Saturday, December 3, 2011




Let’s play a game. The prizes are signed first editions.

The arena is Twitter, and the time is every evening, or thereabouts, over the next few weeks.

The name of the game is One True Sentence.

The phrase, “One true sentence,” was a goal and a kind of mantra for author Ernest Hemingway.

When faced with his own writing that seemed false, or prefatory, Hem claimed to dig down into the manuscript of a short story or novel until he arrived at his first “true sentence,” and then begin his tale with that “one true” line of prose.

My continuing character, crime novelist Hector Lassiter, first appeared in a short story called “The Last Interview,” published in the Mississippi Review what seems like a lifetime ago.

In the course of that story, a callow young interviewer sent to write an article on the aging Lassiter circa 1967 ends up engaging in a high-stakes game of One True Sentence with the author.

Hector, a Hemingway intimate for several tumultuous decades, used to play the writing game with Papa over the years and countless drinks, as he explains to his young interrogator.

The game went this way, according to Hector: One author would start a true sentence, and the other had to finish it, nice and pithy, and on the spot.

Something about that game I invented hung with me. When I decided to center a novel around Hector Lassiter — HEAD GAMES — I equipped Hector with a gift Zippo from Hemingway. The windproof lighter bore the following inscription:

To Hector Lassiter:
‘One true sentence.’
— E.H.
Key West,

Asked about the lighter in that novel, Hector says of it, “Something from an ex-friend you’ve been lately reading. A kind of shared credo. I remember it. Not sure he does anymore.”

In the second Lassiter novel, TOROS & TORSOS, Hector and Hemingway are actually seen playing their game. Some of their collaborative “One True Sentences” from that novel roll this way:

• “The old man died…” “illusioned and therefore disappointed.”

• “The drunken priest, awaiting execution..” “…wished that one of his fellow prisoners was a whore.”

• “Absinthe tastes…” “…like regret.”

• “A man truly alone…” “has no last words.”

• “A best friend…” “…one day stands alone.”

Okay. You get the hang of it. We played this game for a while earlier this year when the novel, ONE TRUE SENTENCE was fresh, and some nights had several dozen in the game.

So, to celebrate the release of my first standalone, EL GAVILAN, over at Twitter, I’m going to be re-challenging all takers to a game of ONE TRUE SENTENCE. Our first round starts tonight at 8 p.m. Eastern. We'll probably go about 30 minutes this first time.

Here’s how it rolls:

Follow me @HECTORLASSITER. Starting tonight (Saturday, Dec. 3, 8 p.m. Eastern), I’ll start One True Sentence by posting the start of a sentence.

Any takers can finish that sentence, rationing just enough of their 140 characters in order to add the hash tag #1TS.

Every Friday night, I’ll review the One True Sentences on the #1TS page, and pick the week’s winner. The one who writes the truest One True Sentence will be awarded a first edition of one of my books with their own One True Sentence inscribed inside. Our One True Sentence.

Remember, you have to use the hashtag #1TS to play (and so I can see your entry).


Want to play a game?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Mystery Scene has weighed in with its take on my new standalone thriller, freshly available from Tyrus books, EL GAVILAN.

Mystery Scene reviewer Derek Hill says in part:

"A thoroughly gripping crime story...(Tell) Lyon is thankfully anything but a clichéd cop... Lyon’s ability to hold on to his humanity as he moves from one tragedy into the next makes for a refreshing and fascinating character... Even more impressive is the portrayal of the imposing Hawk. El Gavilan is a dark and difficult journey at times, but it never loses sight of its characters' complexities.”

The full review is available here.

In other news, ONE TRUE SENTENCE, my earlier 2011 release (the fourth novel in the Edgar/Anthony/Gumshoe nominated Hector Lassiter series), has been named to two year's best lists.

Book People says of OTS: "McDonald looks at gun-toting Texas crime writer Hector Lassiter during his Lost Generation days in Paris, when he and his buddy Ernest Hemingway were on the hunt for someone murdering publishers. A bittersweet portrait of artists as young men."

Murder, Mystery & Mayhem also selected ONE TRUE SENTENCE as a top historical novel of 2011.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


As of last Friday, EL GAVILAN, my first standalone novel, is now available a good bit ahead of its official Dec. 18 release date.

At KIRKUS REVIEWS, you can read a new interview with J. Kingston Pierce regarding the book. Some material that didn't appear in the Kirkus version or our discussion can be seen exclusively at The Rap Sheet.

If I were a mogul with deep pockets, I'd adapt the novel for the screen myself. You can see my own preferred cast for such an undertaking at MY BOOK, THE MOVIE.

EL GAVILAN is also subjected to the Page 69 test HERE.

Also, a very fine, thoughtful review of EL GAVILAN can also now be found at The Drowning Machine. An excerpt:

If you're interested in learning more about EL GAVILAN, as well as a chance to win signed books and a rare prize—a legal pad filled with original, first-draft, handwritten material of the novel—you can sign up for my newsletter HERE asap.