Craig McDonald

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Craig McDonald
Craig McDonald, German Village
BornCraig Mason McDonald
Columbus, Ohio, United States
OccupationNovelist and Journalist
GenreCrime fiction, historical literary fiction, non-fiction

Craig McDonald is a novelist/journalist and the author of the Hector Lassiter series, the Chris Lyon Series, the novel El Gavilan, and two collections of interviews with fiction writers, Art in the Blood (2006) and Rogue Males (2009). He also edited the anthology, Borderland Noir (2015).

Born in Columbus, Ohio, he grew up in Grove City, Ohio, a fictionalized version of which serves as the setting for his 2011 work of fiction, El Gavilan.

McDonald’s debut novel, Head Games (2007), was nominated for the Edgar Award, the Anthony Award and the Gumshoe Award in the U.S. for best first novel, as well as the 2011 Sélection du prix polar Saint-Maur en Poche in France.


In 2006, Craig McDonald published a collection of interviews with crime and thriller writers, Art In the Blood, featuring Q&A-style conversations with genre novelists discussing the craft of writing. A sequel interview collection, Rogue Males, followed in 2009, from Bleak House Books. That collection was a finalist for a Macavity Award for nonfiction.

In 2007, McDonald published his debut novel, Head Games. The novel received American and European awards attention, including Edgar Award and Anthony Award nominations for Best First Novel by an American Author in 2008. Head Games features fictional novelist/screenwriter Hector Lassiter, a character McDonald introduced in a 2005 short story (The Last Interview) that was selected for an online Mississippi Review anthology of “High Pulp.” The novel launched a series of further books featuring the Lassiter character. The Lassiter novels have been translated into German, Italian, French, Spanish, Russian, Mongolian and Korean, among other languages. A graphic novel adaptation of Head Games scripted by McDonald was announced for release in fall, 2017 by First Second Books.

Writing style/major themes[edit]

McDonald's Lassiter series uses historical crimes and personages, including several appearances by Ernest Hemingway and Orson Welles.

The voice and style of the Lassiter novels have drawn comparisons to James Crumley and James Ellroy,[1] both of whom McDonald interviewed as a journalist and whom he has confirmed in interviews and essays as significant influences. McDonald's works have also been compared to those of James Carlos Blake[2] and Jack Kerouac,[3] among others.

In 2010, crime fiction critic and scholar Woody Haut described McDonald as "one of the few writers who can move comfortably within a post-Ellroy framework of crime fiction."[4]

In her study, The Noir Thriller (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), in a chapter examining "Literary Noir in the Twenty-First Century," Lee Horsley identified McDonald as one of several "neo-noir" authors who embody "a recurrent motif of men in pursuit of a lost, treacherously illusive notion of masculinity …" [5]

Picking up a similar theme, Woody Haut, critiquing McDonald's second-published novel, Toros & Torsos, commented, "(McDonald) critiques the effect of masculine values on the culture, and examines the relationship between reality and fiction."[6] Hector Lassiter, known to readers and critics as the man who writes what he lives and lives what he writes, eventually comes to use himself as a character in his own novels as the series unfolds.


The Hector Lassiter series[edit]

  1. One True Sentence (Minotaur 2011; Betimes Books 2014)
  2. Forever's Just Pretend (Betimes Books 2014)
  3. Toros & Torsos (Bleak House 2008; Betimes Books 2014)
  4. The Great Pretender (Betimes Books 2014)
  5. Roll the Credits (Betimes Books 2014)
  6. The Running Kind (Betimes Books 2014)
  7. Head Games (Bleak House 2007; Betimes Books 2015)
  8. Print the Legend (Minotaur 2010; Betimes Books 2015)
  9. Death In the Face (Betimes Books 2015)
  10. Three Chords & The Truth (Betimes Books 2016)

Other Hector Lassiter books[edit]

  • Head Games: The Graphic Novel (First Second Books 2017)
  • Once A World (Down & Out Books, July 15, 2019)
  • Write From Wrong: The Hector Lassiter Short Stories (Betimes Books, Spring 2020)

The Chris Lyon series[edit]

  1. Parts Unknown (Night Town Books 2012)
  2. Carnival Noir (Night Town Books 2013)
  3. Cabal (Night Town Books 2013)
  4. Angels of Darkness (Night Town Books 2013)



  • Borderland Noir, Editor (Betimes Books 2015): Featured short stories and essays by a range of writers on U.S. and Mexico border tensions, including Tom Russell, Ken Bruen, James Sallis, Manuel Ramos and Martín Solares.
  • El Gavilan (Tyrus Books 2011): Received a starred review from Publishers Weekly. The standalone novel is set in New Austin, Ohio—a fictionalized version of Grove City, Ohio—and deals with the impact of illegal immigration from Mexico into the United States on the smalltown Midwest. The novel also ties into the Chris Lyon series, featuring Chris' cousin, Tell.

Nominations and awards[edit]

Year Award Work Nominee/Winner
2008 Edgar Award for the best first novel[8] Head Games Finalist
2008 Anthony Award for the best first novel[9] Head Games Finalist
2008 Crimespree Award[10] Head Games Finalist
2008 Gumshoe Award for the best first novel[11] Head Games Finalist
2010 Macavity Award for best mystery nonfiction[12] Rogue Males: Conversations & Confrontations About the Writing Life Finalist

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Paul Goat Allen, Chicago Tribune, Bruce Tierney, Bookpage, September 2007
  2. ^ Patrick Millikin, The Poisoned Pen, 2007
  3. ^ Paul Goat Allen, Chicago Tribune, 2007
  4. ^
  5. ^ Horsley, Lee. The Crime Files: The Noir Thriller. Palgrave MacMillan; 2. edition, 2009.
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-02-07. Retrieved 2012-04-03.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^