This particular Lassiter novel, which opens in December, 1950, also sets the table for the reissue of what was, in original run, the first Hector Lassiter title, the Edgar/Anthony nominated HEAD GAMES.
Simply put, a great deal of what happens in THE RUNNING KIND shapes the Hector Lassiter who confronts readers in the 1957-set HEAD GAMES.
As noted above, this newest novel in the Lassiter series finds 20th Century America at its halfway mark.
Hector Lassiter, too, is now fifty, and starting to feel his age. He's questioning much about his love life, his future, the direction the literary world is taking and the resulting impact that might have on his long-term prospects as a fiction writer.
Even if we set Hector's personal concerns aside, on balance, Truman-era, late-1950 was a pretty tumultuous time for all.
After years of denying the existence of the Mafia, J. Edgar Hoover (a frequent supporting player in the Lassiter series, particularly in the upcoming reissue of PRINT THE LEGEND) was bristling as Tennessee Senator Estes Kefauver began dragging Mafia dons before the cameras for hotly followed televised grillings.
|A very unhappy testifier before the Kefauver Committee.|
The Kefauver Committee hearings, as noted in THE RUNNING KIND, probably did more to sell televisions than any event, before or since. Those unlucky enough not to have TVs in their homes were granted access to the hearings via free showings at movie theaters and bars across the country.
In December 1950, much of the nation was also struggling to recover from a freakish, early snowstorm that upstate New Yorkers might well relate to. The pre-Thanksgiving storm buried much of the midwest and the east coast in mountains of drifted snow. As the eventual thaw of all that "white death" ensued, so did catastrophic flooding.
That's some of the history underpinning this novel: there are also, of course, the "characters."
The Lassiter series has always incorporated historical personages, but this novel might set a record for cameos.
Among the many real people roaming the pages of THE RUNNING KIND, you will find a pre-TWILIGHT ZONE Rod Serling, a post-law enforcement Eliot Ness and the latter's top suspect in the still unsolved Cleveland Torso Slayer case that bedeviled Ness through much of the 1930s and beyond.
Fellow Lassiter Black Mask Magazine alum and pulp-lit author Lester Dent, most noted for his Doc Savage series of novels, also figures in the action.
(Extra credit points to the first, sharp-eyed reader who identifies a shout-out to an obscure character in the 1968 Pancho Villa movie starring Yul Brynner, Villa Rides.)
Throw in a vignette with Frank Sinatra and his then-squeeze, the very sultry Ava Gardner, both of whom we meet in a cantina down in old Mehico, and you have another party, of the kind that only Hector Lassiter throws.
|FRANK SINATRA & AVA GARDNER|
This time, Hector is again partnered with Irish Ohio cop Jimmy Hanrahan, last seen in the WWII thriller, ROLL THE CREDITS.
THE RUNNING KIND finds Hector and Jimmy again trying to bring a young girl to safety against tremendous odds and in the face of a country-wide chase, but this time with a far different outcome from RTC, all as the Christmas holiday is bearing down.
Road trip, literary/historical thriller and a character study of a middle-aged writer facing down his demons with some swagger and rueful joie de vivre: This is what I hoped to deliver in THE RUNNING KIND.