Thursday, September 20, 2007

Pg. 69: Craig McDonald's "Head Games"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Craig McDonald's Head Games.

About the book, from the author's website:
In a dusty cantina on the far side of the Rio Grande, larger-than-life and recently widowed crime writer Hector Lassiter and Bud Fiske, a callow young poet sent by True Magazine to profile Hector, are handed a carpet bag. Inside they find the stolen head of Mexican general Francisco "Pancho" Villa — a long missing relic that may point the way to a fortune in lost treasure or a blood-and-thunder death...

In the dank, hallowed halls of Yale University creep the members of the Skull & Bones, a secret society shrouded in whispers. They are a fraternity whose members include media barons,
ΓΌber executives and politicians, including three generations of men called Bush — and their sanctum sanctorum's trophy cabinet is purportedly packed with the stolen bones of long-dead luminaries...

In a '57 Bel Air, Hector, Bud, and the beautiful Alicia tear through the desert with a trunk full of human heads. Caught in a crazy crossfire, they lead all manner of headhunters on a breakneck chase across Lost America. U.S. intelligence services, murderous frat boys, the soldier of fortune who stole Pancho's head from its grave, and the specter of a dead Mexican legend all want Villa's head — though they might settle for Hector's...
Among the praise for Head Games:
"Head Games is terrific, a real discovery, informed by — but never weighed down by — Craig McDonald's intimate knowledge of pulp fiction, politics, history, literature, film noir and all manner of frontiers. A truly original debut that leaves one eager to see what this writer will do next."
—Laura Lippman, author of What the Dead Know

"Moves like a bullet, like a trajectory of magnificent artistry and line-on-line of almost casual, throwaway description. The beautiful, understated humor running like a sad song all through the whole novel ... I'm beyond impressed."
—Ken Bruen, author of American Skin

"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. It made me homesick for El Paso the way it was."
—James Crumley, author of The Last Good Kiss

"In McDonald's fun, deft debut, set mostly in 1957, Sen. Prescott Bush has sent out the call: bring me the head of Pancho Villa, the late Mexican revolutionary. 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

"A turbulent tale of murder, conspiracy and political intrigue. McDonald's Spillane-like fictional debut has its roots in a real historical question: Did the Bush family really help hide Pancho Villa's head in the inner sanctum of Skull and Bones? Not for the faint-hearted."
Kirkus Reviews

"In his debut novel McDonald mixes history, legend, and fantastic characters to play the best kind of Head Games. Where has this guy been? The newest recipe for great fiction? One pulp novelist, one poet, two Hollywood legends, a secret society and a plot scored by Ennio Morricone. This is Head Games. Next book please, Mr. McDonald."
Crimespree Magazine
Read an excerpt from Head Games and learn more about the novel and author at McDonald's website and his Crimespace page.

Craig McDonald is an award-winning journalist, editor and fiction writer. His short fiction has appeared in literary magazines, anthologies and several online crime fiction sites. His nonfiction books include Art in the Blood, a collection of interviews with 20 major crime authors which appeared in 2006, and Rogue Males: Conversations and Confrontations About the Writing Life, a second collection of interviews to be published by Bleak House Books.

The Page 69 Test: Head Games.

--Marshal Zeringue