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Posts tagged ‘The Running Kind’

Craig McDonald’s THE RUNNING KIND is “a raucous ride”

June 8, 2017

BetimesBooksNow

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Book review: Craig McDonald’s The Running Kind

Amici:

The Running Kind by Craig McDonald … crime novelist Hector Lassiter is reunited with an old mate from prior adventures in the Lassiter series, Jimmy Hanrahan. It’s 1950 and too close to Christmas when Hector and Jimmy (a cop) are huddled indoors from an Ohio blizzard and a young girl approaches Hector with a plea for help. Her mom and aunt are in danger because one of them is a Cleveland mafia boss’s wife and the other his girlfriend (comare—pronouced Goomarr if you’re from the East Coast).

Hector’s been having a few with Jimmy, but there’s no way he’ll deny the young girl’s request for help. A battle quickly ensues, which is the start of a cross country adventure that involves several notables, to include Elliot Ness and J. Edgar Hoover (and his G-men), still ambivalent about this so-called mafia thing (which is about to hit the television airwaves). There’s also an appearance by a young Rod Serling, and by adventure’s end, old Blue eyes himself, accompanied by the woman he couldn’t wait to own (and never would), Ava Gardner. Frank is there with a message from Momo (Sam Giancana).

As it turns out, the mom and comare have something on the mob boss and are looking to turn witness, which is a tough sell when there are so many in law enforcement enthusiastically on the mob’s payroll. It’s one treachery after another, until it becomes the safer play to head out of town. It is in Missouri where Hector, who’s already had a little fling with one of the two women (the mother or the girlfriend?), and winds up falling for the mother of the mother, as did this reader, has to draw battle lines.

It’s a raucous ride wherein Hector is eventually matched up against a hitman with a scary nickname and mad tracking abilities. Seems everybody is running in this terrific read, and one can only hope Hector can make it back alive for the life he’s often dreamed of, and with a woman he’s always hoped he’d fine.

It’s a start to finish thriller featuring honorable men in a dishonorable world of corruption. Hardboiled and ready to burst, with a wonderful touch of Americana and celebrities. One more from a wonderful series—a hell of a read.

Charlie Stella, June 3, 2017

A new review of Craig McDonald’s “The Running Kind”

April 20, 2017

BetimesBooksNow

The Running Kind reviewed by Marvin Minkler of Modern First Editions

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.

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

 

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

The Hector Lassiter competition: Day 1

February 24, 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.

The old man frowned. “Oh, must have miscounted.” He put down another dollar bill and said, “Here’s one more dollar for ten. So we don’t get confused, you’ve got ten there on the counter. Here’s another two fives. How about you just give me my original twenty back and we’ll call it even?”

The clerk smiled. “Sure.” He passed the old man a twenty-dollar bill.

The old man accepted the twenty. Behind his back, the old man held a ten-dollar bill between his fingers, waving it at the woman behind him. He felt the bill tugged from his fingers. Heard a whispered, “God bless you, sir.”

The old man smiled at the clerk, struck a match on the counter and lit a cigar. He blew a smoke ring at the man and said, “Pleasure doin’ business with you, old pal.”

The old man waited just long enough to confirm the woman’s ticket purchase for her child was consummated. When the transaction was closed, the old man smiled and stepped out onto the dock and into the ragged line to board the ship. He figured he’d be safely in dock on the other side before the clerk realized the shortage in his bill tray.

Email your answer to betimesbooks@gmail.com

“A thriller for a(n exceptionally) snowy day” by Craig McDonald

February 18, 2015

BetimesBooksNow

“The latest installment in Betimes Books’ special edition of the Hector Lassiter series is a new one called “THE RUNNING KIND.” This novel is set in the Thanksgiving-to-Christmas holiday season of 1950. The story unfolds mostly across the Midwest and a good bit of that action takes place in snowbound Ohio. 
At this writing, Boston continues to struggle with heroic levels of snow…”

Read more here: http://craigmcdonaldbooks.blogspot.ie/2015/02/a-thriller-for-exceptionally-snowy-day.html

 

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A Very Hector Lassiter Christmas

December 24, 2014

BetimesBooksNow

Craig McDonald about three very different Christmas Eves…

Read here: http://craigmcdonaldbooks.blogspot.ie/2014/12/a-very-hector-lassiter-christmas.html

 

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“The Running Kind” by Craig McDonald is released!

