Posts from the ‘Reviews’ Category
May 18, 2017
Review by Marvin Minkler: @MarvinMinklerModernFirstEditions
“Quite alone, yet somehow quite happy, Hector drove on through the sweet-smelling autumn rain, back to his home and family.”
This one true sentence, from the ending of the newly finished novel, Death in the Face, by Craig McDonald, an Edgar and Anthony Awards Finalist, brought to a close my nine-novel journey through the mid-20th Century world, with Hector Lassiter, the man who “writes what he lives and lives what he writes.”
Death in the Face takes place in 1963 and finds Hector at 62 years of age. He is starting to feel that the modern world is passing him by and that he might be slowing down a step or two. He has lost some dear friends and lovers, and, at night, he is haunted by realistic dreams and visions of his life’s love, Brinke Devlin. Brinke’s tragic death still tears at him.
Hector is invited to come along with his old and slowly dying friend, British author, and former spy, Ian Fleming, to the land of the rising sun. Ian is finding late success with his bestselling James Bond series of novels, which have just begun to be made into movies, starring Sean Connery.
Long ago, just after World War II, Ian and Hector, who were intelligence agents at the time, had tried to get their hands on a deadly biological weapon, developed by the Japanese, that could spell doom for whatever country it was used on. While in Japan this time, Ian is determined to find it again, and Hector is along for the ride, with the hope of recovering some previously unknown writings by Brinke Devlin, which are also supposedly there.
As usual with a Hector Lassiter novel, there is plenty of action, deadly villains, a fetchingly beautiful spy, with her eye and gun on Hector, James Bond-type gadgets, intrigue, twists and turns, sexy romps, tragedy, loss, and many reflective moments where the sheer poetry of Craig McDonald’s writing stops the reader in their tracks. There are places where a passage is so moving that it must be read all over again.
I admit to feeling a bit sad about finishing my last Hector Lassiter novel. The books have taken me on a journey all the way from Paris in the 1920s, to Key West in the 30s, Germany and France during World War II, 1950s clashes with the Cleveland mob, assassins in the South-west, and Hollywood, Nashville, and finally Hawaii.
I have met historical characters that have come to life fully fleshed, due to the author’s genuine depiction and understanding of them. Ernest and Mary Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, Sylvia Beach, Orson Wells, Eliot Ness, Robert Shaw, Yukio Mishima, Mitsuharu Kaneko, Lester Dent, Rod Serling, and George W. and Prescott Bush, and many more.
Thanks, Craig McDonald, for these wonderfully entertaining and deeply felt novels. I feel Hector Lassiter is the best on-going character ever created in fiction. Truly the last man standing. There is not enough praise that I can give you for your mighty creation and your masterful writing.
Marvin Minkler, Modern First Editions, May 2017
The full Hector Lassiter Series is available to buy on Amazon here
March 26, 2017
Hector Lassiter is one of the most compelling literary creations of recent years– a crime novelist who ‘writes what he lives and lives what he writes’. Lassiter was born January 1, 1900, and he witnesses some of the most tumultuous events of the twentieth century. Whether he finds himself at the heart of a murder mystery with the Lost Generation in 1920s Paris, or dodging the bombs and bullets with Ernest Hemingway during the Spanish Civil War, Lassiter is never far away from violence and intrigue. Three Chords and the Truth is the ninth and final novel in the Lassiter series, and, needless to say, it was eagerly anticipated by the many fans of the series.
Craig McDonald is the author behind the author, the creator of Hector Lassiter and the writer of five more novels outside the Lassiter series. McDonald began his career as a journalist and still works in that…
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December 19, 2016
A wonderful review by a true connaisseur:
Three Chords & The Truth Rings True Like a Finely Tuned Guitar, December 18, 2016
This review is from: Three Chords & The Truth: A Hector Lassiter novel (Volume 10) (Paperback)
The first Hector Lassiter novel I read was the Edgar-nominated debut from Craig McDonald, Head Games. History is the author’s canvas and it is vast, colorful and detailed. From Paris in the 1920’s with Ernest Hemingway to Memphis in 1958, where this exciting and latest novel begins. Craig McDonald gives us a rich, authentic take on the country legends of our time who changed the way the music was then. Along with high tone babes, racial tensions, vengeful hooligans, and a chilling plan being hatched, Hector and his Chevy Bel Air could get blown off the road before it all is over.
