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Ingeniously plotted and executed, Print the Legend is an epic masterpiece from Craig McDonald. Beginning to end, I was riveted by this story of character, history and intrigue.—MICHAEL CONNELLY
The competition for the future of crime fiction is fierce, but don't take your eyes off Craig McDonald. He's wily, talented and — rarest of the rare — a true original. I am always eager to see what he's going to do next."—LAURA LIPPMAN
What critics might call eclectic, and Eastern folks quirky, we Southerners call cussedness — and it's the cornerstone of the American genius. As in: "There's a right way, a wrong way, and my way." You want to see how that looks on the page, pick up any of Craig McDonald's novels. He's built him a nice little shack out there way off all the reg'lar roads, and he's brewing some fine, heady stuff. Leave your money under the rock and come back in an hour. —JAMES SALLIS
With Print the Legend, with a James Ellroy-like scope and vision of national history, McDonald takes on governmental conspiracy, Hemingway hagiography, the under-history of the FBI, the Death of the Author (literal and figurative) and the tantalizing, destructive mythologization of the Writer's Life. While the scale is immense, McDonald's hand is deft, and we never forget that, at its center, this is a human story, complex and bruising and deeply felt. —MEGAN ABBOTT
"Print the Legend is a landmark book. Lassiter for me is the Flashman/Zelig of the new era, but with a ferocious literary knowledge that is worn so lightly. A book beyond genre, stunning." —KEN BRUEN
Craig McDonald's debut, Head Games, a relentlessly slick and action packed literary caper novel, was shortlisted for the Edgar, Anthony, Crimespress and Gumshoe awards for Best First Novel. Now, with Print the Legend, McDonald exceeds the extraordinary promise of his debut, delivering a consummate mystery about a conspiracy gone wrong, and the outer edges of creative jealousy and obsessive revenge.
It was the shot heard around the world: On July 2, 1961, Ernest Hemingway died from a shotgun blast to the head... 4 years later, two men have come to Idaho to confront the widow Hemingway—men who have doubts about the circumstances of Hemingway's death. One is crime novelist Hector Lassiter, the oldest and best of Hem's friends...the last man standing of the Lost Generation. Hector has heard rumors of some surviving Hemingway manuscripts: a "lost" chapter of A Moveable Feast and a full-length novel written by a deluded Hemingway that Hector fears might compromise his own reputation. The other man is professor Richard Paulson, who along with his pregnant wife Hannah, herself an aspiring writer, is bent on proving that Mary Hemingway murdered Papa. As Hector digs into the mystery of Hemingway's lost writings, he uncovers an audacious, decades-long conspiracy tied to the emergent art movements of 1920's Paris, the most duplicitous of Cold War espionage tactics, and J. Edgar Hoover's FBI...
To Have and Have Not
God knows people who are paid to have attitudes toward things, professional critics, make me sick; camp following eunuchs of literature. They won’t even whore. They’re all virtuous and sterile. And how well meaning and high minded. But they’re all camp followers.
"The house where he died. Call it the scene of the crime."
The scholar and his pregnant, newlywed Scottish wife walked along the berm, spooking some crows pecking at the bloated carcass of a black dog killed crossing U.S. Highway 75.
The scavengers scattered in a flurry of wings and reeling shadows and high- pitched shrieks, beaks dangling remnants of rotting flesh and pelt matted with dried blood. The big blue- black crows came to roost on a wire, cawing and flapping their wings at the academic and his bride peering at the house.
Richard Paulson pointed at the brown house with the three green garage doors. The home that was once known as the Topping House was surrounded by pines, and fronted one bare, cloud- shadowed hill and another dense with pine trees.
"It’s attractive," Hannah Paulson said, her voice a husky burr. She pushed her sunglasses back on her head. "Seems right for him. Rugged and handsome; built from the materials at hand."
Richard shook his head at his wife’s assessment. "From here it looks good enough, sure. By all accounts, it’s something else up close."
Hem’s house, which looked like alpine wood construction, was actually fabricated from poured concrete, stained brown and molded to resemble timber. They were the same construction techniques used at the Sun Valley Lodge, where the Paulsons had had lunch. One of Hem’s sons, Gregory, bitterly described the concrete house as a fortification fit for the paranoid man Greg’s father had allegedly been at the end.
Hem’s last wife, Mary, declared the house "depressing" shortly before she and Hem moved in during an October day in 1959.
"They say Mary will be moving soon," Richard said. "Mary’s lived here on and off since the day he died. Aaron says she may move to New York. Word is she’s mostly drunk these days. She talks of leaving the property to the Nature Conservancy. The home and fourteen acres of surrounding ground would be declared a preserve in Papa’s name if Mary did that."
Hannah stroked her blond hair behind her ears and wrinkled her nose. "How can Mary stand to live there after ? To have to step over the spot where he blew his brains out every time she passes through that entryway? It’s unthinkable."