December 8, 2014

BetimesBooksNow

Hector Lassiter #6 is released!

“What critics might call eclectic, and Eastern folks quirky, we Southerners call cussedness — and it’s the cornerstone of the American genius. As in: “There’s a right way, a wrong way, and my way.” You want to see how that looks on the page, pick up any of Craig McDonald ‘s novels. He’s built him a nice little shack out there way off all the reg’lar roads, and he’s brewing some fine, heady stuff. Leave your money under the rock and come back in an hour.” —James Sallis

“The Running Kind” is available here: viewBook.at/RunningKind_ebook
viewBook.at/RunningKind-print

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Excerpt: The Running Kind by Craig McDonald

December 8, 2014

BetimesBooksNow

“It is a long road that has no turning.”— Irish proverb

 

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No happy ending ever started in a bar.

The old friends had chosen to murder the afternoon drinking in the shadowy hotel pub mostly to evade Decem­ber’s bitter chill.

“All I’m sayin’ is that any son of a bitch who sets off in a plane for California—and who then ends up landing in feckin’ Ireland—that son of a bitch is deserving of something far bet­ter than simple scorn,” Jimmy Hanrahan said, tapping a blunt finger against the other man’s chest. “Besides, he’s from your neck of the woods, Hec. He’s another Galveston boy.”

Jimmy looked out the hotel pub’s window at the fresh flurries accumulating atop old, too-high drifts. He shook his head and sighed.

Hector Lassiter rose and fished change from his pocket. He said, “Jimmy, only a romantic Irish expatriate like you would still think of defending Corrigan. Mention your moth­erland and you get positively dewy. As calamitous decisions go, you leaving Ireland was some flavor of tragic, I think.”

Jimmy was big and beefy and about Hector’s height— topping out over six feet, but also coming in a good bit over Hector’s weight. Jimmy went at least two hundred fifty pounds. He had graying-brown hair, blue eyes, and a nose broken so many times it looked like something no anatomist had invented a word for yet. Jimmy snorted and sipped his Irish whiskey. “Not already calling it a day, Hector? Eager to get back to the writing table? Or maybe you’re just off to siphon the python?”

“Huh-uh,” Hector said, flipping a nickel and then catch­ing it in his hand. “Just going to improve the music.” He didn’t call it loud but checked: the coin came up tails.

Nat King Cole was singing Mona Lisa, a song Hector regarded as syrupy, yet it had been played nearly to death the past few months. Increasingly, Hector felt out of touch with the sorry drift of popular culture. The crime novelist saun­tered over to the jukebox, scanned his options and plugged in a Percy Mayfield tune as well as Vaughn Monroe’s cover of Riders in the Sky.

Returning to his stool, Hector held up a finger for another shot of Jameson. Jimmy said, “What’d you opt for, Hec? Not more of that hillbilly crap you favor these days, I hope?”

The rangy Irishman had been Hector’s good friend since their late teens, going all the way back to Europe, and, later, to the bloody bootleg wars waged along the Great Lakes.

Back then, Jimmy was a relatively new cop. In ’36, the year Hector last reconnected with Jimmy in the Buckeye State for any real time alone, “Untouchable” Eliot Ness had been fresh from Chicago and chasing Al Capone. Ness had recently been appointed director of public safety for the Mistake on the Lake. Jimmy was swiftly tabbed as one of the force’s rising stars and promptly promoted to detective by Ness.

Because of the most recent European war and some lin­gering, bloody business spinning out of all that, it had been a long time since Jimmy and Hector had last crossed paths.

Jimmy was taking a rare vacation in Youngstown, of all places. Because Hector was also roaming the east on the way back south from a meeting with his New York-based pub­lisher, they’d agreed to risk hooking up close by the Ohio- Pennsylvania border.

