Sunday, February 26, 2017

HEAD GAMES: THE GRAPHIC NOVEL, COMING OCT. 24

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

BOOK REVIEW: CEREMONIES OF THE HORSEMEN, BY TOM RUSSELL


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

FIRST SECOND POSTS PREVIEW OF HEAD GAMES GRAPHIC NOVEL

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.


Thursday, December 8, 2016

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY REVEALS HEAD GAMES GRAPHIC NOVEL COVER


There it is, illustrated by Kevin Singles who also executed the brilliant interior art.

Entertainment Weekly made the big worldwide reveal of the HEAD GAMES graphic novel in the early morning hours of Dec. 8. The book will be available on Oct. 24, 2017, from First Second Books (Macmillan).

I wrote the script from my 2007 debut novel that went on to be an Edgar and Anthony awards finalist, among other honors, including some in Europe.

If you liked the novel, I really think you're going to love this take on the tale.

More to come, soon.

Until then, here's what the top dog at First Second told EW about the HG graphic novel:

“From Craig McDonald, who’s an award-winning thriller author, this is a hardboiled kind of [story]. It has a bit of a Chandler vibe, but it’s in the Southwest, and you find yourself on the set of Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil, and you meet Orson Welles and Marlene Dietrich and Ernest Hemingway, and there’s like this Skull and Bones society, and an early Bush dynasty character, and there’s a missing head. It is kind of a caper but with this Philip Marlowe vibe to it. … And Kevin Singles does remarkable work on the artwork as well. … It’s in two colors, black and yellow, and it’s just really, really striking.”

Learn some more about First Second (a recently minted 10-year-old) right here.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

THREE CHORDS & THE TRUTH: THE "SOUNDTRACK" (PT. II)


Every time I sit down to write a book, I find myself constructing a kind of "soundtrack" for that particular work.

As I've said before, in most cases, it's just a playlist I put together and play over and over in a bid to stay in place and in form while composing a first draft.

For THREE CHORDS & THE TRUTH (now available via Betimes Books), and set against the 1958 (G)Nashville music scene, many of the songs I was listening to in order to keep in period and in mood went straight into the final text.

Last time, I offered up a playlist of those songs that actually are named or spotlighted in the final novel.

This time, an offering of some songs that informed the book, but more in the manner of other "soundtracks" I've put together for previous works. These tunes helped keep me on track in painting a picture of Nashville and the singer/songwriter scene, but weren't of the novel's era and so didn't find their way into the final text.

Call these songs, THREE CHORDS & THE TRUTH, "The Invisible (or Inaudible) Soundtrack":

First up, a favorite tune about the songwriter as scuffling up-and-comer. Kris Kristofferson pens the ultimate songwriter's anthem, set against the Nashville scene of the late 1960s to up around 1972 0r '73, when Nashville was a bit like Paris in the early 1920s—a nexus for inspired, new and daring voices...a southern U.S. "Left Bank" that came and went far too fast. 


Another Kristofferson tune about putting it all on the line to chase a dream and vision, but this one darker, much more haunted with self-doubt and even a bit of self-contempt. 

It resonates still more when you know Kris' mother sent him a blistering letter more or less disowning him for trashing a promising military/educator's career to be a recording studio janitor in Nashville in an attempt to make critical songwriting career connections.






This one by Willie Nelson is from an obscure film I love called SONGWRITER. (An essay on same I penned way back for a site shared by Megan Abbott and Sara Gran can be found here.) 

If you actually know the film, you might recognize this character played by Willie Nelson, "Doc Jenkins", hiding between the covers of THREE CHORDS.



This tune is also sung by Willie Nelson and crops up in SONGWRITER. In this version, Waylon Jennings duets. 

(Listen closely for a certain line similar to one often used to describe Mr. Lassiter by many of his critics and readers.)



Lacy J. Dalton had a hit with this song about aspiring songwriters many moons ago:



This is, hands down, my favorite song of old Nashville and one written and performed by the late great Mickey Newbury

This next one was listened to countless times while writing THREE CHORDS & THE TRUTH and is a virtual walking tour of old Music Row and the landmarks to be found in the new novel.

We also get oddly resonant references to vintage Chervolets (the ONLY car a man should consider owning and then only Bel Airs or Impalas) and a fella named Bud. 

"Do you remember the old town here yesterday? The walk from the Ryman...?" 

THREE CHORDS' title was originally, "Gnashville, Mon Amour" and that G in front of Nashville was owed to Mr. Newbury who ruefully coined that spelling way back in the bitter day. 

The album from which this one comes bears the same name as this tune, and has some other great pieces about Music City U.S.A. and the songwriter's life, making for a kind of singer-songwriter's "naked lunch at the end of the fork" musical memoir.



Lastly, every book requires an anthem as I pull it together. 

This one had this rather bitter but winningly defiant song penned by the great Tom Russell:





ONE TRUE SENTENCE: Paperback/eBook/audio

FOREVER'S JUST PRETEND: Paperback/eBook

TOROS & TORSOS: Paperback/eBook/audio

THE GREAT PRETENDER: Paperback/eBook

ROLL THE CREDITS: Paperback/eBook

THE RUNNING KIND: Paperback/eBook

HEAD GAMES: Paperback/eBook/audio

PRINT THE LEGEND: Paperback/eBook/audio

DEATH IN THE FACE: Paperback/eBook

THREE CHORDS & THE TRUTH: Paperback/eBook