a fortune in lost treasure or a blood-and-thunder death...

“In the dank, hallowed halls of Yale University creep the members of the Skull & Bones, a secret society shrouded in whispers. They are a fraternity whose members include media barons, über executives and politicians, including three generations of men called Bush—and their sanctum sanctorum's trophy cabinet is purportedly packed with the stolen bones of long-dead luminaries...

“In a '57 Bel Air, Hector, Bud, and the beautiful Alicia tear through the desert with a trunk full of human heads. Caught in a crazy crossfire, they lead all manner of headhunters on a breakneck chase across Lost America. U.S. intelligence services, murderous frat boys, the soldier of fortune who stole Pancho's head from its grave, and the specter of a dead Mexican legend all want Villa's head—though they might settle for Hector's...”


What some other authors have said about Head Games:

"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, author of What the Dead Know

"Moves like a bullet, like a trajectory of magnificent artistry and line-on-line of almost casual, throwaway description. The beautiful, understated humor running like a sad song all through the whole novel...I'm beyond impressed."
   —KEN BRUEN, author of American Skin

"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. It made me homesick for El Paso the way it was."
   —JAMES CRUMLEY, author of The Last Good Kiss

"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, author of Drive

"Head Games is fast, funny, furious, heart wrenching, real smart and totally unapologetic...a five-star page turning sizzler in a four-star world. Talk about nailing your debut...Head Games seals the deal and establishes McDonald as the new badass on the writing block. Kick back with a shot of Cuervo and a cold Tecate chaser. Enjoy the search for Pancho's missing head in this fast-paced thriller of lost and sorely missed Americana."
   —CHARLIE STELLA, author of Shakedown

"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, author of Hard Man

Selected as one of The San Francisco Chronicle's Top 10 crime books of the year: "Craig McDonald, a genuine expert on the history of crime fiction, 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. Strap in, hold on, enjoy the ride."

"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. It's Tom Russell singing ‘Tonight We Ride’ with a gut full of tequila and a loaded Colt. 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, author of Saturday's Child

"A booze-soaked tribute to those great gonzo noir writers of days gone by."
   —ANTHONY NEIL SMITH, author of The Drummer

"Yeah, I'm late catching up to this guy, but damned if this 1950's set tale of a crime writer carrying the head of a Mexican rebel in a bag across some kind of crazy road trip didn't set my pulse racing. There's a strange switch at a late stage in the novel which might divide some readers in the way the ending of No Country For Old Men did its audience, but for my money it's a bold move that more or less works exactly as intended. This McDonald guy is definitely one to keep your eye on."

Thursday, July 9, 2015


A new anthology
coming this November,

Welcome to La Frontera: You're headed way out west this time intrepid reader, far past where you've dared go before.
Your troubled guides along these dusty, bloody stretches of The Devil’s Highway are much-awarded crime novelists, journalists and border-dwelling troubadours. They serve up stories and essays about lives threatened chasing the elusive, often deadly dream of more money and better futures beckoning north and south of the border.
 Emiliano Zapata declared, “It’s better to die on your feet than to live on your knees.” In that spirit, these bards of the borderland are swinging for the barbed-wire fences: all swagger and dark visions, hell-bent on sweeping you along with them across the Rio Grande to a broken Promised Land.
Like treacherous Coyotes, they may gut-shoot you or break your heart in the crossing, but however it goes down, know these hombres are determined to make you feel it.


Tuesday, June 9, 2015


PRINT THE LEGEND, my Hector Lassiter literary thriller about the death of Ernest Hemingway and FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover's war on American authors, is now available for the first time in paperback, as well as eBook/audio formats. 

The following is an essay written in 2010 for the hardcover edition's release that originally appeared in Mystery Scene Magazine.


Ernest Hemingway wrote, "All stories, if continued far enough, end in death." It's possible Hemingway's 1961 death by shotgun blast was something other than the suicide history records.

My new novel, Print the Legend, explores Hemingway’s demise: one of the most infamous of American authors’ deaths. Given its violent circumstances, it may also be the most unjustly under-investigated.

If Papa’s fourth wife, Mary Welsh, had actually set out to cast suspicion upon herself in relation to her famous husband’s death, she could hardly have done a better job.

When Ernest’s apparent self-destructive impulses first manifested themselves, Mary took some efforts to protect Hemingway from himself.