Mostly, their first couple hours together had been spent in grisly, Police Gazette-style shoptalk. Seemed Jimmy was in Youngstown chasing clues to a long unsolved series of mutila­tion murders—still doggedly pursuing his bête noire, the so-called “Cleveland Headhunter,” a.k.a. the “Mad Butcher of Kingsbury Run.”

The Butcher was credited with disarticulation and decapi­tation murders across the upper Midwest, crimes spanning decades and thousands of miles, but mostly grisly slayings committed around Cleveland, Youngstown and Pittsburgh.

Hector had relatively recently gotten caught up around the edges of a similar crime in Los Angeles, the harrowing case of the “Black Dahlia” as the breathless newspaper boys dubbed the tragically murdered and mutilated would-be actress Elizabeth Short. Some in police and conspiracy-theory circles thought the “Black Dahlia Avenger” and “Headhunter” killings linked. A letter sent the press a few years before the Dahlia’s mutilation murder claimed the Cleveland killer was fleeing the chilly Buckeye State for the City of Angels. The letter writer even referred to a severed head buried in almost exactly the location where Beth’s bisected body was later found.

For reasons of his own, Hector didn’t buy the theory of the Dahlia-Butcher link, not even a little, but he wanted to see Jimmy, so he’d made the icy run down from New York.

Percy Mayfield began crooning Please Send Me Someone to Love. Hanrahan listened to a few bars, grunted and said, “This isn’t so bad a tune. It’ll do.”

“It’s a great song,” Hector said. He stared into his glass, then said, “Jimbo, you’ve really gotta commence letting go of this Kingsbury Run business. You’ve been decades on this mess. The guy who murdered all those folks around these parts, that hombre’s gotta be long gone south of the sod by now. Please don’t let yourself be run crazy by it anymore, buddy.”

Jimmy rolled his eyes. “If only that seemed so, Hec. It bein’ over, I mean. But another lassie was cut up this past July. Just like the others. Exactly like the others. It’s the same fiend. I’ll stake my life and reputation, such as it remains, on all that.”

Hector narrowed his pale blue eyes. “You really believe that?”

The cop shook his head. “Not a scrap of doubt. And some­thing else happened at an industrial site in Cleveland recently. A fairly large fellow was seen sunning himself on some steel girders that had been sitting there for almost two years. The man showed up every day for nearly six weeks. He spent about twenty min­utes in the sun there each day.” Jimmy sipped his whiskey and shook out a Lucky Strike. He shrugged off a little chill.

Hector picked up his old Zippo and tossed it to the Irish detective. Jimmy caught it and said, “Now, this place is not the kind of place you lay out to catch some rays, Hector. Really not that kind of garden spot.” Jimmy said that last through a haze of smoke. He closed the lid and glanced at the engraving on Hector’s lighter that read, “One True Sentence.” Jimmy ran his fingers over the surface of the Zippo then handed it back to its owner.

Hector slipped the lighter into his sports jacket’s pocket. He said, “What’d this fella look like?”

“Fiftyish, like us,” Jimmy said. “That’d make him a young man when the Butcher was in his natural prime. This man, he had thinning gray hair and he was heavyset.” Hector bit his lip. “How exactly does this tie back to the Kingsbury Butcher?”

“The boyo stopped sunning himself, stopped right in the middle of summer. About the time he ceased cosseting his tan, the workers around the area started to notice this stench. Then, on July 22, a couple out for a walk found a severed leg in a field. Limb was still fairly fleshy. That set minds working about the stink under that steel pile, and we started poking around there. Under the steel, right where that sunbather had sunned for six weeks, we found a torso. Also some severed parts. One leg and both arms. The head turned up a few days later, close-by. Under the body was a May 1949 copy of the Cleveland News’ sports pages and a couple of pages torn from a phone book. Listings under the letter K.”

Hector blew smoke out both nostrils. “K for Kingsbury, you’re thinking?”

“Who’s to say with certainty?” Jimmy said. “But even our crazy coroner back in Cleveland, Mariposa, he admits it looks like the Kingsbury Butcher all over again. What do you think?”

