Considering that it revolves around Ernest Hemingway’s 1961 suicide by shotgun, I suppose it would be indelicate of me to say that Craig McDonald’s Print the Legend blew me away, but in the noir spirit of the book I’ll say it anyway. Most of the action takes place four years later at a 1965 academic conference about Hemingway in Idaho, close to the scene of the crime. Slimy University of Michigan professor Richard Paulson, his spunky wife Hannah, Hem’s friend and fellow manly writer Hector Lassiter and shadowy FBI agent Donovan Creedy all come together with widow Mary Hemingway and a gaggle of fatuous academics to struggle for the great man’s legacy and shed light on his death.
Everyone has their own agenda, Paulson trying to prove that Hemingway was murdered, Creedy seeking information damaging to J. Edgar Hoover, and Lassiter looking to bolster his own literary reputation as well as protecting that of his friend. Things get wild and wooly quickly, McDonald effortlessly spooning Hemingway fact and legend into a mix that includes booze, stolen and forged manuscripts, LSD, gunplay and murder—the most shocking scene of all occurring in our very own Ann Arbor after pregnant Hannah’s return.
The academic world is novel territory for noir fiction, but McDonald makes it his own with truly impressive originality and ingenuity. While not quite achieving the immersive period authenticity of Megan Abbott or the twisted, dark vision of James Ellroy, McDonald carves out his own patch of the neo-noir landscape in Print the Legend, and, like Hemingway himself, does it with breathtaking brio. (Jamie)