The head in question once belonged to Mexican general Pancho Villa, who successfully raided a Colorado town, eluded a retaliatory chase led by Black Jack Pershing, and amassed a treasure of silver and gold before being assassinated in 1923. Rumor has it that the head may have ended up in the bulging cabinet of curiosities belonging to Skull & Bones (the secret student society at Yale) thanks to Prescott Bush, grandfather of the current president. McDonald's debut plays with those and other historical figures. It's the late 1950s, and Hector Lassiter, once a Black Maskwriter and now a diabetic widower, joins forces with Lassiter, a journalist profiling him for Truemagazine, to explore the urban myth that the severed head contains a map locating the burial spot of the Villa treasure. Pursuing them are posses of Yale undergraduates, federal officials, and even Orson Welles. Offering the same array of nostalgic delights as Paul Malmont's The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril, this is recommended for most public libraries. [See Prepub Mystery, LJ 5/1/07.]-Bob Lunn, Kansas City P.L., MO
A turbulent tale of murder, conspiracy and political intrigue. Pulp fiction and screenplay writer Hector Lassiter is being interviewed in a Mexican cantina by impressionable young Bud Fiske for a 1957 True magazine article when an old pal arrives with the rotting skull of Pancho Villa, a highly prized and dangerous keepsake. Hec and Bud escape with the head in a hail of gunfire that pushes them down a road filled with treachery, deceit and near-death experiences. They travel to California, where Hec's old lover Marlene Dietrich, making a celebrated movie with Orson Welles, needs Hec's help in setting the right tone. There Hec meets Marlene's assistant Alicia, a beautiful young Mexican who becomes the latest in his long string of lovers and wives. Villa's head is sought by many, from stone Mexican killers to the frat boys competing with Yale's Skull and Bones Society, masterminded by George W's grandfather Senator Prescott Bush. Hec, Bud and Alicia get a little help from the FBI because J. Edgar Hoover is furious with Bush, who's using his CIA connections to find the skull. In the end, though, only their own skills can keep them alive. The grisly carnage in 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? Despite the intriguing premise, not for the faint-hearted.