Although I initially began this one to savor it some, after a few pages in, it was a flat-out race through the pages. Superb writing, swift plotting, and as usual, interesting real life figures from the country scene then, along with some of Hector’s old friends, and enemies.
I can’t recommend it enough. Three Chords & The Truth rings true like a finely tuned guitar.
June 10, 2016
“From Orson Welles’ F Is For Fake to Alan Rudolph’s The Moderns, I’ve always adored works of fiction centered on the concept of art forgery. I’m also a goner for strong narrative voice.
Patricia Ketola’s clever and sexy debut novel is an audacious genre mash-up, elevated and enlivened by the salty, up-from-the-heels voice of narrator Elizabeth Martel, a sort of lusty spin on Patricia Highsmith’s magnetic sociopath Tom Ripley. Dirty Pictures heralds the arrival of a clever, gutsy new voice that fearlessly swings for the fences.” —Craig McDonald, Edgar & Anthony Awards Finalist
Publication date: August 16, 2016
Available for pre-order: viewBook.at/DirtyPictures
February 15, 2016
I loved traveling with author Hector Lassiter, his fellow friend Ian Fleming, and his devastating companion along the way, Haven Branch. Felt like I was right there with them on the planes and trains and in the restaurants, cafés and clubs. Combining writing, spying, and secret lives was perfectly executed and totally believable. Returning to Japan to claim his dead wife’s final writings, Hector is caught up in a conspiracy he can’t avoid. Once more the unlikely hero is called on to save the world, and by god, he’ll do it or die trying. He’s not quite a James Bond type, but he’s cut from a similar cloth. Smart, witty, resourceful and a lady’s man, even in his 60s, you have to admire his style. Great dialogue, good plot, and just enough neurotic angst to sound like a real author. Plenty of fast-paced action, dangerous villains, good whiskey, and humorous characters. I haven’t read the other Hector Lassiter tomes, but I think I’ll have to get started on them now. With Ian Fleming as his muse, Craig McDonald gives us more of the Bond flavor in this period novel without being a parody. Loved it, can’t believe now that I’ve found him, there’s only one more novel to come. But then, I’ve got all the previous ones to enjoy.
~Review by Sandy Penny, Founder, SweetMysteryBooks.com – Five Stars
December 21, 2015
Booklist Feature Article
She Reads: Holiday Wish Lists
Stover, Kaite Mediatore (author)
I’m not going to bore you with an annual report of my behavior—virtuous or villainous. Suffice to say I was a very good reader, and I’d like some more, please.
For my holiday reading, I hope I find these books under my tree stacked neatly in their own TBR pile. I resolve to read them all before I write you again next December. I am certain reading these books will make me a better person.
There is one novel I’ve been waiting for that I’ll devour immediately, the latest in Craig McDonald’s Hector Lassiter series, Death in the Face. Lassiter and Ian Fleming team up for one last international caper to “live what they write and write what they live.”And if you can deliver an audio version narrated by Tom Stechshulte, I’ll never ask for another thing again ever.”
Read the full article here
December 21, 2015
“Set in 1962, McDonald’s fine ninth Hector Lassiter novel (after Print the Legend) takes the 62-year-old writer and an old friend of his, 54-year-old Ian Fleming (the creator of James Bond), to Japan. Ostensibly, Fleming is to do research for an Asian-set 007 novel, and Lassiter is covering Fleming’s trip for Playboy magazine. In fact, the pair are on a mission to secure the secret plans made by the Japanese in WWII for a devastating biological weapon. Both men formerly performed intelligence duties, including an attempt, during Operation Flea, to recover the plans immediately after the war. McDonald pays frequent homage to Fleming and his novels, while Lassiter, like an aging James Bond, foils assassins and follows a trail that leads from Japan to Turkey; he even uses a Bond-like gadget to great effect. A brief coda sets the stage for the next and, unfortunately, last Lassiter novel, Three Chords and the Truth.”
