Tuesday, March 2, 2010

"Print the Legend"

Craig McDonald is the Edgar and Anthony nominated novelist of Head Games, Toros & Torsos, and the newly released Print the Legend. His nonfiction titles include Art in the Blood, a collection of interviews with 20 major crime authors, and Rogue Males: Conversations and Confrontations About the Writing Life.

He applied the Page 69 Test to Print the Legend and reported the following:
My new novel, Print the Legend, explores the death of Ernest Hemingway in July 1961.

It also examines the issue of Hemingway’s posthumous books: Hem’s last wife, Mary, edited and re-titled such works as A Moveable Feast and Islands in the Stream, falsely claiming they were being presented in the form in which her late husband intended.

Print the Legend finds my continuing character, novelist Hector Lassiter, the oldest and best of Hem's friends — “the last man standing of the Lost Generation” — journeying to 1965 Idaho to keynote a Hemingway conference. Hector has heard intimations of some surviving Hemingway manuscripts, including a "lost" chapter of A Moveable Feast and a full-length manuscript written by a deluded Hemingway that Hector fears might compromise or harm his own reputation.

The novel touches frequently on the relation of the artist’s life to his work and the ways in which biography can inform fiction — a concept that Hector Lassiter, an author known as “the man who lives what he writes and writes what he lives,” is all too-familiar with.

Page 69 of Print the Legend actually concludes a document purporting to be that lost chapter of A Moveable Feast centered on Hector. In the “lost chapter,” Hector and Hem are dining together in a Paris café, circa Christmas, 1924.

In the context of Hemingway’s sketch, both men are young writers, still some ways from achieving notoriety for their fiction. Hemingway is married and the father of a young boy; Hector, an only-child, is single and ruing that fact. On page 69, the sketch ends, and Hector is left wondering about its authenticity — a theme that goes to the heart of the novel.

Excerpt of the “lost chapter”:
He pointed to the gift for our son. “I’ve got no brother or sisters, so I’ll never have nieces or nephews, either. I’m afraid Bumby fulfills that need for me. Christ, Hem, please let me have my Christmas. Without it, I’m left to decorating trees in the gardens with fallen women. What kind of Yule is that? You can’t appreciate family, truly, when you have one. When you don’t, it’s all you think about.”
Then, as Hector finishes reading Hem’s sketch, he begins to resent some of the alleged lost chapter’s content:
Hector sighed and bit his lip and sipped more wine. Hem’s sketch of that long-gone Christmas Eve was accurate, and it wasn’t. Much of the distortion—perhaps intended…probably intended—came in the omissions. It was tucked into the spaces between the lines.
As Hector concludes his reading of the sketch, he decides that while Hem probably composed much of the “lost chapter,” another hand or two may have left a mark on the document — a suspicion that continues to fire the novel’s central conflicts.
Read more about Print the Legend, and learn more about the author and his work at Craig McDonald's website, blog, and Crimespace page.

Check out the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue