Sunday, August 31, 2014


The first three novels in the Hector Lassiter series—One True Sentence, Forever's Just Pretend and Toros & Torsos—are newly available from Betimes Books. (Ordering information below)

ONE TRUE SENTENCE: Paperback/eBook


TOROS & TORSOS: Paperback/eBook


ROLL THE CREDITS: Paperback/eBook

"Each of my victims had larceny in his heart."

In discussing and writing about Hector Lassiter's supporting "fictional" cast, I've tended recently to focus on Hector’s first great love interest, fellow author Brinke Devlin, crediting her for “creating” the man we come to know as Hector Lassiter in ensuing books.

That’s all true enough, I think.

Brinke returns in Forever’s Just Pretend, the only novel approaching a direct “sequel” in the Hector Lassiter series.

But everyone has parents, and, for better or worse, your folks go at least as far in shaping you as your first great love does, right?


Hector Mason Lassiter was an early, tragic orphan.

You don’t learn that until you’re about four books in if you encountered the series in its original, partial publication sequence.

Your first inkling comes when Hector confesses his father shot and killed his straying, lusty mother. Hector confides that grim nugget first and only in full-detail to Brinke Devlin after they make love on one dark-night-of-the-soul in 1924 Paris.

In retribution, little Hector shot—but only winged—his wicked-ass father. (The state of Texas did the dirtier deed of putting down Grafton Lassiter for the long count, and with all-due, patented Lone Star haste.)
Joseph "Yellow Kid" Weil

So, at base, young Hector was shaped and raised by his maternal grandfather, a storied conman and so-called “Big Store” impresario modeled on real-life grifter Joseph “Yellow Kid” Weil. The Kid said you should never soak a mark so dry they're tempted toward self-destruction. "Never send 'em to the river," he cautioned. That motto was damned near the title of Forever's Just Pretend, at one point.

Hector Lassiter's grandfather was also inspired by grifter/playwright Wilson Mizner and a certain beloved and recently deceased TV-actor’s first signature role.

Con men: I love them dearly, and in an admittedly wrong-headed way. I have since I was a kid. Maybe it's in the genes.

You see, my mother had this thing for James Garner and MaverickSeems I came this close to being named “Bret” in honor of Garner’s first starring TV-role. (My father was leaning toward “Harlan” in deference to some now-forgotten trap-shooter—thank God I dodged that bullet, so to speak. My eventual first name is owed to actor Craig Stevens of Peter Gunn fame, another of my mother’s TV obsessions. At least they kept it in the neighborhood of noir.)

Growing up, I didn’t know my mother dug Garner and Maverick.

Then, one night in the early 1970s, I started watching this TV series because I recognized James Garner as the guy in Support Your Local Sheriff, a movie I’d liked a lot not too-long before.

That TV series turned out to be The Rockford Files and the first-run of an episode called Tall Woman in Red Wagon in which Rockford runs around with a mini-printing press, cranking out bogus business cards and passing himself off under all flavors of false identities.
Scene from Rockford Files: "Tall Woman in Red Wagon"

I loved it. I watched the next Rockford episode with my mother; she told me about Maverick. In those pre-cable, pre-VCR/DVD days, it was an enticing form of torture to know this other series with Garner was out there but frustratingly unobtainable.

Then, in the 1980s, one of Ted Turner’s stations started playing vintage Maverick episodes.

The installment in question is called Pappy. Some Maverick purists and the series’ creator, Roy Huggins, detest that one.
James Garner as Beauregard Maverick

Let’s concede a certain knowing love for it. Pappy introduces—about 50 episodes in—the Maverick brothers’ oft-quoted but previously off-camera sire, Beauregard Maverick, played by…James Garner.

(In a kind of meta, Lassiteresque plot twist, Garner ends up playing his own character, his father, and himself impersonating his father—call it mirrors-within-mirrors. As noted, it’s pure Lassiter.)
James Garner and, er, James Garner, and Jack Kelly:
Three mavericks; two actors.

Hector’s grandfather—the man who raised Hector and must surely have gifted the young Lassiter with a penchant for The Story, The Patter and a certain yen for The Big Con—is Beau Stryder, a thinly-veiled homage to James Garner and “old Beau Maverick.”

Mr. Stryder is in full, later-life flower when we meet him in the opening pages of Forever’s Just Pretend. Beau's penchant for confidence games casts new light on some of the later games his grandson plays with historical relics in The Great Pretender and in Head Games (all those bogus skulls...).

It’s also established in Pretend that Stryders are gifted with unusually long lives...

As a certain author said of an iconic conman in a novel from the early 19th Century, it’s just possible you might meet Beau, this venerable confidence man, again at some point down the road.

To quote that author, and that novel: “Something further may follow of this Masquerade.”

ONE TRUE SENTENCE: Paperback/eBook


TOROS & TORSOS: Paperback/eBook


ROLL THE CREDITS: Paperback/eBook

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