Read the review in Publishers Weekly: http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-9934331-0-8
December 14, 2015
• Death in the Face, by Craig McDonald (Betimes):
Those of us who inhale the Hector Lassiter series (starting with 2007’s Edgar-nominated Head Games) enjoyed a big year in 2014, so it was fair to expect that 2015 might be a bit on the quiet side. Happily, this was not the case, as McDonald released a new and unexpected entry in the series late in the year. Death in the Face finds Lassiter on assignment for Playboy magazine, shadowing Ian Fleming’s research trip to Japan while the latter scouts locations for his next James Bond adventure, You Only Live Twice. Lassiter and Fleming were fighting comrades working for their respective intelligence services during World War II, and we soon learn that this literary junket has a more serious dual purpose: to bring an end to a Japanese biological weapon, Operation Flea, that’s still very potent and capable of decimating English and American agriculture. Lassiter also has his private motive for coming back to Japan–he’s heard a rumor that there’s a lost manuscript written by his late and beloved wife, Brinke Devlin, whose ghost has been lurking throughout all of the Lassiter books. In this, the ninth outing featuring the writer “who lives what he writes and writes what he lives,” Lassiter hasn’t lost a step. Rubbing elbows not only with Fleming, but also with actors Sean Connery and Robert Shaw, and Japanese author-poet Yukio Mishima, Lassiter dodges bullets and explosions, and the set piece here involving a pool of crocodiles is alone worth the price of admission. McDonald’s Lassiter stories represent a sorely needed throwback to ultra-hard-boiled adventure tales, and while the series is winding down (we can expect only one more novel and a collection of short stories, both due in 2016), the entire series hangs together as a multi-volume biography of the greatest fictional pulp writer ever created.
As a side note, 2015 also saw the release of the Craig McDonald-curated Borderland Noir (Betimes), an anthology of crime stories featuring a roster of writers that included Ken Bruen, James Sallis, and the chronically underrated Manuel Ramos, among others. It’s a terrific addition to the location-themed collections we’ve seen published over the last few years.
Link to the review: Favorite Crime Fiction of 2015. Part III
November 23, 2015
“Noir & crime fans, BORDERLAND NOIR will drag you over the border & steep you in sweat, beer, fear, revenge, smoke, jalapeños and blood. Short stories, novel excerpts, thoughtful pondering on the drug war and its multifaceted aspects (and casualties), and some stellar essays. An eye-opening read about life in the shady world of the border.”
See review on GoodReads.com
More about the book here
Available for purchase here
November 17, 2015
What if politics wasn’t such a cynical business, dedicated to perpetuating power dynamics and maintaining the status quo, while talking ceaselessly about progress and change? That’s the situation Sean Moncrieff dares to dream up in his fascinating novel The Angel of the Streetlamps.
A woman falls to her death from a high window on a Dublin street, as she falls her foot knocks an election poster from a telephone pole, which then lands on her broken body, thus ensuring it’s in all the news coverage. A junkie runs from the building, leaps into a taxi, and flees the scene. The politician whose poster this was becomes tarnished by association, and the party consider her unelectable. A passing priest become a media celebrity after he gives the dying woman the last rites. These characters are a powerful canvas on which Moncrieff paints a perceptive portrait of contemporary Ireland.
The politician, Rachel Belton, the clever wife of a famous sportsman with embarrassing spiritual beliefs, decides she has nothing to lose by abandoning the stale talking points the party hacks demand, and begins to tell the truth, to reveal her true feelings. The media and public love her unvarnished honesty.
The junkie, who may or may not be responsible for the woman’s death, flees to his mother’s house, and the daughter he has abandoned. The taxi driver, a loner, decides the junkie is clearly a murderer, and turns vigilante. The priest, who has long since lost his faith, becomes repulsed by the religious sycophants who now consider him something of a hero by-association. A washed-up journalist, who was the dead girl’s cousin, tries to resurrect her career by making the most of her family connections to the story.
It’s a delicious stew of compromised characters in a pressure-cooker environment. Some are pursuing material success without a thought for the cost, while others begin to rue the consequences of their decisions. The novel is a wicked satire of a media frenzy — something the author, a journalist and radio presenter, knows only too well.
Moncrieff is an astute observer of Irish life, nailing the uncertainty and confusion that followed the end of the boom times, and laying into the media with gusto. Politicians get short shrift, as the emptiness of party politics is laid bare against the appealing, but ultimately doomed, campaign of idealism and honesty. He’s not a harsh judge, however, betraying a clear sympathy for the hardworking, the honest, and the low-on-the-totem-pole: the idealistic political volunteer, flawed priests, and ordinary people caught up in the rat race.
