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French Mass Market Paperback

Toros & Torsos


The third novel in the Edgar®-nominated Hector Lassiter series

2009 Crimespree Award finalist for Favorite Book

2009 Crimespree Award finalist for Best in an Ongoing Series

One of Woody Hauts' Favorites of 2009

"Nothing short of a surrealistic masterwork."

"This is granite poetry in all its stone glory."

"Deftly mixes myth, history... McDonald's imaginative tale takes an enjoyably different approach to art and murder."

Read more praise here.

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Hector Lassiter is a legendary crime novelist who writes what he lives and lives what he writes. But Hector frequently goes a step beyond, drawing friends and lovers into the tawdry and turbulent territory of his fiction. Now, the large-living pulp author has at last met his match in the ultimate performance artist: a phantom killer committed to the art of murder… a blood-thirsty provocateur who leaves a string of macabre tableaus modeled on famous works of surrealist painting and photography…

Against the vivid backdrops of a killer hurricane that nearly destroyed the Florida Keys in 1935, the Spanish Civil War, post-war Hollywood and the first days of the Castro regime in Cuba, Hector engages in a decades-long duel against a cabal of killer artists…

As in its Edgar®-nominated predecessor Head Games, history and myth merge, drawing on recent scholarship pointing to the existence of a dark underground of artists, photographers and art collectors that flourished in Europe and United States through most of the Twentieth Century.

In a blood-limned haze of love, deception, murderous metaphor and devastating betrayal, nothing is what it seems and obsession and creativity collide in a wicked and unexpected climax that will shake the art world to its foundations…

Read an excerpt here.

Check out the book group questions here.

Order now!

Bleak House Books, hardcover, October 2008: ISBN: 978-1-60648-000-7
Bleak House Books, trade paperback, October 2008: ISBN: 978-1-60648-001-4
Evidence Collection, October 2008: ISBN: 978-1-60648-002-1
Betimes Books, trade paperback, August 2014: ISBN: 978-0992967406

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"A bold, ambitious, genre-bending novel from the talented Craig McDonald."

"In Toros & Torsos Craig McDonald takes pop culture, real people and invented action to create a powerful novel of suspense. It gives one the slippery sensation of time-travelling with characters you'd always wished you could meet and suddenly you can. McDonald is knowing and artful, and the suspense pushes at a lovely pace until it starts to stomp like Hemingway on an empty bota."

"In his lush, sprawling second novel, Toros & Torsos, Craig McDonald draws together both the timeliest markers of mid-century America—modernism, surrealism, film noir, pulp fiction, communism—and the eternal touchstones of classic crime literature—desire, chaos, obsession and loss. It is a bold, bloody landscape, but McDonald never lets its scale become so big that we lose sight of the lively characters at its dark center. Wily and wistful Hector Lassiter, a complicated, rueful and haunted Ernest Hemingway and dozens more draw us close to their chests, anchor us, win our favor and, in the end, break our hearts."
   — MEGAN ABBOTT, Edgar® Award-winning author of QUEENPIN

"Toros & Torsos is a book that, in its scope and politics, I've come to greatly admire. At a time when, aside from the likes of Ellroy, most crime fiction has become increasingly localized, Toros & Torsos moves from Florida to Cuba to Spain to the US, and, spanning three decades, from the 1930s to the 1950s. I had my doubts about McDonald being able to carry this off, but he does and it was only a matter of a few pages before I had fallen under the novel's spell...Toros & Torsos, from the novel's opening scene to its denouement, critiques the effect of masculine values on the culture, and examines the relationship between reality and fiction. And by looking at the sexual politics of surrealism, McDonald addresses the nature of metaphor...Toros & Torsos illustrates that McDonald can handle complex material and on the basis of this one book, has become, along with Megan Abbott, one of the more interesting crime writers to have emerged over the past couple years."
   —WOODY HAUT, author of NEON NOIR, HEARTBREAK AND VINE (Read the full review here)

"The second novel from Craig McDonald may be even more extraordinary than his critically acclaimed debut Head Games, which was a 2008 Edgar® Award finalist for Best First Novel. Once again featuring hard drinking, hard-living crime fiction novelist Hector Lassiter, McDonald begins Toros & Torsos in 1935 Key West, where the middle-aged genre fictionist is preparing for a killer hurricane with his latest sexual conquest, a young fashion journalist named Rachel Harper. But when she is brutally murdered and displayed in a decidedly surrealist style—decapitated and gutted with a bouquet of roses placed inside her midsection—Lassiter begins what becomes a decades-long game of cat-and-mouse with a group of globe-hopping surrealist artists who may not only be sexually decadent but cunning serial killers as well. McDonald blends together historical backdrops (the Spanish Civil War, pre-Castro Cuba, etc.) and more than a few cultural icons (Ernest Hemingway, Orson Welles and Rita Hayworth, to name just a few) with a hard-boiled story line to create an original and truly inspired read that simply transcends the boundaries of genre fiction. Replete with spot-on historical atmospherics and striking symbolism and imagery, Toros & Torsos will appeal to fans of crime fiction and literary fiction alike—nothing short of a surrealistic masterwork."

