Monday, August 15, 2016


The hills a ways out of Dublin.

Various book events have taken me north and south across North America, from Quebec to Gavleston, and east and west from New York City to Arizona.

A view of one of the older structures in downtown Dublin.
I’ve even had the privilege of taking the show on the road as far away as Paris and Lyon.

But there was something very special about this month’s trip to Dublin to discuss and read from Head Games on the eve of its 10th anniversary and looming adaptation as a graphic novel (coming autumn 2017 from First Second Books).

A view of Joyce's tower at Sandycove.
With a first and last name like mine, Ireland feels like the proper place to be.

There’s also its rich literary history, from W.B. Yeats to Oscar Wilde to Bram Stoker to Jonathan Swift and, of course, James Joyce.
The sleeping area
in Joyce's castle.

With several days bookending the Aug. 3 reading, I was able to take in not just much of Dublin’s sights and history, but some of the surrounding villages and less developed areas.

The Martello tower in Sandycove where James Joyce once briefly slept and which features in the opening pages of Ulysses is open to the public as a Joyce exhibit.

Descending the stairs in Joyce's tower.
You can climb the narrow staircase that leads to the room where Joyce and roommate Oliver St. John Gogarty (“Buck Mulligan” in the novel) slept and lived for approximately six days.

(Arrangements quickly fell apart, Gogarty is said to have said, after some midnight incident involving a loaded revolver.) 

"Ken, the ferryman" takes
us over to Dalkey Island.
If you’re particularly brave (at six-two and being fairly wide-shouldered, I found it wickedly claustrophobic), you can even scale the dark and narrow spiral staircase up top to look off the top of the tower where soldiers once stood watch for some never-to-come Napoleonic invasion.

The seals of Dalkey Island.
My take-away from that slightly uncomfortable climb was renewed respect for Joyce: 

It’s amazing someone with his drinking proclivities and poor eyesight could have navigated those winding, narrow-tread stairs up and down without breaking his neck.

This church is one of the few buildings on the island.
At Dalkey Island (“Thorny Island”), near Dún Laoghaire and Bulloch harbours, we got up close and personal with some lazing seals and jellyfish before stepping foot onto the remarkably spongy, rabbit-overrun island now home to the relics of a church and another Martello tower.

A jellyfish skirts the edges
of the island.

(There’s some evidence it was also used as a base by Vikings.) Now the island’s only inhabitants are all of those rabbits and a few goats.

Another view of the old church
on Dalkey Island.

Appropriately, as a crime novelist, I also got a glimpse of Montpelier Hill, home of the Hell Fire Club (or Club Thine Ilfrinn) which has gotten a mention in a novel or two of mine. 

I also got to have
A view of Dublin Castle.
  some coffee in Jack Whites while waiting out a rainstorm after a visit to a windswept beach that was knocking the hell out of overhead crows and gulls.

Jack Whites
That inn was the site of a rather infamous murder and resulting court case several decades ago, but still well-remembered by the locals

The victim's wife solicited myriad potential candidates to kill her husband with little success. ("If you want a job done...")

More rainy Dublin.

From a sense of obligation, I did make a point of seeking out The Temple Bar in the more touristy section of Dublin and having a pint of Guinness there toward visit’s end.

The Temple Bar, the setting
for my first-published short story in,
ahem, Dublin Noir.
This particular bar was the setting of my first published short story, Rope-A-Dope (Dublin Noir, Akashic Books, and edited by Galway's own Ken Bruen).

In that story, a monstrous lothario with designs about dropping a date rape drug in a woman’s drink selects the perfect wrong Celtic woman to victimize.
This Great Dane really wanted
its master's ice cream cone.

And then, at last, there was the book event that Wednesday night, in an
It was windy at the beach. Cold, too.
old, multi-storied Dublin pub, where we did our best to recreate a borderlands cantina atmosphere for the Head Games reading.

Special thanks to all those who attended the Aug. 3 event in the old and posh surroundings of Peruke & Periwig on Dawson Street in downtown Dublin.

The audience and literary bloggers in attendance were a joy to pass the time with.

The Head Games reading on Aug. 3 underway.

Very special thanks also to my Dublin-based publisher, Betimes Books, for making it all happen.

I hope all of our paths will cross again, soon.

The last day, walking the hills along
the Irish coastline toward Ireland's Eye.

The colors of Ireland.
Palm trees line the way.

Monday, July 25, 2016


It's been a while since I've done any promotional roadwork (the last time, I believe, was in Iowa City at an event with James Ellroy).

This time we're taking the show on the road Big Time, and heading to Ireland.

This will be my second time touring for the Lassiter series in Europe (limited to France that first trip), but the first time anywhere in Ireland.

On August 3, I'll be giving a short discussion about the Hector Lassiter series, mostly about Hector himself, and will perform a reading of Head Games (my first public reading of that particular novel, if memory serves).

