I met Craig McDonald after reading his terrific first novel, Head Games, which was nominated for Best First Novel Edgar Award (as well as the Anthony, Gumshoe and Crimespree Magazine awards). The first in his series, Head Games introduced us to McDonald’s recurring hero, pulp novelist and Hemingway pal Hector Lassiter, a true adventurer who cuts a swath across the mid twentieth century.
Since then, he has published two magnificent follow-ups, Toros and Torsos and Print the Legend. Just a few weeks ago, his latest, One True Sentence (the title, a nod to Papa), which brings us into the glimmering, orgastic world of 1920s Paris, hit bookstores.
Craig has also published two definitive collections of interviews with crime authors, Art in the Blood and Rogue Males. In fact, I’d read Craig long before I knew him, having come upon his remarkable interview with the notoriously tricky subject, Mr. James Ellroy. We’ve met many times since (and Craig interviewed me for Mystery News, a rare treat for me). I must say that no one is doing what Craig is doing, or doing it so well—his novels are sprawling tales that masterfully combine the “high” and “low” markers of mid-century America—from pulp novels to high modernism, from surrealism to film noir—showing how they are always-already inextricably linked.
We are so lucky to have a post from Craig today…but first he indulges us in our questionnaire (and we are delighted to have Rip Torn made a repeat performance, a la The Songwriter).
1. what is your greatest fear?
2. what is your favorite way of spending time?
3. what is your most treasured possession?
An early hardcover of the ltd. edition sent me of Head Games by Ben LeRoy and Alison Janssen. It was the first piece of my own published long-form fiction I got to hold.
4. when and where were you happiest?
To date, Scotland, October, 1996. We married there, then spent days tooling around the Highlands.
5. what is your greatest indulgence?
A first edition of Hemingway’s For Whom The Bell Tolls.
6. where would you like to live?
To my own surprise, I’m thinking more and more about Florida. I’m actually getting tired of Midwest seasons.
7. what is the quality you are most drawn to in a person?
8. how would you like to die?
I’m honestly hoping for some escape clause. I can’t fathom a world without me in it. That’s not ego, but simple personal experience talking.
9. what is your secret superstition?
The number 13, and not necessarily tied to Fridays. I’ve sustained bitter losses on the 13th of various months.
10. what was the best dream and worst nightmare you ever had?
I had a dream in which my maternal grandfather, who set my reading tastes and fiction writing interests, said he loved my first-published novel that was dedicated to him. He died on Nov. 13, 1980. The book appeared fall of 2007. Worst nightmare? I had a too-vivid imagining of something terrible happening to one of my children. That actually fueled a plot point in Head Games.
11. what song do you most hear in your head?
That’s a heavy rotation, and usually tied to something I’m writing. But most stubbornly? Jim Croce’s “I Got A Name.”
12. what do you read/watch/listen to when you are feeling badly?
Read: I’ll usually crack open Eye of a Cricket, by James Sallis.
Watch: Alan Rudolph’s Songwriter. That film never fails to make me smile.
Listen: Something singer/songwriter-driven. Probably Tom Russell, or maybe Kris Kristofferson. Right now, I’m on Glen Campbell/“Galveston” kick. Who can explain these things?
13. what do you consider to be the greatest elixir/restorative?
A new view, a notebook and a pen…good music.
14. what’s something you never told anyone?
That’s the stuff that ends up in the books, and I’m not prepared to run a highlighter over it.