“I think it’s just this side of chilling,” Hector said. “More than a tad skin-crawling, even. I think maybe—”

Hector was cut short by an urgent tug at his sports coat’s sleeve. He glanced to his side; saw nothing. Another tug. He looked down.

A blue-eyed, blond girl, maybe five, perhaps six, looked up at him, scared and imploring. “Please, mister, my mommy needs help!”

Hector exchanged a glance with Jimmy and they rose together. They drained their drinks and ground out their ciga­rettes. Hector called to the keep, “Room 301. Put it on my room’s bill, won’t you, sport?” Then he took the little girl’s tiny hand and looked around for a parent.

The little girl was dressed well and had festive ribbons in her hair. She was wearing a Black Watch plaid wool coat with attached cape and a furry muff dangling around her neck. High-gloss, black patent-leather shoes on her tiny feet. The girl clutched tightly to a lookalike doll dressed in a miniature version of her own outfit.

Jimmy lifted the little girl up and wrapped an arm under her to support her. Getting her face up even with his own and smiling, he asked, “And where’s your mother, angel?”

“Down there,” the little girl said. She pointed across the lobby to a descending flight of stairs under a sign that read “Restrooms & Shoeshines.”

The little girl said, “Mommy really needs your help, right now!”

Hector jerked his head for Jimmy to follow. He said over his shoulder, “What’s your name, honey?”

“I’m Shannon,” she said.

“Let’s hurry then, Shannon,” Hector said, patting his left side and then remembering he’d left his big old Colt ’73 hidden in his luggage upstairs. He cursed under his breath.

Hector took the steps three at a time. A sign at the bottom pointed left for the women’s restroom, and right for the men’s. He drifted leftward but the little girl in Jimmy’s arms said urgently, “No mister, the other way!” Hector obeyed.

An old black man was sitting in his own shoeshine chair near the door of the men’s room, fiddling with a brush and looking scared and ashamed for his own fear.

A woman yelled, “No!” There was the sound of a slap, then she snarled, “I said no, damn you!”

A man yelled back, “Bitch! You are coming back! Now do it quiet-like or we’ll hurt that kid. Boss man gave the all clear to rough her up good. Joe is up there right now looking for her. If he finds that girl first, it will not be a good thing for anybody. Do you get me?”

Jimmy deposited the little girl in a vacant stall. Closing the door on her, he pressed a big finger to his lips and said, “Sit tight, angel eyes. And do please hush!” A reassuring smile as he closed the door on her.

Hector could see the woman now—two women, really.

A pair of men were waving guns at the ladies. The thugs were dressed in down-market hats and overcoats but expen­sive-looking shoes. They turned at the sound of Jimmy’s instructions to the scared little girl.

Both men pointed their guns toward Hector and Jimmy. Hector turned to make himself a narrower target, then kicked the one standing closest in the crotch. The man doubled over and Hector grabbed the man’s overcoat lapels and tossed him behind for Jimmy to finish with.

The second man was shifting his aim, preparing to point his gun at Hector’s chest. Hector kicked that man’s hand and the gun went off, blasting a hole in the restroom ceiling. Hec­tor grabbed the brim of the man’s fedora and jerked it down over the stranger’s eyes. The gunman was pointing wild now, as likely to hit the old shoe-shiner or the little girl cowering in the stall as to put a slug in his attacker.

Hector got hold of the man’s elbow while he was still blinded by his own hat. Hector put the man’s arm against the jamb of a vacant toilet stall and then slammed the stall door against the man’s wrist several times until bone crunched.

The man’s hand went limp and the gun smacked the tile floor, chipping marble. Hector scooped up the rod, a taped, skeleton-grip .38, and tossed it to Jimmy. The Irish cop’s man was out cold on the floor.

Hector’s man groaned again, tugging at his hat with his one good hand. Tsking, the author hauled the man up and then flung him headfirst into the toilet bowl. The man was still moving, so Hector did that a second time and then pulled the flush chain on the overhead basin.

Jimmy opened the stall door and picked up the little girl. “Everything’s fine now, puddin’,” he said. “You’re safe and so is your mother, darlin’ Shannon.”

