Wednesday, May 25, 2016


This autumn, Betimes Books will release the climax of the Hector Lassiter series (novel number ten, if you're counting), THREE CHORDS & THE TRUTH.

Back when HEAD GAMES was inching toward publication, this novel was conceived and written as the definitive series closer.

(I had this notion, and left myself wiggle room, to expand the series in the middle if it seemed reasonable to do that...the results were THE GREAT PRETENDER and last year's DEATH IN THE FACE.)

THREE CHORDS takes place one calendar year after HEAD GAMES. Like HG, Hector once again narrates, Bud Fiske returns as primary sidekick, and some surprising faces from HG also return.

Information about pre-orders will be forthcoming. In the meantime, here's a brief publisher's teaser:


In 2007, the Hector Lassiter series launched with Head Games, a literary thriller set along the borderlands of 1957 America—an audacious road novel met with ecstatic reviews and international awards attention, including Edgar and Anthony nominations for Best First Novel by an American Author.

With Three Chords & The Truth, Craig McDonald sets the capstone on the Hector Lassiter saga.

It’s winter, 1958. Johnny Cash and Sun Studios are ascendant in Tennessee, where a wicked snowstorm is doing nothing to cool racial tensions in Music City, USA, or points farther south.

Despite the cold, the U.S. military is also sweating, fearing the worst after a flight crew has been forced to dump a hydrogen bomb off the coast of South Carolina—a weapon of mass destruction whose nuclear trigger has been left to rust at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, threatening the Carolinas with atomic annihilation.

Once again, forgotten history and historical figures are reanimated and given new life and relevance through the Hector Lassiter series, nothing less than a literary Secret History of 20th Century America.

In an up-from-the-heels voice that recalls his first-person narration of Head Games, Hector once again tells his own remarkable story, one that rounds out the internationally bestselling series BookPage has called “wildly inventive” and The Chicago Tribune declared “most unusual, and readable crime fiction to come along in years.”

This is a vintage Lassiter novel, at last revealing the ultimate fate of the author-screenwriter famous for living what he wrote, and writing about what he lived.

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


Monday, February 29, 2016


Here's a rare chance to learn from one of the BORDERLAND NOIR contributors and a living expert on all things Pancho Villa:


One hundred years ago, on March 9, 1916, Mexican revolutionary leader General Francisco “Pancho” Villa led an incursion across the border and attacked the sleeping hamlet of Columbus, New Mexico. It was, prior to September 11, 2001, the most significant terrorist attack on U.S. soil.

Local historian, writer and musician Jim Cornelius and The Anvil Blasters will mark that historic centennial with an evening of borderland history and border ballads at Paulina Springs Books in Sisters on Wednesday, March 9, starting at 6:30 p.m.

Cornelius will read from his essay “Pancho Villa: Fourth Horseman of the Mexican Apocalypse,” published in the crime anthology “Borderland Noir,” edited by Craig McDonald and published by Betimes Books. Then the band will dig into some border-themed music — originals, traditional songs and songs from writers such as Tom Russell and Bob Dylan.

“I’ve been obsessed with the Mexican Revolution for years,” Cornelius said. “It was an earth-shaking event. Most folks north of the border don’t know much about it; we recognize Pancho Villa and that’s about it. The Revolution was going on at the same time as World War I, and the impact is still being felt today. About a million Mexicans died and millions more were displaced. It caused the first big wave of Mexican migration into the United States.

“It’s just a wildly fascinating chunk of history. Talk about your game of thrones — every single major leader of the Revolution died violently. In this case, it wasn’t just you win or you die, it was you win AND you die.”

The Anvil Blasters’ music has always been scorched by the hot desert wind of the borderlands, and Jim, along with Lynn Woodward,  Mike Biggers and Jeff Wester will focus on that part of their repertoire — tales of outlaws, watchful black crows, good tequila and bad women, and compadres in the Sierra Madre — all flavored with some hot chili peppers in the blistering sun.

“We’re going to have a good time,” said Cornelius, “but it’s important to remember that the occasion we’re marking was a terrible one. The attack on Columbus was an act of terrorism that killed 18 American civilians and soldiers and sparked an invasion of Mexico. We’ll explore what that was all about — and who Pancho Villa really was, the good, the bad and the ugly.

Then we’ll turn the book store into a cantina and sing about it.” 
Columbus, New Mexico, on fire after the attack.

"Borderland Noir" will be available at the event and Jim will sign copies on request.

Paulina Springs Books is located at 252 W. Hood Ave. in Sisters. For more information call 541-549-0866 or contact Jim Cornelius at 541-390-6973.

