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Posts tagged ‘The Great Pretender’

Craig McDonald about the challenge of writing a series

November 29, 2016

BetimesBooksNow

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 Not the end of something?

By Craig McDonald

In autumn 2007, HEAD GAMES was published by Ben Leroy and Bleak House books.

It went on to earn best first novel nominations for the Edgar Award, the Anthony, and the Sélection du prix polar Saint-Maur en Poche in France, among others.

It also launched a series of ten novels featuring protagonist Hector Lassiter, pulp magazine writer, crime novelist and sometimes screenwriter.

Signing ARCs at Book Expo America 2007

Signing ARCs at Book Expo America 2007

Betimes Books has just published the climactic novel in the series, THREE CHORDS & THE TRUTH, set in Nashville about a year after HEAD GAMES, and bringing back several characters from that first novel.

CHORDS was always envisioned as a kind of HEAD GAMES sequel and definitive circle-closer.

I actually wrote the “last” Lassiter novel many, many years ago, much of it in situ in Nashville, Tennessee. I interviewed various songwriters and sat in on sound-checks to gather source material and atmosphere.

But mostly, I focused on putting a capstone on the Hector Lassiter saga.

Few are the mystery series in my experience that round out with the fulfillment of a charted character arc or larger story.

Most series simply trail off into oblivion because of soft sales, or the death of their author.

If the series is particularly popular, when the creator dies, some other writer is brought in to keep churning out inferior, never quite satisfying continuations, again toward no planned end.

There are very few exceptions to this rule of the never-ending series.

Most of those that occur still don’t typically deliver a unified story arc carried to a planned climax built toward across the span of the series.

More often, some poor author gets a dire diagnosis and so races the clock to close out their series before they too are “closed out.”

Others elect to do something mirroring Agatha Christie’s strategy of writing a series closer well ahead of time, then holding it in reserve for posthumous publication.

(Though in the Dame’s case, even killing off her character didn’t stop others from publishing further Poirot novels following the appearance of CURTAIN.)

I’ve long acknowledged James Sallis’ cycle of Lew Griffin novels as the inspiration for the Lassiter series.

Dublin reading, August 2016

Dublin reading, August 2016

Sallis wrote an interconnected and finite series of novels that together tell a larger story and build to a final revelation regarding his central protagonist.

With the Lassiter series, I wanted to do something similar: Construct a series toward a known end, allowing each book to stand alone, more or less, but in sum telling a much larger story regarding the character of Hector Lassiter and his eventual fate.

It was an audacious or perhaps even foolish goal to write a whole series ahead of any contract commitments. Certainly, given what I now know of the vagaries and failings of much of the publishing industry, it was a very naïve and hopeful thing for a baseline cynic like myself to undertake.

Yet I wrote first drafts of the novels in the series in the space of about three months per title, back-to-back, working toward the known conclusion of this last, Nashville-set series-closer.

The later entries in the series were mostly well into composition before the second novel, TOROS & TORSOS, was even contracted for publication by Bleak House Books.

Please let me run a highlighter over that point: Most of the series, including the last volume, was virtually written before the second book reached the galley stage some time in the summer of 2008.

There was never any guarantee the books would all see print. There was every chance the project might stall around book four or five and the rest of the novels would remain in limbo.

The first translation: French (La tête de Pancho Villa, Editions Belfond, 2009)

The first translation: French (“La tête de Pancho Villa”, Editions Belfond, 2009)

But the series has hung in there, collecting an international audience through translations in Spanish, French, Italian, Russian, Korean and Mongolian, among others.

In English language form, the Lassiter series currently encompasses four different publishers.

HEAD GAMES was also quickly optioned for graphic novel adaptation by First Second Books, prior to its Bleak House publication. I wrote the script for that project over a weekend nearly ten years ago (the art came much more slowly).

Next October, nearly ten years to the day that HEAD GAMES the novel was released, HEAD GAMES the graphic novel will at last appear.

A short story collection will also follow next year from Betimes Books, which now prints uniform editions of the entire series.

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Paris, March 2011

The short story collection will feature a never-before-published Lassiter novella set in the 1920s that roughly approaches the word count found in HEAD GAMES.

So while THREE CHORDS does represent the climax of the Hector Lassiter series as originally set forth, the Lassiter saga still has some moves left.

Hector has opened remarkable doors for me and provided international travel opportunities for my family.

He is forever there somewhere in my head, sometimes whispering in my ear. When you write this much about a single character for so long, you actually begin to see the world through his eyes.