Our politician, Rachel Belton, is a great character: a very intelligent women raised in the heart of working-class, Northside Dublin, she escaped first through studying secretly and then by building up a career as a model. After becoming far more famous than she wanted through a “reality” TV show, she left Ireland to do an MBA in New York, and now is trying to convert the remains of her former fame into votes so she can enter politics. However, doing so raises many questions of class and culture, which she then has to carefully navigate. But, other characters get equal “screen time,” and Michael Bourke, the priest who’s lost his faith, and Carol Murphy, the journalist who’s crossed so many lines and moral boundaries in her work that she doesn’t even know where the lines are anymore, are probably the most memorable.
Finally, there’s the victim, whose death sparks a media frenzy that changes lives. Manda Ferguson, a naive, confused young women drawn to utopian ideals, who has given herself the quixotic task of living beside a drug dealer’s flat in the hope of talking some of the addicts out of their addiction. Her rootless life and senseless death brings to mind Joyce’s declaration that “Ireland is the old sow that eats her farrow,” but this line of thinking isn’t fully investigated in the novel, as we mostly get to know Manda through the recollections and opinions of others.
The Angel of the Streetlamps is something of a human comedy more than a hard-boiled crime drama. It is a page-turner, although this is not your conventional murder mystery. In the end it’s a thoughtful, large-canvas look at the Irish psyche circa the start of the latest economic downturn: compromised, frantically struggling to stay afloat, and having largely forgotten why they made some of the decisions they did. It’s not a totally hopeless, dark portrayal, as there are hardworking characters who keep their perspective and their goals in sight, but it is a deliciously scathing portrait of media and political dysfunction.
October 23, 2015
This latest in Craig McDonald’s Hector Lassiter series—Death in the Face–is perhaps his finest. It’s my fervent hope that this isn’t the last in this wonderful series!
Like all the previous books in this series, McDonald sheds light on some of the most important literary figures of the past near-century on a personal level via the Hector Lassiter character and his adventures and that alone is worth the price of admission. For instance, I’ve never been a fan of Ian Fleming’s writing, but after experiencing this version, I confess I’m reevaluating my opinion of him. But, more important and irrespective of my opinion of Fleming’s literary acumen, this is a wonderful look at the writer from albeit a fictionalized account, and, like all the other literary figures who grace the pages of the Lassiter novels, delivers to the reader a delightful perspective on their lives not to be found elsewhere.
That McDonald is able to affect my own bias against Fleming is a telling thing and attests to the level of writing he is able to command. A remarkable read, a remarkable author and a remarkable portrait of an interesting literary figure. Highly recommended.
DEATH IN THE FACE is available here
September 11, 2015
“I would highly recommend TOROS & TORSOS as a gripping and compulsive mystery, and one of the best novels I have come across to explore how an art movement is defined by its time and setting. But if the surrealists were to be believed, art defines its time and setting.”
Read the full text here: http://venetianvase.co.uk/2015/09/11/ellrovian-writers-ii-craig-mcdonald-and-stuart-neville/
June 15, 2015
Lust for Listening
Readergal has quite a few invisible boyfriends who talk to her. She has complete control over when they speak and what they talk about. And she has one for almost every mood. These may sound like imaginary men, but they are not. They are Readergal’s favorite male narrators, and each holds a special place in her heart and ears.
Sometimes Readergal likes to listen dangerously. That’s when she calls up Tom Stechschulte, the voice of noir bad boy Hector Lassiter. Hector is a pulp crime writer who “lives what he writes and writes what he lives.” Stechschulte gives Hector a brash and confident, if world-weary, tone, a little rough around the edges. Then he slips into the smoky, gentle voice of a closet romantic guarding the softest spots of his heart. When Readergal wants to be the femme fatale, she cues up One True Sentence, in which swoon-worthy Hector suspects both of the women he’s sleeping with of serially murdering ex-pat literary critics in Jazz Age Paris. Stechschulte’s deft mix of tough ’n’ tender tones conjures up images of Humphrey Bogart.
Click on the cover image of each book for more information
March 26, 2015
A fun look at the fashion world, March 25, 2015
“Silk for the Feed Dogs”, a novel by Jackie Mallon, follows Irish farmer’s daughter Kat Connelly as she works her way through the fashion world from the “fashion” house of a bottom feeder in London to the top of high fashion in Milan, all the while showing glimpses of this world from an insider’s point of view.
I’m sure a lot of people are currently asking why I read a book about the fashion world. A sense of style that I like drew me into this book that had at least a bit to do with the main character’s sense of style. In my case, I fell in love with Ms. Mallon’s illustrations for the book.
