Thursday, April 20, 2017


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A terrific review from book collector and crime fiction critic Marvin Minkler:

"No happy ending ever started in a bar.

"After the tumultuous events that took place on the world’s stage during World War II, and after, in the last Hector Lassiter novel I read, and my ninth, Roll The Credits, expectations were a bit lower as I began The Running KindMistake on my part.
"Hector was in a Youngstown, Ohio hotel bar during the December 1950 blizzard, reuniting with his dear, old Irish cop friend, Jimmy Hanrahan. While sharing drinks and war stories, they are suddenly interrupted by a young hysterical girl, who pulls at Hector’s sleeve, pleading: 'Please, mister, my mommy needs help.'
"Never hesitant, off Hector and Jimmy go, guns and fists at the ready...."
Read the rest, HERE.

Saturday, April 15, 2017


Finally wrapped up listing to Bruce Springsteen's unabridged audio recording of his memoir. 

My Big Four takeaways:

1. Abiding admiration for recognizing, addressing and continuing to stand down a dark-side genetic load that rivals the one-handed Ernest Hemingway, yet probably in a similar, slippery way, feeds THE ART. Singer-songwriter Mickey Newbury, who was dealt a similar, stacked deck, called writing against such interior and potentially lethal darkness, "Feeding the Dragon."

2. Gratitude he didn't go into his politics too deeply, something I dreaded would mount as the (16, count 'em!) CD's entered the backstretch. I'm a sing-and-shut-up kind of audience, for better or worse.

3. It's still deplorable he didn't go to bat for the E Street Band being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with him: The tracks with his signature band are indisputably the ones that got him there, (ego?) convenient HOF rules/technicalities be damned.

4. Semi-related note: Dismay, and some disappointment, he stubbornly pays more lip service to lesser (and mostly solo) works, while in some ways undermining the music recorded with the aforementioned E Street Band that will best endure. (A generation from now, BORN TO RUN and DARKNESS will possibly still be resonating. HUMAN TOUCH? DEVILS & DUST? WRECKING BALL? Those don't reach.) 
But some artists are their own worst critics, and more recent and expanded anniversary re-releases have confirmed Bruce buried better songs/versions at the expense of lesser tracks that made their way onto now classic albums.

(5?) Semi-tied to point #4: MAGIC is another, late-career album that most music fans likely won't discover years down the road, but it does contain one great track I choose to reference in THREE CHORDS & THE TRUTH (published by Betimes Books). In a series defined by time-jumps, I picked Bruce's "Girls in Their Summer Clothes" to name-check in order to anchor the most audacious (and possibly resonant) of all the time jumps in the Hector Lassiter series:

If you've read or listened to The Boss' memoir, your thoughts?

Sunday, April 9, 2017


I'm criminally late linking here to this much-appreciated, quite knowing review of THREE CHORDS & THE TRUTH by James Ellroy (and crime fiction scholar) Steven Powell.

An excerpt:

"It’s not just the threat of a nuclear catastrophe that looms large over the novel, there is also a complete meta-fictional reworking of the Lassiter character and authorial persona which will make you question the nature of every page of the entire series. Take this description of crime writing in the novel:
The craft of fiction writing had earned the fifty-something Lassiter a good and steady living; nice threads, pretty women and a chance to roam widely: to see a bigger world than he would ever have glimpsed working some nine-to-five, wage-slave day job in his native Southern Texas.

"It is the 'bigger world' that every reader and writer in their heart aspires to, and the one that McDonald has given us through the Lassiter series, which is given a radical new perspective in the final pages of Three Chords."

The full review is available here, along with an in-depth interview we did together before the novel's release here.

Sunday, March 19, 2017


This coming Saturday (March 25) from 1-3 p.m., I'll be one of many authors signing books and meeting readers in President Warren G. Harding's old stomping ground of Marion, Ohio.

The Read Local Author Fair takes place at the Marion Public Library and features a reading and presentation by author Mindy McGinnis.

Other participating authors include Lee Martin, Karen Harper, Aileen Stewart, Tiffany McDaniel, Rachel Schade and many, many more.

I'll have along increasingly rare hardcover first edition copies of PRINT THE LEGEND and TOROS & TORSOS for those looking to round out collections, and the first paperback trade copies of HEAD GAMES and the now out of print ROGUE MALES.

More on this event available at the official site, here.

Sunday, February 26, 2017


This October will finally see the release of the graphic novel of Head Games, a project about a decade in the making.

It all took a big step closer to reality this past week with the finalizing of proofs for the forthcoming graphic novel, and the release of fall release catalogues by its publisher, First Second Books that includes several sample pages from the opening of the new book.

In answer to questions about this new version of Head Games, and what role I had in its preparation, for those fairly new to the topic, shortly before the publication of Head Games, the novel in 2007, we sold graphic novel adaptation rights to First Second, then a fairly new start up that has since grown into an industry leader and multi-Eisner Award-winning graphic novel imprint.