One of the women, blond and blue-eyed like the little girl, fell to her knees and hugged the child close. “Oh, thank God,” she said. The woman wore an expensively tailored skirt with matching jacket and a long fur coat that looked real enough to Hector. The blonde’s hat sported a dangling fringe of black mesh that nearly reached her bottom lip. She was quite the looker, that was evident even through that mesh veil.

The other woman was prettier still and platinum blond. She was expensively appointed, too, but not in quite so busi­ness-like a fashion as her companion. There was more va-va-voom in the second woman’s slinky dress and half-stoll. The sexier one stroked the little girl’s hair and then squeezed her friend’s arm and said, “Katy, we have to go, right now. We have to do that before Joe gets back!”

Joe? Hector said, “Now what’s up with these toughs? What are they to you two, ladies?”

“There’s no time for that,” the slinky blonde said. She hauled her friend up from her knees. “Katy, come on! We have to fly!”

This loud click. No mistaking that sound, and particularly not amplified as it was off all that tile and porcelain in the men’s john: the sound of a gun cocking.

Hector cursed and said softly, “Howdy-do Joe!” Raising his hands, Hector turned slowly to face the gun.

Joe shook his automatic once at Jimmy, directing the cop to drop the revolver they’d taken off the other thug.

Jimmy lowered the hammer on the gun. He slung it in a sink basin, scowling. The Irishman evidently seemed to think it good strategy to rile the man. Jimmy said, “So, ya sorry pup, ya, you’re clearly a Dago thug. Which family do you work for? No denials now, ’cause you’re clearly of that oily ilk if ya get my drift. And you’re no Joe, you’re a Giuseppe at best.”

Joe sneered. “Who the hell are you two? I only ask so we’ll know whose funerals to send flowers to.”

Laying his accent on thicker, Jimmy said, “We’re just pass­ers-by. Ya know the old Celtic saying, don’tcha boyo? Is this a private fight, or can anyone join in? In that spirit, we helped ourselves to a dab o’ bedlam, going in assured of the happy outcome on our end.”

“Ain’t you the tough, Joey,” Hector said, smiling. “But you better rethink this bad business, old pal. Jimmy here is plain­clothes heat. Shooting Jimbo would be sowing the wind in wicked ways you don’t want to contemplate too hard. You know how cops are about police-killers. Hell, even the Feds would pile up on you for a bloody stupidity like that.”

Joe pointed his gun at Hector. “Okay, mouth, and who are you?”

“Smith’s my name,” Hector said. “John Smith.”

Joe sneered. “Yeah. So you’re another cop?”

Hector just shrugged.

Joe sneered and jerked his head a little to one side, crack­ing his neck. “What are doing with these two? Kefauver send you to protect them? If so, that woodchuck’s sure going on the cheap, ’cause you two mugs ain’t all that much.”

Hearing Jimmy was police put some spine into the old shoe-shiner. The elderly bootblack lashed out with his hand towel, striking Joe’s gun hand and resulting in a second bullet hole, this one in the men’s room’s floor. Hector grabbed hold of Joe’s lowered gun hand, forcing a finger behind the trigger before Joe could get off another wild shot.

In the mirror, Hector saw the slinky woman put a gloved hand over the child’s eyes. He thought, Good for her, gal must sense what’s coming.

Jimmy snarled and grabbed Joe by both ears and wrenched him back toward the sink.

There was an array of bottled colognes between the sink basins. Jimmy sprayed mist in Joe’s eyes and then turned on the hot water tap. He shoved Joe’s face under the scalding spray, then got him back up on his feet and rammed his head into the wall twice.

Hector nodded at the shoeshine man. “Thanks, brother. You carried the day. That said, if I was you, I’d surely be miss­ing when these three come back around.”

Jimmy scooped up discarded guns, then took “Katy” by the arm. She was carrying the little girl now. Hector grabbed the sexy, still-unnamed blonde by her arm and they legged it up the stairs.