Telling this storyteller’s story has resulted in years of wonderful correspondence and conversation with readers of all ages, nationalities and interests who’ve followed his saga.

I very much look forward to hearing the reactions to this “last” Hector Lassiter novel.

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 Contact us for a free electronic review copy!

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The Hector Lassiter book trailers

November 2, 2016

BetimesBooksNow

Dear readers,

You may not know it, but one of Craig McDonald’s many talents is producing spectacular video trailers for his books.

Discover the trailer for the Hector Lassiter series and meet “the man who writes what he lives and lives what he writes”: Tender, violent, intelligent, unwise, wanderer, fool for love, righteous, amoral, brave, elusive, arrogant, magnanimous, lonely, convivial,  self-absorbed, great-hearted Hector Lassiter.

On Craig McDonald’s blog, you will find trailers for each individual title,

including the forthcoming THREE CHORDS & THE TRUTH:

http://craigmcdonaldbooks.blogspot.ie/2016/10/hector-lassiter-book-trailer-countdown.html

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Craig McDonald’s reading in Dublin as if you were there

August 4, 2016

BetimesBooksNow

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Thanks to all who attended last night’s reading in Dublin!

For those who weren’t there, here is a recording of the event: https://www.periscope.tv/w/1ypKdPmjArRKW

If you want to read the excerpt that Craig read last night, the first chapter of Head Games, click here:

viewBook.at/HeadGames_McDonald

And here is Craig McDonald‘s speech and a few pictures of the venue and the event.

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“One character, ten novels.

Please allow me to introduce you to Hector Lassiter, author, screenwriter and adventurer.

# 2. HECTOR

He’s my primary protagonist and a guy who’s high-jacked an obscene amount of my personal head space.

At base, Hector’s a man always in pursuit of strong sensations and experiences he can lay down on the printed page.

IMAG2318For the purposes of tonight’s reading, I ask you to imagine it’s 1957. We’re sitting in a drinking establishment, not in Dublin, but rather in some dusty, sweltering cantina hard up against the Rio Grande as we call it in The States. 

The Mexican’s call the same body of water that divides our countries the Rio Bravo. You see, on my dark side of the Atlantic, even the rivers have aliases.

Tonight you’ll be riding shotgun in THE classic American car: a Fifty-Seven, Chevrolet convertible Bel Air. We’re on the road with Hector and his sidekick for this particular escapade that I’ll be reading from, a young and aspiring poet named Bud Fiske.

In his peculiar corner of pop culture, Hector’s also known as “the man who lives what he writes and writes what he lives.”

He’s the protagonist of a finite arc of the ten novels I referenced a moment ago. The last, Three Chords & The Truth, will appear this November courtesy of Dublin-based Betimes Books, who hosts our gathering this evening along this la frontera of the mind.

The novel to come this fall is a kind of sequel to Head Games, which is the first and mostly widely published Hector Lassiter novel, and one that will also appear as a graphic novel next fall. Head Games is the book I’ll be reading from tonight.

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With border tensions, Donald Trump and his hugebeautiful wallsuch a great wall—as well as all-too real, cross-border terrorism fears looming large back home, Head Games is arguably more timely than ever.

So here’s the thing: If any label best describes the Hector Lassiter series, it’s probably “Historical Thrillers.” My novels, or maybe Hector’s, always combine myth and history.

The Lassiter novels spin around secret histories and unexplored or underexplored aspects of real events. They’re set in real places. The also frequently incorporate real people.

As a career journalist—yes, I still toil in that uncertain trade, despite my swanky secret life as a published novelist—I’m often frustrated by the impossibility to definitively nail down people or events. 

Read five biographies of the same man, say, of Ernest Hemingway, or Orson Welles, and you’ll close each book feeling like you’ve read about five different people.

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So I’ve reluctantly concluded defining fact as it relates to history is like stroking smoke or tapping a bullet in flight.

History, it’s been said, is a lie agreed to.

But maybe in fiction we can find if not fact, something bordering on truth. With that possibility in mind, I explore what I can make of accepted history through the eyes of this man.

The “hero” of my series, your guide through my books, is Hector Mason Lassiter, a shades-of-grey man who’s a charmer, a rogue, a bit of a rake—a handsome rover, if you will—and, himself, a crime novelist.

Some others in the novels say he bears a strong resemblance to the actor William Holden. Hector smokes and drinks and eats red meat. He favors sports jackets, open collar shirts and Chevrolets. He lives his life on a large canvas. He’s wily, but often impulsive. He’s honorable, but mercurial.