I was asked to write a few sample pages of a script to see how the book might adapt to the visual format. I fully expected the actual script to be turned over to somebody else. But following the sample’s review, I was asked to do the full adaptation of my novel.

Flash forward to February 2017: The art and words are all locked in now, and on October 24, the novel will be published in a striking two-color presentation, a concept I pitched back in the early days of this project.

Watch this space in the weeks ahead for more about the new book, and where I might be turning up in support of this one. 

It’s a very slick looking piece of work I’m especially excited to see go out into the world:

Here's First Second's capsule pitch for the novel:

"It’s 1957, and aging novelist Hector Lassiter thought that his adventures were long behind him. But then he receives a treasure worth killing for: the skull of Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa.
"With his partners in crime, brooding poet Bud Fiske and hard-as-nails beauty Alicia Vicente, Hector must make a mad dash across the American southwest. If the trio can survive long enough to sell the skull to the highest bidder, they'll score big. But in the meantime, Hector must dodge bullets from deranged fraternity members, aging soldiers of fortune, vicious warlords, and crooked feds.
"In this graphic novel adaptation of the Edgar-nominated novel Head Games, Craig McDonald blends history and legend to tell the tale of the classic hard-drinking, hard-living, and hard-boiled protagonist. Artist Kevin Singles brings this noir thriller to life with a style reminiscent of the golden age of dime-store paperbacks."

See more at the official publisher's site here.

Thursday, December 22, 2016


On balance, it’s been a top-shelf year for reading (and some re-reading), most of it centered on novels, biographies and historical books related to—or of an era close to—a current writing project of my own.

This year’s round of reading took me through swaths of excellent books by Mary Doria Russell (the Doc Holliday novels), Charles Portis (all of it), Larry McMurtry and some revisited Cormac McCarthy, among others.

Crimespree Magazine, for whom I write a regular column, recently asked for my top five reads of the year for an online feature, so that effectively pre-empts my annual round up of same in this space.

Instead, I thought I’d expand on what I regard as my single most enjoyable read this year.

CEREMONIES OF THE HORSEMEN: The Ranch & Reata Essays (Alamar Media Inc., ISBN: 9780989070157, 336 pages), is a terrific collection of writings from Tom Russell.

The criminologist/singer-songwriter/painter and now essayist gathers a stunning array of prose pieces on topics ranging from the history of tequila, to filmmaker Monte Hellman, to Tex Ritter, to Georgia O’Keefe, to Hemingway and the neglected novels of the aforementioned Charles Portis.

At once erudite and occasionally raucous—but always gripping—it’s a bit like reading lyrical, deep-dive Americana pieces penned by Sam Groom’s “The Stranger” from THE BIG LEBOWSKI.

In his introduction, Russell sums up the terrain thusly:

“These essays are my own Moveable Feast (to borrow from Hemingway) of a time spent mostly in The West. Bill Reynolds never altered a word, that I can recall, and also allowed your reporter to stumble, headlong, down grammatically innocent back roads at my own peril and pleasure, with a snorting distaste for the semi-colon. As the legendary Anton Chekhov stated: ‘It’s not so much what I have see as how I have seen it.’ The job.”

You don’t have to know Russell’s music to gulp down or savor these essays as they’re presented.
This is an author who has a particularly lyrical way with words who is writing about his passions and sharing his own lifetime’s earned wisdom on the subject of the West, art and the often unexpected or previously unexplored intersections between.

A sample: “In the early 1960s Johnny Cash used to roam out here, kicking at cow skulls and digging up old bottles and bones — communing with the desert spirits. Talking to himself. Something was gnawing at him. What happened to the old-time cowboys and prospectors? Where had the Old West gone? The Indians who’d painted on these cave walls? What was their story? Johnny was acrawl with nerves back then. Fidgety. Restless. He’d trek deep into the Western outback. Disappearing for days. Hearing voices. Talking to the ghosts inside his skull.” — excerpt from the essay, “Bitter Tears & Mean as Hell: Johnny Cash in the Wild West”

This volume joins a rich and diverse collection of other great Russell books, including earlier tomes on his painting, on Charles Bukowski, a collection of songwriting quotes, a recent volume collecting the lyrics to many of Russell’s most noted songs, and a fine little book tied to his most recent studio release, The ROSE OF ROSCRAE.

Highly recommended, and a book I’m sure I’ll be dipping back into, often, in the coming New Year.

—Craig McDonald
Dec. 22, 2016
(& a hearty Merry Christmas!)

Sunday, December 18, 2016


A little over a week ago, Entertainment Weekly provided the world reveal of the HEAD GAMES graphic novel coming Oct. 24, 2017 from First Second (Macmillan) Books.

Now, First Second and Macmillan have posted eight pages from the coming graphic novel on the official book site. You can see those right here.