Monday, December 14, 2009

Book: Print the Legend, by Craig McDonald (2010)

Other websites may be offering lists of 2009’s finest1, but around here we’re more forward thinking. Permit me instead to tease you with a word about one of the best books you’ll read next year2.

Print the Legend is the third novel by Craig McDonald featuring Hector Lassiter, the man who lives what he writes and writes what he lives. And it’s a full-on tour de force.

Hec’s longtime friend Ernest Hemingway is four years in the ground when Hec consents to address an Idaho conference devoted to Papa’s life and work. But Hec’s got more to reckon with than a speech. There are his own unsettled feelings about his compatriot. And the dogged efforts of a scholar intent on proving that Hemingway’s suicide was in fact a coldblooded murder committed by Papa’s wife Mary – a theory that Hec can’t easily dismiss. Plus Hec’s burgeoning affection for said scholar’s pregnant wife. Not to mention Mary Hemingway’s own plans for Papa’s legacy and Hec’s role in it. And above all, the twisted machinations of Donovan Creedy, the hack novelist, government operative and dirty tricks specialist with shades of E. Howard Hunt.

Not many authors would dare to write a missing chapter from Hem’s A Moveable Feast. Fewer would pull it off as McDonald does here. He then follows up with a beautifully structured section jumping between the POVs of his five major characters at a single treacherous meeting. Late in the book there’s an extended description of let’s say physical courage that Papa himself would approve of. Me, I went pale just reading it.

Print the Legend moves with the intensity of a fever dream, driven by Hec’s zeal for life. If the book has a weakness, it’s the notion that Creedy’s abstract plan has a hope in hell against the force of nature that is Hector Lassiter.

Why am I tormenting you with praise for a book that doesn’t come out until February? Because McDonald offers a few tantalizing hints of the next book in the series, set in 1958 Nashville, and that’s at least another year away. It’s only fair that we all suffer together.

1Don’t worry. Such a post is coming.

2Yeah, FTC, I got a review copy. Whatcha gonna do about it?