"Crime writer and ladies' man Hector Lassiter (Head Games) makes a return appearance in McDonald's outstanding second series effort. Spanning over a quarter-century and moving from Miami to Hollywood with stops in Spain and Cuba for a civil war and a revolution, respectively, this novel displays McDonald's storytelling and writing skills. The novel begins during the great Florida hurricane of 1935, when Hec comes to the rescue of a damsel in distress. Quickly falling for her, he is devastated when she turns up as the latest victim of an apparent serial killer. But this is not the end of the story: McDonald is only getting started with a tale involving a serial killer, a dysfunctional family, the world of abstract art, and a supporting cast that includes Ernest Hemingway and Orson Welles. McDonald wows with his writing, which seems effortless despite using many voices, and his book will keep readers rapt. Highly recommended for all public libraries."

"In Hec Lassiter's debut (Head Games, 2007), the raffish crime novelist was menaced by Mexican federales and wizened banditos, CIA agents, and lunatic Yalies, all determined to wrest from Hec the head of Pancho Villa. Head Games was an over-the-top road trip through the history and myth of mid-twentieth-century America. Toros & Torsos is similar, but very different. This time Hec is palling with Hemingway in Key West and preparing for what proves to be the devastating 1935 hurricane. A young woman there is disemboweled, and her torso is stuffed with machine parts. Hec immediately connects the murder to surrealist art and journeys to the battlefront of the Spanish civil war, Hollywood and Cuba in search of the artistic murderer. Orson Welles, Rita Hayworth, Salvador Dali and John Dos Passos all turn up in juicy cameos and the details on the hurricane, the Spanish war, and surrealism are the product of careful research. This is less of a romp than Head Games, darker and richer, with Hec less a cartoon action hero and more a fully fleshed lead character."

"Spanning the years from 1935 to 1959, Edgar®-finalist McDonald's second novel to feature crime novelist Hector Lassiter (after 2007's Head Games) deftly mixes myth, history and a serial killer who arranges dead bodies to resemble surrealistic art. Lassiter, whose work embodies the "write what you live and live what you write" ethos, loves hard, drinks hard... As a popular author, Lassiter interacts with such notables as Ernest Hemingway and Orson Welles, whom the author skillfully animates. Other celebrities of the day make cameo appearances. Solidly grounded in such actual events as the Key West hurricane of 1935, the Spanish Civil War and Cuba's last days before Castro, McDonald's imaginative tale takes an enjoyably different approach to art and murder."

"Craig McDonald's novel is astounding, covering everything from top class mystery to a real depiction of such notaries as The Surrealists and Hemingway and literally makes them live and breathe. I always felt I had a good grasp on Hemingway, now I feel I know him, such is the sheer artistry of the writing. This is granite poetry in all its stone glory. Cross Cormac McCarthy with Craig Holden and throw in the wizardry of Pete Dexter, then you come close to realizing how amazing this novel is."

"Wanna feel some American history? Read Toros & Torsos...a scary trip down memory lane with Papa Hemingway, Orson Welles, Rita Hayworth and a group of artists unable to distinguish the real from the surreal. Your guide for this cross-continent chase is the honorable, loveable and fearless Hector Lassiter. McDonald shoots to the top of the crime writing heap with this well-researched and excellently written masterpiece of Americana."

"McDonald's sophomore effort is a lot of fun, as the author effortlessly and credibly incorporates his characters and storyline into such real life happenings as the Labor Day hurricane of 1935, the Spanish Civil War, the filming of The Lady from Shanghai, and the Black Dahlia murders. Toros & Torsos manages to convey interesting historical tidbits even as it entertains. Although lethal tough guy Lassiter is indeed larger than life, his presence among the likes of Hemingway and (Orson) Welles feels appropriate, as if he actually were a vital part of that notable crowd. Add McDonald's myriad, but uniformly clever, allusions to all things noir to the mix, and you get one captivating read."

"The twists and turns in Toros & Torsos boggle the mind when viewed from a distance. When one is in the middle of the book, it all flows seamlessly. Hector's place, just off the center of several social circles, never seems unusual or unlikely. The well-known figures that he interacts with seem just as real as Hector does. Toros & Torsos is a novel of deceptions, large and small, and obsessions. Set against the background of the Spanish Civil War, the HUAC activities, and the artistic circle that included Hemingway, Dos Passos, Orson Welles, and the like, Toros & Torsos is a ripping good read."

"This is the rare book that exceeds and expands its genre while also succeeding in it. If you've been longing for a femme fatale with emphasis on the femme while the fatale is original and horrifying, then this is a must read for you. The narrative wraps around itself in the impossible manner of a Mobius strip, or perhaps an Escher drawing." See full review here.