The illustrations are stylized in a way that says “fashion designer”, with some parts vague and others highly detailed, usually utilizing a bit of material for a skirt or other piece of clothing making the illustrations mixed media drawings. These drawings had classic vintage mixed with the modern. But that’s not what caught my eye. The drawings all have life and personality. More than that, there is humor and even a little whimsy. Of course the drawings don’t make the book but they made me curious.
By the time I finished the first chapter, which was set on an Irish farm, I decided I could use the same description for Ms. Mallon’s writing as I could her drawing. Classic yet modern, stylish, highly detailed mixed with vagueness at the perfect percentages, full of life and personality, written with humor and maybe a touch of whimsy.
And the main character, Kat, could be described much the same.
I liked the writing style. It made the novel a pleasant read. As the book went on I think the sense of humor actually grew. I’ll admit I truly laughed out loud, not simply lol, but a true laugh, when I read the description of the first time Kat saw the King at work. There were other places that were just as funny.
Although mostly light hearted, there was substance. Kat was portrayed as a real woman with wants and desires, with good points and bad. Many of the people she met on her journey through fashion-dom were purposefully caricatures, but every so often Ms. Mallon would take out her sharp designer’s pen and add detail to the vaguely drawn caricature and create a living, breathing 3-D character. And Kat stayed true to herself as a “real” person throughout.
I’ll admit I know next to nothing about the fashion world. That didn’t hold me back. I knew enough to understand pretty much everything. I’m sure I missed a higher level of what Ms. Mallon was saying in a few places because I don’t know the exact characteristics of this material or that, but even the limited knowledge of this straight male who has never opened a fashion magazine could catch the points and understand the humor. Even when the joke was deep into some detail of fashion I think I still got it. But most of the humor was about people and situation. The “types” that people Kat’s world transcend industry. OK, I’ve been to Italy twice and have read a lot about it. It’s possible I may have a slightly better understanding of some of what she says about that country and its citizens than someone who has never left middle America. Even so, if you know nothing about fashion, Italy, Milan, etc. this book shouldn’t go over your head, you should be able to “get it”.
So, did you get the sense that I liked the book? I’ve read a handful of excellent books this year, but I do have to say that “Silk for the Feed Dogs” was my favorite so far. It was a fun read and highly recommended.
March 24, 2015
March 7, 2015
Colin O’Sullivan about PENTHOUSE-F by Richard Kalich
– So we are going to do this like a courtroom drama, or an interrogation?
– Yes. We are. We are indeed.
– Because most of the book is done in that style.
– I see. Was the book impressive?
– Yes, very impressive. Mr. Kalich is a great writer.
– And he appears in the book too?
– Yes, if it really is him, if you know what I mean…you can call the book postmodern, or that he uses meta-narratives or…
– That all sounds a bit confusing.
– In theory yes, but it’s a very entertaining book. Says a lot about writing. And the creative process. It’s playful, but not flippant. We’re dealing with a serious artist here.
– Oh, really?
– “He’s an idiot. So disconnected . . . conflicted . . . torn apart.”
– Just joking. That’s actually a quote from the book. He often sidesteps you like that. Reminds you of…
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February 4, 2015
Review of The Nihilesthete, by Richard Kalich (Betimes Books)
When social-worker Haberman finds a limbless wheelchair-bound man observing a street artist, it’s as if all his birthdays have come at once. He can now set about the task that he may always have been destined for, to take this unfortunate victim under his monstrous wing and systematically abuse him (mentally and spiritually) until he is somehow sated.
Why does he do this? What unfortunate events in his past have compelled him to carry out such atrocities? Wrong question. It’s like asking how Winnie got buried in sand in Beckett’s “Happy Days”: the fact is that she just happens to be buried in sand; the fact is that Haberman just happens to be this way, like Simenon’s Frank Friedermaier in Dirty Snow perhaps, bad to the bone. Those looking for easy armchair-psychology rationalizations have come to the wrong anti-hero.
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January 1, 2015
“…wrought with dark humour and a multitude of literary, philosophical and psychological references. The trilogy is an essential read for anyone who enjoys a challenge: predictable neither in content nor in form, CENTRAL PARK WEST TRILOGY is not your average novel.”
Full review here: http://www.palatinate.org.uk/?p=52129
Richard Kalich’s book is on promotion in the UK and Australia. Don’t miss it!