To put you in the mood and entice you this terrific literary and musical event, a Borderland Noir tune from another of the book's contributors, Mr. Tom Russell (with the great Thad Beckman), also performed at an Oregon bookstore, as it happens:

Saturday, February 27, 2016


My most recent interview with the masterful Steven Powell (expert in all things James Ellroy) is now available HERE

Ernest Hemingway, James Sallis, Ken Bruen, James Crumley are discussed, among a host of other topics, including some deep contemplation of Ian Fleming and James Bond.

There's also an exclusive cover reveal of the last Hector Lassiter novel coming later this year, THREE CHORDS & THE TRUTH.

In the meantime, here's a music video from Sara Evans that invokes that key and telling title phrase for the last Hector Lassiter novel, coming later this year from Betimes Books.

Friday, February 5, 2016


Call them head games...

Ninety years ago (on Feb. 6, to be precise), someone broke into the grave of assassinated Mexican Revolutionary General Francisco "Pancho" Villa and made off with his head.

Pancho's skull remains MIA, so far as we know officially, on this 90th anniversary of the sacking of his grave.

Just a very few years ago, one of the last men who rode with Villa passed away at the age of 109. (Mark that staggering age: it could be regarded as some kind of foreshadowing, perhaps.)

My Edgar/Anthony-nominated Hector Lassiter novel, HEAD GAMES, explores many of the legends attached to the theft of Villa's head, including the possibility a certain political dynasty with the last name of Bush and a Yale secret society played a role.

Either way, to mark the occasion of the disappearance of Pancho Villa's head, a flashback to a 2010 blog entry:

Pancho Villa meets
Black Jack Pershing,
who would later hunt


Time is a funny thing: stuff that seems so long ago, really isn't. This man passed away last month. A very old man. He lived a lot of the things I wrote about it in my first novel. He experienced Pancho Villa, up close and personal.

1916: That was the year Pancho Villa attacked Columbus, New Mexico and triggered the "Punitive Expedition."

Columbus New Mexico (named after
the Ohio city) burns after an
attack allegedly staged
by Villiastas.

The resulting expedition into Mexico to catch Villa was Woodrow Wilson's kind of foreshadowing of George W. Bush's invasion of Afghanistan in search of Bin Laden.

Wilson's incursion across the border stoked a lot of resentment against America on the part of Mexico's people.

Wilson sent 100,000 men down into the desert to chase Pancho bring him back "Dead or alive." The chase didn't go well.
In my fictional universe,
Hector Lassiter was
among those
hunting Villa.

In my literary world, one of the men who rode down into the desert after Villa was a young Hector Lassiter, who lied about his age and rode off after Black Jack Pershing into the Mexican desert (all of this fuels my first novel, HEAD GAMES).

Like Bin Laden many decades later, Villa proved infuriatingly elusive. Once we lost interest in him, Villa eventually settled down on his ranch, put on some weight, stepped up his legendary womanizing, and started amassing this arsenal.

What he meant to do with that latter remains a mystery: Villa was gunned down by parties unknown before he could stir up further revolts or revolutions.

A few years later, Pancho's grave was robbed and his head was stolen. (Again, all covered in sexier fashion in HEAD GAMES.)

Villa's head remains missing. We'll get back to that, shortly...

Now, I don't consider myself a relic, but I have actually known/met a couple of Punitive Expedition members (both dead for some number of years now). 
This gent is Emil Holmdahl.
A soldier of fortune, he was
busted for stealing
Pancho's head. You can learn
more about him in

One I met as a child. The other I met as a young reporter: I spent an afternoon with the man hearing tales of the trail and looking through old photo albums only to be told by that lonely old man he forbade any article be written about him. He just wanted company to pass a summer afternoon. That man, and the other man from my hometown who rode with Pershing, are both name-checked in HEAD GAMES.

The Villa assassination.
I'd come to believe most of the men of that time were long passed. But last evening I ran across this obituary for a man pretty wonderfully named Juan Carlos Caballero Vega. He claimed, at the age of 14, to have ridden with Villa into New Mexico that night to attack Columbus. He claimed to have been Villa's young chauffeur. In a sense, his actual story reflects an opposite-sides-of-the-border version of Hector Lassiter's tale.

Vega passed away on March 30, 2010, at the age of 109. He'd hoped to live to see November 20, the centenary of the Mexican Revolution in which he fought alongside Villa.

According to an article in the Telegraph, he attributed his long life to "love," much walking and an active sex life (he remarried at the age of 99).

You can read Vega's story, much of it in his own words, here. An image from Corbis of the old Villista shows a man with some real character etched into his face:

The late-Mr. Vega

So Vega's gone.

Pancho's head remains elusive.

Interestingly enough, the Wall Street Journal this past week took another look at Villa's missing remains (more than just his noggin, really)... Of course, Skull & Bones (the culprits behind Villa's grave-robbing as posited in HEAD GAMES) also got a mention.

You can read that piece 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