Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Craig McDonald

Edgar®-nominee Craig McDonald is an award-winning journalist, editor and fiction writer. His short fiction has appeared in literary magazines, anthologies and several online crime fiction sites. His novels include four entries in the Hector Lassiter series.

His new standalone novel is El Gavilan.

Not so long ago I asked McDonald what he was reading. His reply:
Each year seems to exact more demands that cut into my leisure reading time.

Consequently, the past couple of years I’ve been looking for reading materials that don’t require long form dedication from me: I’m drawn to books I can dip into here and there for twenty or thirty minutes without risking losing the thread of the narrative if a couple days pass between reading sessions.

To that end, I’ve been concentrating more on shorter, or more fragmented reading fare.

I just finished savoring Denis Johnson’s spare, wonderfully written novella Train Dreams about the very American life of early-twentieth century man Robert Grainier, a man whose life was expanded, bounded and defined by rail tracks and the country’s westward expansion. I owe that read to singer-songwriter-painter Tom Russell, who urged Johnson’s latest on me during a conversation after a concert a few weeks back. Russell, who is on something of a Johnson reading tear presently, said it was one of the most vital pieces of fiction he’s read recently. TR was right, and now I urge you to give it a read.

At this writing, I’m slowly moving through Daniel Woodrell’s powerful collection of short fiction, The Outlaw Album. I’ve long been an admirer of Woodrell’s distinctive, memorable prose style, but recently had the privilege of sharing a stage with Mr. Woodrell during a book event in Quebec. Hearing the author read his own short story “Returning the River” a couple of weeks back, has put a different narrative voice and rhythm in my head when reading Woodrell’s work, bringing a whole new dimension of appreciation to this terrific prose stylist’s fiction.

My remaining long-term reading project that lends itself to incremental reading stems from my long and ongoing preoccupation with Ernest Hemingway. I’m steadily working my way through the first volume of The Letters of Ernest Hemingway (1907-1922). Many previously unpublished and newly discovered letters are contained in this first entry and reveal a very different side of the then tyro-prose stylist who was groping his way toward fiction writing…call it a portrait of the artist before fame became of him.

When I say this is a long-term reading project I mean it in every sense: Volume 1 (weighing in at a dense 432 pages) was only recently released and is the first of a projected 18-volume masterwork.
Visit Craig McDonald's website and blog.

My Book, The Movie: El Gavilan.

The Page 69 Test: El Gavilan.

--Marshal Zeringue