He often doesn’t understand his own drives. That is to say, he’s a man. He’s a man’s man and a lady’s man. He’s a romantic, but mostly unlucky in love. Yet his life’s largely shaped by the women who pass through it.

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Hec was born in Galveston, Texas on January 1, 1900. He came in with the 20th Century, and it was my aim his arc of novels span that century—essentially, through each successive novel, giving us a kind of under-history or secret-history of the 20th Century.

Tall and wise beyond his years, as a boy Hector lied about his age and enlisted in the Army. He accompanied Black Jack Pershingand participated in the general’s abortive hunt down into Mexico to chase the Mexican Revolutionary Pancho Villa who attacked and murdered many American civilians in the town of Columbus, New Mexico.

Villa’s was the first and only successful terrorist assault on the United States homeland prior to the events of September 11, 2001.

Much of that part of Hector’s life figures into Head Games: You’ll catch some glimpses in the reading to follow.

Head Games originally was published in 2007.

Its follow-up in original publication sequence, Toros & Torsos, opens in 1935 and features Ernest Hemingway as a kind of sidekick. Subsequent books about Hector similarly hopscotched back-and-forth through the decades upon original publication.

The current Betimes Books releases of the Hector Lassiter series present the novels in roughly chronological order—at least in terms of when each story opens.

IMG_3573Call me audacious, or call me crazy: The Lassiter novels were written back-to-back and the series mostly shaped and in place before Head Games was officially published. Let me run a highlighter over that point: this series was largely written before the first novel was even contracted for publication.

It’s very unusual in that sense: a series of discrete novels tightly linked and that taken together stand as a single, larger story.

My approach as a writer has always been to try and describe the movie I’m seeing in my head.

Tonight’s film is a kind of mash-up of Sam Peckinpaugh, Quentin Tarantino, and if you believe several book reviewers, the Cohen Brothers.

So. Welcome to the world of Hector Lassiter.

IMG_2832It’s 1957, and we’re in a bottom-rung cantina in Ciudad Juarez—these days regarded as the murder capital of the world. We’re in this cantina with Hector and Bud. 

From somewhere, there’s a tune playing on piano or accordion. Some piece of Mexican music… Maybe it’s Volver, Volver, or maybe Cancion de Mixteca

A fight’s looming, and to coin a phrase, this is no personal brawl—anyone can join in.”

Craig McDonald, Dublin, Ireland, August 3rd, 2016

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P.S. WE STILL HAVE A FEW COPIES OF CRAIG McDONALD’S BOOKS SIGNED BY THE AUTHOR!

DON’T MISS YOUR CHANCE TO PURCHASE ONE! CONTACT US

 

HEAD GAMES features in Amazon Australia’s Winter Sale

July 23, 2015

BetimesBooksNow

After the big success of the first five Hector Lassiter novels, Australian fans of the series can discover the now-cult  Edgar® Award finalist HEAD GAMES — for only AUS $0.99:

http://www.amazon.com.au/Head-Games-Hector-Lassiter-novel-ebook/dp/B00SFQEQ92/ref=sr_1_6?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1437602800&sr=1-6

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Read Craig McDonald’s blog post to learn more about the novel and the series:

http://craigmcdonaldbooks.blogspot.ie/2015/07/head-games-hello-again-australia.html

Craig McDonald: “Why I write: One true sentence.”

April 10, 2015

BetimesBooksNow

Why I Write

A while back, the wonderful Jen Forbus was collecting six-word memoirs from various crime and thriller writers.

The exercise was inspired, she wrote, by the line attributed to Ernest Hemingway (a frequent supporting character in my Hector Lassiter novels) that resulted from a challenge to craft an über short story. The result, legend has it, was pitched as a kind of classified ad by Hem: “For sale, one pair of baby shoes, never used.”

In my Lassiter novels, Hemingway and fellow novelist Hector play a game called “One True Sentence.” One of the authors starts a sentence, and the other tries to finish it in the most pithy way possible.

So, in the spirit of One True Sentence, and of the six-word memoir, this is the answer I gave Ms. Forbus about why I write, and, in the end, who I am:

Born to write; writing to live.

Craig McDonald is the author of the Hector Lassiter series and more: www.craigmcdonaldbooks.com

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Join the Hector Lassiter competition before March 15!

March 3, 2015

BetimesBooksNow

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Congratulations to the first ‪winners‬ of our Hector Lassiter competition‬, Larry S. of Owensboro, KY & Tom W. of Bridgeport, CT!

Don’t miss YOUR chance to win two Craig McDonald’s novels of your choice and join before MARCH 15!