But on his first night back from his last round of electroshock treatments administered at the Mayo Clinic — shock treatments approved by Mary for a man who had sustained innumerable concussions and therefore was not a prospect for such radical treatment — Mary reversed course. 

Mary locked away her husband’s extensive cache of guns. But she left the key to their hiding place on a shelf above the kitchen sink. She left them there in plain sight the night of July 1, 1961 — the eve of her widowhood.

When confronted about virtually handing her husband the means to kill himself, Mary argued nobody had a right to deprive a man “his possessions.”

Papa’s last wife was alone with her husband in their Ketchum, Idaho home that bloody morning.

By her own account, Mary didn’t immediately respond to the sound of the twin shotgun blasts — despite the fact the fatal shots were fired directly under her bedroom.

She had vaguely heard, she said, what sounded like “drawers slamming shut.” She claimed to find the carnage later in the morning.

Within a few hours of Ernest’s death, Mary was working the phones — calling friends and family…syndicated columnists. She was engaging in deft spin-doctoring decades before the term was invented.

One of those who received one of the strange, morning-of calls from the newly minted widow was Hemingway friend, William Walton. Many years after that bloody July morning, when confronted by scholar Rose Marie Burwell’s suspicion that Mary wanted her husband dead, Walton confided, “Now that you’ve said it, I will say what I have never said before, but have known since Mary called a few hours after Ernest’s death: yes, she did.”

Mary claimed Papa’s death was a gun-cleaning accident. The physician of record advanced that story, though he also noted there was no evidence of gun-cleaning materials found at the death scene.

The widow Hemingway was also an active participant in an ad hoc committee to determine whether there should be an inquest. Mary carried the day — no official inquiry was made.

Family cleaned up the death scene; the shotgun was destroyed — either by a family friend, or the Hemingway sons — accounts vary.

In the wake of Ernest’s death, Mary became Papa’s literary executrix — revising his manuscripts, re-titling his books…designing his dust jackets and reaping huge financial rewards.

Did Mary murder Hemingway?

Could, perhaps, she have played some other role in his passing?

In Print the Legend, I supply my own theory regarding Hemingway’s death — something other than the one that history records.

ONE TRUE SENTENCE: Paperback/eBook


TOROS & TORSOS: Paperback/eBook


ROLL THE CREDITS: Paperback/eBook

THE RUNNING KIND: Paperback/eBook

HEAD GAMES: Paperback/eBook

PRINT THE LEGEND: Paperback/eBook/audio

Thursday, May 28, 2015


PRINT THE LEGEND, my Hector Lassiter literary thriller about the death of Ernest Hemingway and FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover's war on American authors, is now available for the first time in paperback, as well as eBook/audio formats. 

The following is an essay written in 2010 for the hardcover edition's release that appeared at The Rap Sheet.


It’s been said that history is written by the winners. It might as easily be said that history is written by people with agendas. As a career journalist, it pains me to say this, but I just don’t trust a lot of the history I read.

Journalists are, by reputation, a cynical breed. “If your mother says she loves you, go and find a second source,” an old journalism saying goes. I came to my own cynicism about the reliability of received history at an early age.

Never much of a science or math student, I was that kid who always had his nose stuck in a book; that kid who lived mostly in his head.

My tastes, from the get-go, ran to pulpy crime fiction and selected slices of 20th-century history. No generalist, I tended to get obsessed with a person or specific historical event and read everything I could find about that particular preoccupation that fleetingly fired my imagination.

Reading history in that intense and idiosyncratic way, from very early on, I started to notice contradictions--some fairly profound. It seemed that for these historians, nailing down even a single event in a definitive way was a task nearly as elusive as trying to nail down mercury.

History, I came to decide, was a quicksilver and frequently treacherous thing. In my new novel, Print the Legend, my continuing character, Hector Lassiter, remarks that “Historical events ... are too often symptomatic of deeper, darker machinations hatched by conspiring men and devious cabals with impossible-to-fathom aims.”

To read the rest, CLICK HERE

ONE TRUE SENTENCE: Paperback/eBook


TOROS & TORSOS: Paperback/eBook


ROLL THE CREDITS: Paperback/eBook

THE RUNNING KIND: Paperback/eBook

HEAD GAMES: Paperback/eBook

PRINT THE LEGEND: Paperback/eBook/audio