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Head Games by Craig McDonald


Paperback ISBN: 978-0-9929674-5-1 / E-book ASIN: B00SFQEQ92

Available on Amazon and on Book Depository (free delivery worldwide)

Finalist of the Edgar, Anthony, Gumshoe and CrimeSpree Awards

Head Games is equal parts road novel, caper and historical fiction: a black comedy and wistful ballad of lost America rooted in borderland myth and history.

Head Games’ narrator is Hector Lassiter, now widowed and feeling his age. When Lassiter recovers Mexican General Pancho Villa’s skull stolen from his grave by an American soldier-of-fortune, within hours of taking possession of it, Lassiter becomes a target of competing fraternities, Mexican bandits and U.S. intelligence services.

The breakneck chase extends across 1957-1970 America — from the cantinas of old Mexico to the Venice, California set of Orson Welles’ noir classic Touch of Evil, to the sanctum sanctorum of Yale’s infamous Skull and Bones Society. The cast of characters includes Orson Welles, Marlene Dietrich, Jack Webb and a young and gone-missing National Guardsman named “George W.”

Watch the video trailer here.


“Craig McDonald, a genuine expert on the history of crime fiction, gives free rein to all his obsessions in a debut novel that’s a berserk 1957-based caper running roughshod through the politics and pop culture of the latter half of the 20th century. …Strap in, hold on, enjoy the ride.”   San Francisco Chronicle

“Reminiscent of James Crumley’s Milo Milodragovich PI novels, this slick caper novel touches chords of myth, history, loss and redemption just enough so you can hear echoes faintly under the gunfire.”  Publishers Weekly

“Blurring the lines between historical fact and fiction, Craig McDonald’s triumphantly twisted first novel is one of the most unusual, and readable, crime-fiction releases to come along in years. … Crime-fiction fans looking for an original voice should check out this exceptional debut, which blends Jack Kerouac’s picaresque narrative style and James Ellroy’s noir sensibilities with a heaping helping of urban legend, subtle social commentary and a trunkful of decapitated heads.”  —Chicago Tribune

“Reading Craig McDonald’s HEAD GAMES was like reliving those wonderful and exciting, tequila-fired weekend border-town tours of my youth in the ’50’s.  A different character, vivid and lively, waiting around every new corner of the artfully twisted plot.  The time and place are captured perfectly, and story never falters as it dashes to the surprising ending.”    James Crumley

“HEAD GAMES is a gravel and mescal cocktail, a one-day burn, a novel of genuine piss and vinegar, the kind of book you thrust on people with the wild eyes and intent of a PCP freak.”   Ray Banks

“This stampede set in 1957 is like a movie by Peckinpah given a new treatment by Donald Westlake and filmed by the Coen brothers. The author masters the codes and the clichés of the genre and plays with them with a mocking majesty. From the beautiful Mexican girl to a pitiless killer, all the classical devices are there. But Mr. McDonald thwarts the compulsory figures. It’s nuts, credible, non conformist. A ‘noir’ novel indeed; a Novel, most certainly.”     —Courrier International


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