"McDonald has created a surreal story in which surrealism itself goes on trial and is found very, very guilty. Dual identity, debauchery, fascists and anarchists, film stars and critics, hurricane, civil war, spying, McCarthyism...all of that and more gets wrapped around a series of murders that shows up 'cute' psychopaths such as Showtime's Dexter as the pretenders they are... The most ambitious, outstanding work of crime fiction in many a decade. And that may be an understatement."

"McDonald's writing cuts as deep as Sweeney Todd's straight razor. Toros & Torsos confirms McDonald as a distinctive new voice in crime fiction."

"About a year ago, it seemed anybody with even the slightest interest in crime fiction was talking my ear off about Head Games, the debut novel from Craig McDonald. Head Games was sort of like if McCarthy's No Country For Old Men had a sense of humor and a bunch of fun noir pop culture mixed into the plot. No goddamn joke, T&T is even better than Head Games, a feat that I didn't think possible...The horrible, shocking, satisfying, disgusting choices that Lassiter eventually has to make at the end? It's just so quietly brilliant, so fucking subtly bold an ending. Toros & Torsos is ridiculously awesome."

"(Hector) the draw here. His personality is engaging and the scenes with him just crackle. He is quickly becoming a modern classic and one of the great characters of the genre. As gender roles continue to change and evolve it's interesting to read such an accurately portrayed man of his times, without the filter of modern sensibilities, warts and all, and come away loving him."

TOROS & TORSOS also made several top 10 Lists for novels published in 2008 and received other year-end honors:

"Hector Lassiter is a compelling character, and an unusual one for a series player. McDonald paints a broad canvas that stretches from pre-World War I to the late 1960s. Not your typical crime novel, but then McDonald is not your typical writer."
   —JANUARY MAGAZINE'S BEST OF 2008 (read more here)

"When I look back over this year's body of reading, the book that stood, if you will forgive a horrible pun as well as a cliché, head and shoulders above all of the others, was Toros & Torsos by Craig McDonald. T&T has everything a good crime fiction novel ought to have and then some. Original story line, fascinating characters, a flowing narrative. It also has a complex structure, erudition, cool mind games, tension, and subtlety."

"A ferocious, wildly ambitious novel and a grand way to close out a year's worth of reading."
   —VINCE KEENAN (read more here)

"The Hector Lassiter novels are so ambitious, so meticulously researched, so ingenious that just about anybody who enjoys good fiction can appreciate them. Thankfully for hard-ass pulp fans like me, McDonald also fucking BRINGS IT with the noir goodies as well. This guy covers all the bases in an unforced, refreshing, beautiful way. Hector Lassiter LIVES!"
   —NERD OF NOIR (read more here)

Toros & Torsos was also selected as a top 10 crime novel for 2008 by Patrick Millikin of Arizona's Poisoned Pen Bookstore.

"His first novel, Head Games, was nominated for an Edgar as best (first) mystery of the year. Toros & Torsos is even better, much better. The most mind-bending novel I've read since discovering Ellroy."

"If Toros somehow doesn't prove to be one of the breakout books of the year, then, next year, everyone's going to go back to find it. Readers of Head Games, the wild road thriller of the decade, may have wondered how crime master pulp writer Hector Lassiter developed into the character depicted in that story. Toros provides lots of answers: surrealist serial killers tracking through the 1935 Keys hurricane, 1937 in wartime Madrid, and 1947 Hollywood under siege by the HUAC. And Lassiter always hangs out with the most interesting people-Hemingway, Dos Passos, Orson Welles. This is lots of (dark) fun."

"Many writers will TALK about 'pushing boundaries' or 'transcending genre.' McDonald DOES those things with flair and panache. Toros & Torsos isn't traditional; it isn't conventional. It's thought-provoking; it's brilliant; and it's a must-read."
   —JEN'S BOOK THOUGHTS (read more here)

"The brilliance of McDonald's writing is that each book in the Hector Lassiter series (to this point) is told differently. As a reader you get a new perspective on the players in the story. Head Games is the first in the Lassiter series however, I recommend starting with Toros & Torsos. Regardless of which one you pick up first, each book is designed to stand alone. This series is a must read for any fan of hardboiled noir fiction!"

"Look for Hemingway to play Dr. Watson to Hector Lassiter's Sherlock Holmes in Toros & Torsos by Craig McDonald. This darkly comic noir has the erstwhile pulp writer and his literati drinking buddy investigating a series of murders committed to resemble surrealist photographs and paintings in 1930s Madrid. Obsession and creativity collide in this novel in a way that would make Hemingway proud to be a part of such an atmospheric and artistic work."

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Craig recently put TOROS & TORSOS through Marshal Zeringue's popular PAGE 69 TEST which examines page 69 of a novel to see how representative that page is of the rest of the book. Read the results here. More here.

Crime author Jim Winter interviews Craig at The Rap Sheet.

Novelist Tom Piccirilli interviews Craig at The Big Adios.

Bleak House editor Alison Janssen interviews Craig for Pulp Pusher.

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Published by Bleak House Books
French translation coming from Belfond