"For you, sure. You’re using yourself as a yardstick for Mary. The two of you are nothing alike."
Richard squeezed his wife’s hand, the two small diamonds in Hannah’s wedding band and ring— the fourth pair of bands he had bought in his life— digging into his palm in a freshly unfamiliar way. "I just can’t believe anybody before me hasn’t seen it the way it must have been," Richard said. "I can’t believe it took me so long to see it truly."
"And how exactly was it, Richard? You’ve been cagey about all of this. What’s your scheme? Ready at last to share?"
Richard fingered the vial in his pocket— the mysterious drug given him by that man. He hated to throw in with their lot. Every scrap of his spirit and intellect rebelled against it. Still, in the service of a righteous cause . . .
This time, at least, Richard was on the side of the angels. He was sure of that. The ends, he comforted himself again, more than justified these dark means.
He said, "The famous suicide is nothing but a myth, Hannah. I know it. I think the old bitch killed her husband. I think Mary murdered poor sick Papa. Blew the ailing son of a bitch away with his own shotgun."
EXCERPT FROM THE FOURTH ANNUAL SUN VALLEY HEMINGWAY CONFERENCE PROGRAM
Keynote Speaker: Hector Mason Lassiter (1900–)
Biography: Noted screenwriter and crime novelist Hector Lassiter, popularly regarded as "the man who lives what he writes and writes what he lives," is by most measures also now recognized as "the last man standing of the Lost Generation."
As a novelist, Hector Lassiter represents a kind of vanishing breed of martial men skilled in American letters— an author of the sort typified by Ernest Hemingway. It is Mr. Lassiter’s long and storied association with Hemingway that uniquely qualifies him to keynote our fourth annual Hemingway conference here among the Sawtooth Mountains.
Hector Lassiter and Hemingway met while serving as ambulance drivers along the Italian front. Hemingway soon followed Lassiter to Paris, where the expatriate fiction writers honed their mutually iconic, distinctive, much lauded, and laconic prose styles.
Later, Papa followed Lassiter to Key West, where they weathered the Great Depression, writing, fishing, and allegedly rescuing Cuban refugees between novels, nonfiction books, and screenplays.
They also shared the early days of the Spanish Civil War, and both men ran afoul of military authorities during the Second World War for allegedly stepping outside their proscribed roles as war correspondents and actually organizing their own guerilla units—
Excerpted from Print the Legend by Craig McDonald.
Copyright © 2010 by Craig McDonald.
Published in February 2010 by Minotaur Books.
All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.
Posted December 21, 2009
On July 2, 1961, writer Ernest Hemingway apparently committed suicide with a shotgun blast to his head. Four years later, a "Papa" academia conference in Sun Valley, Idaho is convened. Expected to make an appearance is the late great writer's third and last wife Mary.
Three men arriving in Sun Valley hope to meet with the widow demanding she answer questions they have surrounding her husband's death. The last survivor of the Lost Generation, Hemingway's friend crime novelist Hector Lassiter has heard rumors that manuscripts never published exist; including a novel by the deluded Papa that casts several of his friends in a bad light. Hemingway scholar Professor Richard Paulson and his pregnant wife Hannah believe Mary killed Hemingway and they plan to prove it. They seek the truth not out of some form of justice as the Paulsons believe she committed a mercy killing, but to make his reputation. The third person on a mission is aging FBI Agent Donovan Creedy who obsessively believes a homicide occurred and just can't let it go.
The premise that Mary killed her husband Hemingway in a mercy killing is carried out brilliantly in the latest Hector Lassiter mystery (see Toros & Torsos). The cast makes the tale as the three men; Mary and Papa (through the memories of Mary and Hec, and the beliefs of Creedy and Paulson) collide in 1965 Idaho. Fans will be enthralled as Print the Legend is a terrific historical thriller that grips readers with its exciting look at the shocking 1961 death of a literary great.
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Posted July 5, 2014
McDonald's tale of crime, fraud, academic vainglory and the erection of myths is a tour de force. An original embroidery on an actual event -- Ernest Hemingway's 1961 suicide in Idaho -- Print the Legend weaves together McCarthyism, the CIA and a bushel of secrets and lies unearthed by one of the more unlikely mystery heroes in recent memory: 60+ year-old Hemingway crony and crime-fiction author Hector Lassiter.
Vivid settings, sharp characterizations and spot-on dialog make this trip through Papa's legend an Ellroy-esque roll in historical mud. Acid portraits abound of people both real (Hemingway's venomous widow Mary) and fictional (the unctuous academician, a Javert-like spook-nemesis). The action when it occurs is fast and clearly drawn; a birth scene late in the story is more horrific than many a fictional murder I've read. Lassiter is fine, cranky company through the tangled web of myth and reality.
Lassiter appears in some of McDonald's other works. If he's as good company in these other books as he is in this one, I have some reading to do.