Here's a look at the venue:

Here are the specifics:
August 3, 6-7:30 p.m.
Peruke & Periwig
31 Dawson Street
Dublin 2, Ireland
A book signing will follow the program
Twitter: @perukeperiwig

RSVP to 

Sunday, July 17, 2016


If you’ve read my nonfiction books of author interviews, or followed this blog for any time at all, you know James Sallis is a writer I revere.

His exceptional Lew Griffin and John Turner series (the latter including Cypress Grove, Cripple Creek and Salt River,) are personal favorites.

Sallis’ new novel is Willnot (Bloomsbury). It introduces a new protagonist/narrator — a small town doctor and cult Sci-Fi author’s son named Dr. Lamar Hale.

The novel opens with the discovery of a mass grave in Willnot, a place locked in a different era in the sense it lacks chain or big box stores, churches or other common touchstones defining small town life in this uncertain century.

It's haunting opening—a dog turning up all those bodies—is a rock thrown into the quiet, quirky pond that’s Willnot. The rest of the novel is an exploration of the resulting ripples, moving out in widening circles, touching past and present and sometimes blurring those distinctions.

If you come to this book expecting a straight up mystery or crime novel, you need to temper your expectations and open your mind to a broader and far more compelling experience. There are mysteries to be solved here and connections to be made, but it is very much upon the reader to do much of that detective work: you’re not going to be spoon-fed clues as in some damn cozy.

A favorite Sallis quote speaks to this: “Literature is not some imposing sideboard with discrete drawers labeled poetry, mystery, serious novel, science fiction — but a long buffet table laid out with all manner of fine, diverse foods.”

Willnot  is not a Griffin novel, or another Drive, but rather a James Sallis novel closer in spirit perhaps to his haunting Renderings. It’s a mix of genres that defies easy categorization beyond simply stating that at this point, it may be fair and best to say James Sallis is a genre unto himself.

The Griffin series is a tightly interwoven tapestry of “novels about a detective” that can be read discretely, but together call backward and forward to one another, speaking to one another and in doing so telling a larger, richer and far more engrossing story.

A passage or phrase in one Griffin novel may recur in a later installment, encouraging connections and deeper contemplation. An echo in a later installment can re-contextualize something occurring in an earlier book.

Willnot has a similar effect: Images and phrases recur throughout and accumulate.

As a child our narrator fell into an inexplicable coma endowing him with a brand of hyper-empathy and keening identification with others.

In a playful, mocking observation, Hales cites what he regards a perhaps overused assertion by Soren Kierkegaard: “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” Sallis might wryly add, because “Life rarely gets the detour signs up in time.”

The attentive reader has the sense Doc Hale’s living in both the past and the present, in a sense. And maybe the future, too.

(In a playful passage in this book haunted by the looming spirit of an off-camera science fiction and fantasy novelist, we get this wonderful aside spotted on a bumper sticker: “TECHNICALLY, THERE WOULD ONLY NEED TO BE ONE TIME TRAVELER’S CONVENTION”.)

Appropriately, in Willnot, the walls between past, present and the future are in a subtle state of uncertainty. The novel is appropriately full of aft- and foreshadowing. In that sense, Willnot is a Möbius strip of mysteries twining into other mysteries and revelations.

I’d argue when an author composes novels with this level of attention to detail, focus and singular intent, it’s incumbent upon the conscientious and engaged reader make a first pass study in a concentrated and focused single-sitting read. To do less is to risk missing too much.

I made the error of picking up this Sallis novel at eight o-clock on a Friday night. I finished at one on Saturday morning, head swimming. (And, my God, the dreams…?)

Critic and fellow crime novelist Woody Haut’s declared Willnot to perhaps be Sallis “saddest novel.”

I wouldn’t quibble with that, but I’d add it’s also one of Sallis’ richest novels, and a story that demands further visits I suspect will result in deeper revelation.

Saturday, July 16, 2016


My good friend and Borderland Noir collaborator Jim Cornelius is seeking support for the narrative history book we need and deserve in these tumultuous times.

Please give a look at this fine video and pitch and consider answering the call for this very worthy project, WARRIORS OF THE THE WILD LANDS: TRUE TALES OF THE FRONTIER PARTISANS (A volume of twelve bios of the most badass Frontier Partisans in history — from North America to Africa).

If you've read Jim's excellent essay on Pancho Villa that appeared in BORDERLAND NOIR, you know what you can expect.

If you haven't, I urge you to check out some of Jim's entertaining, historically-informed posts over at FRONTIER PARTISANS for some more flavor and sense of Jim's voice. Here's some more from the man himself on the project.

Sunday, July 3, 2016


The trailer for the last novel in the Hector Lassiter series, coming this November from Betimes Books:

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