Friday, January 27, 2012


Starting today for a very brief time, my 2007 debut novel, HEAD GAMES, is available for free download exclusively for your Kindle right here.

This is the novel that introduced crime novelist Hector Lassiter, “the man who lives what he writes and writes what he lives”—the internationally critically acclaimed character who went on to headline TOROS & TORSOS, PRINT THE LEGEND and last year’s ONE TRUE SENTENCE.


• 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."
—Publishers Weekly

“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."

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