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Write From Wrong by Craig McDonald

September 1, 2021

Hector Lassiter returns in dazzling form in Craig McDonald’s latest book Write From Wrong. In case you are unfamiliar with old Hec, allow me to introduce you. Lassiter is a novelist, adventurer and warrior who bears an uncanny resemblance to the actor William Holden. As befitting someone with movie-star looks and an inexhaustible supply of courage, Lassiter is catnip to the many beautiful women he meets on his travels through the past century. Being Lassiter’s female companion often proves dangerous, though, as the author is stalked by tragedy.

Lassiter was born on January 1, 1900, and is imbued with longevity. He witnesses the seminal events of the twentieth century: the Punitive Expedition, the Great War, the Spanish Civil War, World War Two and its many after-effects. This rich history influences his writing as he drifts through the literary movements of one era to the next. Hector can be found hanging out with the Lost Generation in Paris in One True Sentence, or coming to blows with a cabal of murderous artists in Toros & Torsos. The latest volume in the Lassiter saga, Write From Wrong, is a collection of short stories in which McDonald deftly moves the setting from one country and time period to another. We see Lassiter plying his trade with the Black Mask boys in LA and New York in the 1930s, scribes whose hardboiled prose is still influencing crime writers ninety years later. In ‘F For Fake’ Lassiter meets his aging pal Orson Welles in Paris at the tail-end of Welles’s more than two-decade long exile in Europe where he went in search of artistic freedom. As Lassiter observes, there is ‘something almost majestic about the big, bearded actor – a kind of air of a noble ruin or grand half-collapsed abbey.’

The novella that ties this collection together is set in and around Put-in-Bay, a tiny village on South Bass Island in Lake Erie in 1927. As remote as it seems, these waters were the sight of a decisive naval battle during the War of 1812. By the 1920s they had become a major bootlegging route during Prohibition. Lassiter arrives to find that people have been turning up dead with alarming regularity and in mysterious circumstances, including an old army buddy of his. He suspects the loathsome Usher Krutch. Supposedly an associate of Al Capone, Krutch is a villain so evil he may well be the devil incarnate. Lassiter’s weakness is women, and his private investigation into Krutch is almost derailed by the appearance of the alluring Verity Chisholm. Beautiful and intelligent, Verity appears to be the perfect woman, but in vino veritas (even in the age of Prohibition) soon shows his new squeeze isn’t everything she appears to be.

A Lassiter tale is a mixture of Chekhov’s gun and the Butterfly Effect. A firearm introduced in chapter one must go off by chapter two, but the full ripples of that discharge might not be felt till seventy years later. Case in point, doesn’t that crime writer named James who Lassiter meets at a Baltimore Convention in 1986 bear an uncanny resemblance to Armand Ellroy, his old comrade in arms from the Punitive Expedition? There are many great crime writers referenced in Write From Wrong, and with the Hector Lassiter series, Craig McDonald has carved his own unique place in the genre. Treat yourself to a copy of Write From Wrong, and delve into the world of Hector Lassiter – the world’s greatest fictional crime writer.

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