“Best we get distance on this joint,” Hector said, taking point across the lavish lobby. “These rats rarely travel in trios, more like battalions. And Jimmy’s right: they’re all mobbed up. They stink of Mafia.” Narrowing his eyes he asked the women, “So what are you two to them?”

Silence. Hardly any expression at all there on their pretty faces.

Jimmy said, “One of the boyos mentioned Kefauver. That’d be Estes Kefauver, I guess. You know, the toothsome Tennessee senator who’s conducting all these inquiries into organized crime. Am I right? Yes?”

More silence as they hustled the women across the lobby and out into the December cold. The icy wind lashed their faces and made their eyes tear up. The sidewalks and gutters were still mounded high with the snow and slush of the freak Thanksgiving blizzard that had swept over the Appalachians, spawning out-of-season torna­does, knocking out power to an estimated million and killing more than three hundred people.

The thaw was just setting in south of Cleveland. Conse­quently, flooding from the melting snowdrifts, some more than twenty feet deep, posed a new threat throughout the Ohio River Valley.

“Car’s just around the corner,” Hector told Jimmy.

The Irishman nodded. “Always the Chevy man, you. Is this sled fast, Hector?”

“It’s a Chevy, dark blue. And yes, it’s very fast.” Hector’s wheels were brand new, a 1950 DeLuxe Styleline Sport Sedan with rear fender guards and chrome stone guards. Hector had also sprung for the optional sun visor because he lived in the desert—not that he got home to New Mexico so terribly much in recent days.

Jimmy nodded and squeezed Katy’s arm. “I asked a ques­tion back there, missy. Well, several questions were posed, but as I’m the one with a badge, I get priority on answers. That man said something about Kefauver and a protection detail. Are you a witness for the senate committee? Are you two tied in some way to one of the crime families who’ve been targeted by Kefauver’s hearings?”

Katy looked at her friend; the other woman shrugged.

“Honey, after what we did back there, you owe us. What are you called, doll face?”

“Megan Dalton.”

“Hokey-doke, Meg,” Hector said, brushing some strands of yellow-white hair back from her eyes. Her hair was soft and maybe even her real shade. Surely didn’t look or feel like aperoxide job. She moved her head away from his hand. Hector smiled at that. Some spirit behind that tarted up face.

The women exchanged a last long look. Jimmy frowned and flashed his badge, just enough to show it was real, but he kept a big thumb over the name of the city emblazoned on the tin.

Katy nodded and hugged her daughter closer. “My name is Katharine Scartelli. My husband is—”

“Vito Scartelli,” Jimmy said, raw-voiced. “Hec, this woman is married to a monster.”

“I read the newspapers, too,” Hector said, cold all over now. “The boss of all bosses in the Great Lakes region.” He tossed Jimmy they car keys. “We’re dealt in, like it or not, Jimbo.” Hector added, “Or don’t you think?”

“Oh, I figure we’re already in deeper than we can con­ceive,” Jimmy said. “Always the way, it seems, when our paths cross for any time at all.” Jimmy stroked the little girl’s hair. Hector figured his friend was remembering another city, one a continent away, many years ago. Remembering another little girl in desperate danger. Lyon, France, and the last big war: all of that was certainly on Hector’s mind presently.

“Then pull around back of the hotel and wait for me, Jim,” Hector said. “I’ll exit through the service doors.”

It was starting to snow as Hector turned to head back into the hotel. A tiny voice, “Thanks, mister. Thank-you for saving my mommy and Megan.”

Hector almost said, “We’re nowhere near having done that yet.” Instead he smiled over his shoulder at the little girl and said, “You sure are cute, darlin’.”

Meg called to Hector, “Joe asked you what you do. Are you police? Perhaps a private detective?”

“Don’t insult me.” Pausing, Hector said. “I’m just a writer, sugar. But a careful one.”

Meg frowned. “Your name does seem familiar. Are you a journalist?”

“Not so much that either,” Hector said. He trotted across the parking lot in the snow.

Hector ducked back into the cozy hotel, straight into the barrel of a gun.

Book Trailer for THE RUNNING KIND by Craig McDonald

November 3, 2014

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Watch the book trailer for THE RUNNING KIND by Craig McDonald here: