I was first introduced to Craig McDonald's debut novel by an Irishman. His name is Ken Bruen and he is an excellent writer of noir thrillers (e.g., THE GUARDS). Bruen suggested reading HEAD GAMES in a Blog, so I took his suggestion seriously and found Craig McDonald's way with words to be terrific: "The night air was like a tonsil-teasing soul kiss - the rare scent of desert rain carried on the wind and heat lightning roaming the horizon." (p. 23) See what I mean?
I won't go into the plot of this humorous, action-packed, thriller cum-road book, as others have already written about it. The search for Mexican Bandit/Revolutionary Pancho Villa's severed head had been written about in another thriller, VILLA HEAD: A Chenney Hazzard Mystery, by author R. D. Brown, who dropped off the radarscreen in the 80s after completing this, his second novel (the first was entitled HAZZARD). McDonald's book, though, is faster paced and more interesting, especially since the reader learns a lot of that period in history that the author definitely researched in depth. In no way is it stuffy, though, unlike the history lessons we had to sit through back in high school. (Remember those "old Days" when history was actually taught in school?) Hector Lassiter, given the nickname "Lasso" by on-again/ off-again pal and drinking buddy Ernest Hemingway, (who pops up as a central character..alive and dead...in the next two novels, TOROS & TORSOS and PRINT THE LEGEND, along with movie stars: Rita Hayworth, Orson Welles, and Marlene 'The Kraut' Dietrich). Hec, is a rough and tumble author, and WW1 veteran, who is a lady's/man's man the reader will definitely take a liking to.
We first meet hard drinking Hector Lassiter in a Ciudad Juarez cantina, in 1957, sitting at a table trying to figure out how to get Pancho Villa's head out of Mexico and split the money some shady someones are willing to pay big bucks and also kill for. Hector describes himself and two compatriots on page 14, "But now the bandit's skull sat under our table between the feet of Eskin 'Bud' Fiske, aspiring, myopic poet and my latest would-be interviewer; Bill Wade, drunkard, soldier-of-fortune and con man; and me, Hector Lassiter, pulp-writer-turned-crime-writer, turned-lately-screenwriter." Shortly after the introduction, the bullets fly. And this is just the beginning!
It's an entertaining and exciting adventure. I recommend it highly (5 Stars)
- Paperback: 300 pages
- Publisher: Bleak House Books; Trade Paper. edition (20 September 2007)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1932557431
- ISBN-13: 978-1932557435
- Product Dimensions: 14 x 2.5 x 22.2 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 386 g
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