No happy ending ever started in a bar.
After the tumultuous events that took place on the world’s stage during World War II, and after, in the last Hector Lassiter novel I read, and my ninth, Roll The Credits, expectations were a bit lower as I began The Running Kind. Mistake on my part.
Hector was in a Youngstown, Ohio hotel bar during the December 1950 blizzard, reuniting with his dear, old Irish cop friend, Jimmy Hanrahan. While sharing drinks and war stories, they are suddenly interrupted by a young hysterical girl, who pulls at Hector’s sleeve, pleading: “Please, mister, my mommy needs help.”
Never hesitant, off Hector and Jimmy go, guns and fists at the ready.
After a violent confrontation with some thugs in the bathroom of the hotel and outside, the men rescue the girl’s mother, who is the wife of a Ohio mobster chieftain, and the mistress of the mobster, who Hector notices right away, resembles Veronica Lake. The girls are on the run, trying to find a way to testify against the mob boss, at the Televised Hearings on the Mafia, being held by Senator Kefauver.
Never to shy away from a dangerous and deadly challenge, especially when outnumbered, Hector and Jimmy commit to helping them get to Dayton to testify. Off they go with mobsters, hit men, crooked cops, hired thugs, and FBI agents, joining the cross-country chase through the blizzard, culminating in events that will alter Lassiter’s life forever. Alter in a way that he never would have imagined. One hell-of-a way for the original running kind to celebrate turning 50.
One of the things I so enjoy about reading the Hector Lassiter series, is the way novelist Craig McDonald introduces historical and cultural figures who play roles in the different books, through different eras. In The Running Kind one of the people who help Hector out of a deadly jam, is Doc Savage’s writer, Lester Dent. A young writer, Rod Serling sits with Hector in a bar outside the Antioch campus, and tells Hector of his idea for a new dark anthology series he is writing for television.
Untouchables hero, and now down on his luck, Eliot Ness, puts down the bottle, and picks up a gun to give Hector and Jimmy much-needed help. Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner make an appearance late in the novel, bringing a message from Sam “Momo” Giancana, that will lead Hector back to Cleveland, for revenge, and a terrific climax.
There is also a subtle undercurrent of loss and regret throughout The Running Kind. For Hector, at three am in the morning, it will always be the dark-haired beauty, and fellow writer, Brinke Devlin, his life’s greatest love. Like Hector, she was a running kind, and her memory will run through his thoughts forever.
I have been asked on more than one occasion, which Hector Lassiter novel I liked the best. It is safe to say that it has always been the last one I read.