Details here: The Hector Lassiter Competition

The Hector Lassiter competition: Day 7

March 2, 2015

BetimesBooksNow

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Tell us which novel is this and win two Hector Lassiter e-books of your choice if you are one of the first three people to give the correct answer:

The clerk shrugged and slid across a ten-dollar bill at the old man who scooped it up.

Fragments of brick rained down on me. But my friends were safe. I crouched down behind some boxes filled with something I prayed was thick and hard. I aimed the first shooter’s discarded Thompson and fired back at the other machine gun’s muzzle flash. I held my thrumming machine gun with one hand.

It was murder on my right wrist. With the other bandaged hand, I fished out the keys to my Chevy and lobbed them over my shoulder at Bud — all that twisting and exertion was almost too much for my Orson Welles’-splintered ribs. I hollered over the din of the roaring machine gun, “You two go get to my car, and pick me up at the end of the alley. While you do that, I’ll keep this bastard busy.” Then I remembered fabled Fierro, and said, “Bud, you see any old Mexicans, you shoot ’em. Don’t hesitate. God’ll sort’em out on the other end. No shit — shoot first.”

Email your answer to betimesbooks@gmail.com

The Hector Lassiter Competition: Day 6

March 1, 2015

BetimesBooksNow

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Tell us which novel is this and win two Hector Lassiter e-books of your choice if you are one of the first three people to give the correct answer:

Hector sipped more of his wine. He said, “Progress?”

“Yes,” Gertrude said. “What have my mystifiers learned since last night?”

As if suddenly reminded about the body that had been sprawled there, Alice, carrying more glasses of wine for Ford and Joan Pyle, awkwardly stepped wide around that part of the floor.

Looking rather annoyed by tiny Alice’s stutter-step, Ger­trude said, “What have you gathered or learned since Estelle’s theory about poisoning has been borne out?”

Email your answer to betimesbooks@gmail.com

The Hector Lassiter competition: Day 5

February 28, 2015

BetimesBooksNow

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Which novel is this? Win two Hector Lassiter e-books of your choice if you are one of the first three people to give the correct answer!

Let’s drop that pretense,” she said, her hands clasping the back of his neck, urging his face down to her waiting mouth.

They’d kicked off the sheets and chenille bedspread — far too sweltering for those. The oscillating fans were no real help, either. Hector had left the venetian blinds cracked and bars of inky shadows criss-crossed his bed. The darkened room reeked of sweat and sex.

Hector didn’t know if it was the absinthe and the other liquor, the threat of the storm, or just Rachel’s own nature, but she was utterly abandoned — completely giving herself over to him.

Email your answer to betimesbooks@gmail.com

The Hector Lassiter Competition: Day 4

February 27, 2015

BetimesBooksNow

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Tell us which novel is this and win two Hector Lassiter e-books of your choice if you are one of the first three people to give the correct answer:

“Old man, I do so appreciate you playing bodyguard to me,” Orson said. “I truly do. But I am racing the clock on multiple fronts as I’ve said, time and again. I have Danton’s Death to mount for the stage, as I’ve also told you, and this Sunday’s radio show, which as you heard for yourself, has all the earmarks of a train wreck barring some serious attention and artistic elbow grease.”

“It wasn’t that bad,” Hector said. “And I won’t be under­foot, if that’s what you’re implying. I frankly don’t trust your memory about the medallion, so I want permission to ransack backstage, to comb through your wardrobe trunks and lockers.”

“Ransack away, but do it as neatly as you can,” Orson said. “John is very fussy. I’ll even let you start with my private dress­ing room. It’s packed with the surviving detritus of the career running all the way back to that first show in Dublin. But it’s a fruitless pursuit, I can already assure you of that.”

Email your answer to betimesbooks@gmail.com

 

The Hector Lassiter competition: Day 3

February 26, 2015

BetimesBooksNow

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Tell us which novel is this and win two Hector Lassiter e-books of your choice if you are one of the first three people to give the correct answer:

He held up his Zippo and opened it with a one-handed flick.

She leaned in, holding his hand to steady it. Her hand was still cold from the walk over from the brownstone. Or maybe it’s always cold, he thought.

“Like I said, it was obvious enough,” Hector said. “Meg never even confirmed it for me if that comforts you. Megan didn’t have to do that. Jimmy tumbled to it, too. We’re going to talk more about that topic, you and I, and I promise you that. Because I mean to know more about all of it and Meg isn’t sharing anything with me. And isn’t that ironic, given your wrong suspicions about Meg running her mouth? But you and I will have that conversation later, when it’s just us, alone.” Hector looked again at Shannon.

