McDonald, Craig 1962-
McDonald, Craig 1962-
Writer, journalist, and editor.
Mystery Writers of America, International Association of Crime Writers.
Edgar Allan Poe Award nomination, Mystery Writers of America, 2008, for Best First Novel by an American Author, for Head Games.
Art in the Blood (nonfiction; interviews), Point Blank, 2006.
Head Games, Bleak House Books (Neenah, WI), 2007.
Toros & Torsos, Bleak House Books (Neenah, WI), 2008.
Author of blog on Amazon.com Web site. Contributor to the book Secrets of the Code. Contributor of short stories to literary magazines, anthologies, and Web sites.
Craig McDonald is a journalist who has written numerous mystery and crime short stories for magazines and Web sites. His first book, Art in the Blood, is a collection of interviews with twenty preeminent crime, mystery, and thriller authors, including James Ellroy, Dan Brown, Ken Bruen, Michael Connelly, Liza Cody, George Pelecanos, Walter Mosley, Dennis Lehane, Ian Rankin, Karin Slaughter, Lee Child, Steve Hamilton, J.A. Jance, Peter Lovesey, Peter Straub, Ridley Pearson, Tami Hoag, Tim Dorsey, David Corbett, and Charlie Stella.
In an article on the Things I'd Rather Be Doing Web site, John Kenyon referred to McDonald as "a connector" because of his numerous interviews with writers, adding: "Through his efforts McDonald connects people, netting readers for writers, new favorites for readers and a network of fans for all comers." Commenting on Art in the Blood and McDonald's ability to connect readers and writers, Kenyon commented that there are numerous sources for reading about the writers interviewed by McDonald, thus asking: "Where does that ‘connector’ stuff come in?" Kenyon then went on to write in the same article that he "was drawn in by McDonald's erudite questions and easy rapport with them and found myself wanting to read the whole thing," adding: "In doing so, I was introduced to the work of Steve Hamilton, Tim Dorsey, Charlie Stella and others. And while you can read interviews with many of these authors in numerous locations, including this site, few can rival the depth and breadth of McDonald's work."
In 2007, McDonald's debut novel Head Games was published to wide acclaim from reviewers. The novel has received an Edgar Allan Poe Award nomination, Mystery Writers of America, 2008, for Best First Novel by an American Author. Sandra Ruttan, writing on the Spinetingler Magazine Web site, called the novel "one of the best debuts of 2007." A Publishers Weekly contributor wrote that "this slick caper novel touches chords of myth, history, loss and redemption."
The story told in Head Games covers more than a decade, from 1957 to 1970. Hector Lassiter is a larger-than-life pulp fiction and screenplay writer who is known to cross the lines between fiction and reality in his own life, drawing in his friends along the way. In 1957, Hector is being interviewed in a Mexican cantina by True magazine writer Bud Fiske. When an old friend of Hector's shows up with the decomposing skull of Pancho Villa, Hector and Bud suddenly find themselves fleeing the cantina, bringing Villa's head along with them, as gunshots rain down on them, fired by Mexican nationalists and a group of college boys who want Villa's head for the Skull and Bones Society trophy case at Yale. It turns out that Senator Prescott Bush, grandfather of George W. Bush, first put out the call for the head of Pancho Villa as a trophy. As the novel continues, Hector ends up in California helping to rework a script for a movie that his old lover, Marlene Dietrich, is making with Orson Welles. Hector begins a love affair with Marlene's assistant, a beautiful Mexican woman named Alicia. Meanwhile, numerous people are looking for Villa's head and are willing to take Hector's head along with it. When Hector seeks help from the FBI, he is rebuffed because of a feud between FBI director J. Edgar Hoover and Prescott Bush.
"Honestly, I wasn't sure I'd even written a crime novel, and didn't think of it as a mystery novel either," the author told Tony Black in an interview on the Shots Web site. "Some have called it a ‘noir novel,’ though I wouldn't go that far. If I could be said to have an aim in terms of what I was going for, it would probably be something in the vicinity of a darkly humorous Tex-Mex myth. I wanted something that moved like a country ballad."
Many reviewers complimented the author for his ability to mix myth, noir, mystery, and action into one entertaining novel. For example, a Publishers Weekly contributor pointed out that the premise of the novel is based on the myth that the Bush family did conceal Villa's head in the Skull and Bones secret trophy case. The reviewer referred to Head Games as "a turbulent tale of murder, conspiracy and political intrigue." Thomas Gaughan, writing in Booklist, commented: "This one is simply great fun!"
Hector Lassiter returns in Toros & Torsos. This time, Lassiter finds himself battling a group of killer surrealist painters, photographers, and art collectors in another historical saga that spans decades and continents. The story revolves around an infamous, unsolved Hollywood murder. The author told Tony Black in the Shots Web site interview: "The novel takes its cues from some recent nonfiction books that have mounted an argument that the murder of Elizabeth Short, the so-called Black Dahlia, was inspired by surrealist imagery and may in fact have been committed by [a] person or persons tied to the surrealist crowd in post-war Hollywood … a circle that included people like Man Ray, Salvador Dali, John Huston and even Fanny Brice."
McDonald told CA: "I actually tried to write my first novel at about the age of nine … a crime novel. I don't really remember a time when I thought about doing anything other than writing for a living.
"My primary influences are Ernest Hemingway, Lester Dent (who wrote most of the Doc Savage pulp novels under the pseudonym of Kenneth Robeson), and crime novelists James Ellroy, James Crumley, Daniel Woodrell, and James Sallis. My novels are also informed by classic noir films of the 1940s and 1950s.
"Because I have young children and a full-time day-job, I write early mornings, evenings, and weekends. Years of working as a journalist have given me enough self-discipline to get myself in the chair and to write when time is available. I write on the computer, or write longhand, and often write while traveling. I usually begin by rereading/revising everything written up to a given morning's work, then go on from there, so a novel is usually in a perpetual state of revision while it is being composed. I try to write at least 2,000 words a day.
"The most surprising thing I have learned as a writer is that I can actually spin out a story that people want to read—that they enjoy reading. I'm also surprised to find myself writing historical novels, often encompassing periods of time outside my own lifetime (i.e., novels exploring the early twentieth century).
"To date, my most consistent favorite book is my second Hector Lassiter novel, Toros & Torsos, because it is a very ambitious book, spread across a vast canvas of time and space, and yet seems to succeed as a page-turner.
"In the Lassiter novels, I try to find or employ historic events that mirror contemporary issues or problems. My hope would be that, apart from being entertained, readers might be inspired to pick up some of the primary nonfiction works that inform my novels—to explore the fact behind the fiction."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, August, 2007, Thomas Gaughan, review of Head Games, p. 45.
Kirkus Reviews, July 1, 2007, review of Head Games.
Publishers Weekly, July 16, 2007, review of Head Games, p. 149.
Chud.com,http://chud.com/ (November 13, 2007), Cameron Hughes, "Exclusive Interview: Craig McDonald."
Craig McDonald Home Page,http://www.craigmcdonaldbooks.com (May 28, 2008).
RedRoom.com,http://www.redroom.com/ (May 18, 2008), profile of author.
Shots,http://www.shotsmag.co.uk/ (May 28, 2008), Tony Black, "American First-Time Novelist Craig McDonald's Head Is in a Spin."
Spinetingler Magazine,http://www.spinetinglermag.com/ (May 28, 2008), Sandra Ruttan, review of Head Games.
Things I'd Rather Be Doing,http://www.tirbd.com/ (December 18, 2006), John Kenyon, "Monday Interview: Craig McDonald"; (October 29, 2007), John Kenyon, "Monday Interview: Craig McDonald."