A review of “Write from Wrong”, the latest Hector Lassiter book from Craig McDonald

Craig McDonald is the quintessential master of hard-boiled, pulp-style crime fiction, and the writer proves it once more in this fine capstone on the 20th century escapades of the man who lives what he writes, and writes what he lives, Hector Lassiter.

Write from Wrong, published by Betimes Books, features chapters that the span Hector Lassiter’s storied life from Mexico in 1914, to Baltimore in 1986. After twelve novels written by the Edgar/Anthony award nominated writer, Write from Wrong is the icing on the cake. A fitting conclusion to the saga of the screenwriter/crime writer/adventurer, and Black Mask legend’s amazing journey.

This is what excellent and solid writing is all about. Literary at times, poetic at others, and always powerful. Page after page filled with humor, romance, nostalgia, and unexpected punches to the heart when the reader least expects it.

From Spain in 1923 with Ernest Hemingway, during the running of the bulls in Plampona, to a face-to-face meeting with the seemingly supernatural, and vile fiend, Usher Krutch. on Put-In Bay, an island in Lake Erie in 1927 as winter approaches, and the deaths pile up like cord wood.

A wonderful nod to the legendary writers, the Black Mask Boys – Part I, Los Angeles, and Part II New York in 1936. Hector enlists the assistance of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler at the Black Mask writers’ reunion in August in LA, and later in NYC calls on Lester Dent, who writes the popular Doc Savage novels under the name of “Kenneth Robeson,” and Walter Gibson, who writes The Shadow tales under the name of “Maxwell Grant,” to come to Hector’s aid when attacked by a monster of a woman and her huge henchman. The wench is as relentless and vile as Usher Krutch. On Hector’s cue, the three Black Mask writers spring into action, as all hell breaks loose.

Paris, 1974. A rough start to a reunion of sorts with an irate Orson Wells, who for five years thought Hector dead. Wells now an “almost majestic big bearded actor – a kind of air of a noble ruin or grand half-collapsed abbey.” In an apartment below them Sinatra caresses “As Time Goes By” to Nelson Riddle’s orchestration, while the two discuss the literary ‘long game’.

A familiar Irish crime novelist makes an appearance with the elderly ‘Beau Devlin’, during a gathering of crime writers at the annual Bucheron convention in 1986. The old man, who resembles William Holden, holds court; Pall Malls on the table next to a worn old Zippo lighter, with an inscription One true sentence – E. H. Key West 1932, and a double dram of Glenmorangie, a single malt scotch whiskey, continually being refilled. ‘Beau’ shares some caustic wit and opinion about some current scribes, and book publishing in general, while keeping an eye out for a dishy yet deadly green-eyed thing.

Wonderfully enjoyable and enduring. With Write from Wrong, and the complete Hector Lassiter Series, Craig McDonald has cemented his reputation as having written the finest pulp/crime fiction and historical series published.

One true sentence after another.

—Marvin Minkler, Modern First Editions