The diner door opened, letting in a chilly breeze. It was Meg. She’s taken some trouble with herself: her hair and makeup looked fresh. She must have hung her clingy dress in the bathroom while she showered because all the wrinkles had fallen out of it as if it had been steamed.

Email your answer to betimesbooks@gmail.com

The Hector Lassiter competition: Day 2

February 25, 2015

BetimesBooksNow

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Tell us which novel is this and win two Hector Lassiter e-books of your choice if you are one of the first three people to give the correct answer:

“The kind of woman a man would burn his life down for,” Hector said, “I know.” Hector specialized in writing such women.

“That’s it, exactly,” von Sternberg said. He appropriated Hector’s second coffee as the waiter sat it on the table. He said to the waiter, “I’ll need cream and sugar for this, too.”

“And a second black coffee,” Hector said, eyeing his stolen java.

“It would be easier, marginally easier, I think, if we weren’t filming in German and in English,” von Sternberg said.

Email your answer to betimesbooks@gmail.com

A review of “The Great Pretender”, book 4 in the “wildly ambitious series about Hector Lassiter”

December 19, 2014

BetimesBooksNow

http://blog.vincekeenan.com/2014/12/books-recent-reading-roundup.html

The Great Pretender, by Craig McDonald. I’ve been a fan of McDonald’s sprawling, wildly ambitious series about Hector Lassiter, the two-fisted novelist who trucks with twentieth century luminaries, from the outset. Pretender finds Hector in pursuit of the Spear of Destiny, last seen in Hellboy and Constantine, and tangling with Nazis, witches and, most contentious of all, Orson Welles. McDonald cagily splits up the action, with Welles in full enfant terrible mode in the first half of the book – much of the story unfolds on the night of the infamous War of the Worlds broadcast in 1938 – while the second takes place in the late 1940s as the filmmaker’s star is already burning out. Another entire Lassiter novel, Roll the Credits, slots in between, and I’ll be tackling that one soon enough.

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Meta-games: Hector Lassiter in the Crossover Universe

November 29, 2014

BetimesBooksNow

Craig McDonald’s character Hector Lassiter is now officially part of the Philip Jose Farmer Wold-Newton universe which attempts to link all popular fictional characters in a sort of massive family tree of legends that has become a cult fiction sub-genre: http://www.crossoveruniverse.com/2014/11/crossover-cover-great-pretender.html

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Craig McDonald: Cover me #3 – Forever’s Just Pretend & The Great Pretender

November 23, 2014

BetimesBooksNow

“This edition is all “pretend” in terms of exploring more about how Betimes Books and I went about our strategic relaunch of the Hector Lassiter series, for the first time presenting the entire series in a mix of old and new titles, uniformly branded and sequenced in chronological order. 
Having established the look of the new series with our reissues of ONE TRUE SENTENCE and TOROS & TORSOS, we were next faced with giving first-time packaging to two, never-before-seen Hector Lassiter novels.” – Craig McDonald

Read more: http://craigmcdonaldbooks.blogspot.ie/2014/11/cover-me-3-forevers-just-pretend-great.html

2 FOREVERx2700   PRETENDERx2700

The Hector Lassiter series #1 Kindle bestseller in Australia!

November 17, 2014

BetimesBooksNow

During a Kindle Daily Deal promotion, all five published Hector Lassiter novels on the Movers & Shakers page:

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And after the promotion ended, at full price — before “Gone Girl” and the new Michael Connelly novel!

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CELEBRATE HALLOWEEN WITH ‘THE GREAT PRETENDER’ by Craig McDonald!

October 31, 2014

BetimesBooksNow

Celebrate Halloween with Orson Welles, Hector Lassiter, Black Magic and Nazis in THE GREAT PRETENDER http://craigmcdonaldbooks.blogspot.ie/2014/10/celebrate-halloween-with-great-pretender.html

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Craig McDonald about his participation in the Iowa City Book Festival

October 6, 2014

BetimesBooksNow

http://craigmcdonaldbooks.blogspot.ie/2014/10/the-iowa-city-book-festival-remembrance.htmlimage

Craig McDonald at Iowa City Book Festival!

October 3, 2014

BetimesBooksNow

Craig McDonald’s books next to James Ellroy’s at their joint signing at Iowa City Book Festival last night.

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“The Great Pretender” and “Roll the Credits” now available as e-books!

September 26, 2014

BetimesBooksNow

THE GREAT PRETENDER by Craig McDonald available here: getBook.at/TheGreatPretender_eb

ROLL THE CREDITS by Craig McDonald available here: getBook.at/RollTheCredits_eb