Whitehurst’s Top Reads of 2022

2022 was a tough bastard. For so many reasons.

With that pointed out, it’s no surprise there wasn’t as much literary action. But there is a top five. There’s always got to be one. And the books I read were all killer.

As always, the top five for the year aren’t made up solely of books that came out in 2022. Some of them did of course, but not all. Follow the links on the book titles to get your copy.

Dark Obsessions by Marie Sutro

San Francisco Police Detective Kate Barnes comes in swinging in “Dark Obsessions,” the second suspense thriller by Marie Sutro and the 2022 recipient of the “Best Suspense Novel” from Authors on the Air. Barnes was first introduced in “Dark Associations” (winner of the 2018 Independent Book Publishers Association Benjamin Franklin Award), and her second outing drops our fearless detective protagonist into the Olympic Peninsula, specifically the town of Eagle’s Nest, Washington, where she meets Sheriff Tony Luchasetti, and she is quickly wrapped up in a new, stormy investigation. Like book one in the Kate Barnes series, each adventure can be enjoyed as a standalone novel. In Dark Obsessions surprises and nail biting suspense are in full vigor. Fans of dark, taut thrillers will find plenty to love in Sutro’s rousing Kate Barnes novel.

Five Moves of Doom by A.J. Devlin

A. J. Devlin’s freshman book “Cobra Clutch” introduced the world to former wrestler-turned-private eye “Hammerhead” Jed. We saw the character evolve in the second book “Rolling Thunder” and in 2022 readers were treated to “Five Moves of Doom,” the third muscle-flexing entry in Devlin’s tough-as-nails, banana-shaking mystery series. This time, a more seasoned Jed faces his toughest challenge yet, his own shortcomings. When he’s hired to retrieve a missing UFC Championship belt, he sets out to infiltrate the world of mixed martial arts and hits his limit in the process. Dirt Harry in the movie Magnum Force uttered the words “A man’s got to know his limitations,” and we get a glimpse of what that means in Devlin’s superb new book.

The Mysterious Mr. Quin by Agatha Christie

While published back in 1930, “The Mysterious Mr. Quin” grabbed me just as easily in 2022 as it did for Agatha Christie’s fans back then. Her readers themselves continue to grow in numbers. Quin follows the Sherlock Holmes and Watson formula, or for Christie fans, the Hercule Poirot and Captain Hastings formula. In Quin we’re introduced to Mr. Satterthwaite, a bored English socialite looking for a bit of adventure. That wish is quickly realized when he meets up with a strange gentleman named Mr. Quin. The story of their relationship is told through a series of short stories that only adds to Quin’s oddly alluring persona. The two suss out various crimes by simply talking about them and the resulting stories are charming and provocative. A lesser-known Christie classic but not one to be missed.

Poser by Nevada McPherson

Nevada McPherson creates a memorable cast of low life characters in her debut novel, “Poser.” The book is the first in McPherson’s Eucalyptus Lane series, delivering a stark portrayal of life on the San Francisco streets. Poser introduces readers to Ambrose, who is a bit of a rogue, but his charm and snazzy looks keep him out of trouble most of the time. Only nothing lasts forever. A charade of secrets has a way of returning with a vengeance, not just for Ambrose but for the supporting cast introduced along the way. Be on the lookout for the second book in the series, “Cracker,” due out in 2023.

Sands of Dune by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson

Dune is nothing new to lovers of science fiction, particularly Frank Herbert’s original 1965 Masterpiece. With the success of the recent Dune film, that popularity has hitched a ride with a Guild Navigator and rocketed to the stars. Brian Herbert, Frank’s son, and Kevin J. Anderson have continued the Dune literary legacy with a growing library of spectacular space operas. “Sands of Dune,” shorter than most of their Dune books, is sci-fi candy for those seeking a taste of Arrakis, sandworms, and the all-important spice. Sands comes with four short novellas all set in different time periods and is an awesome companion piece for those building their temple of Dune.

Creatures and Screamers at Adrenaline Shots Comic

Thank you to Mistress Morphine and the awesome folks at Adrenaline Shots Comics (ASC) for taking my third story for them Creatures and Screamers, inspired by my favorite Saturday night show Creature Features!

Read the comic free here.

Lemme Get a Dog – new horror comic at Adrenaline Shots Comic

Be sure to check out my latest contribution to the wonderfully sinister Adrenaline Shots Comic, hosted by the weird and wild Mistress Morphine, which is out now! My story, “Lemme Get a Dog,” offers a short creeper of a tale featuring food trucks and time travel.

Read it free here!

FIVE MOVES OF DOOM – Review and interview with A.J. Devlin

A. J. Devlin’s freshman book “Cobra Clutch” won the 2019 Arthur Ellis Award and was named a finalist for the 2019 Left Coast Crime “Lefty” Awards. Not a bad feat for old “Hammerhead” Jed, who this month returns in the kickass “Five Moves of Doom,” the third muscle-flexing entry in Devlin’s tough-as-nails, banana-shaking crime series.

We last read of Jed’s exploits in 2020’s “Rolling Thunder,” which took readers into the rough and tumble world of roller derby. This time, a more seasoned Jed faces his toughest challenge yet, his own shortcomings. When he’s hired to retrieve a missing UFC Championship belt, he sets out to infiltrate the world of mixed martial arts fighters and hits his limit in the process. Dirt Harry in the movie Magnum Force uttered the words “A man’s got to know his limitations,” and we get a glimpse of what that means in Devlin’s superb new book.

Read below for an interview with Devlin himself!

WHITEHURST: First off, have you ever gotten to hold a UFC Championship belt?

DEVLIN: Now that is a question I have not been asked before! Alas, while I have been able to hold some ring bling in the past, it definitely was not a UFC belt.

WHITEHURST: We’ve seen pet snakes, roller derby, and now UFC belts in the Hammerhead series. What led to the idea for Jed’s third adventure?

DEVLIN: Two things for sure. The first being that at some point I always wanted to have Jed catch a case that would take him into the world of mixed martial arts, particularly the street level origins of this form of extreme combat, as in many ways it felt like it would provide perhaps the most daunting challenge yet for such a rough-and-tumble athlete-sleuth. The second idea, which fit nicely with MMA, was to take a guy like “Hammerhead” Jed, who is so defined by his physicality and used to being the biggest, toughest hoss in the room, and strip him not only of that advantage but also the one intrinsic element he relies upon most when the chips are down.

WHITEHURST: How would you describe “Five Moves of Doom” to a pro writer as opposed to a pro MMA fighter? Is that a weird question?

DEVLIN: I wouldn’t say weird but unique! I think I pretty much just answered in the previous question how I would describe Five Moves of Doom to a professional writer as it references the McGuffin of a stolen commemorative championship UFC belt and how that’s combined with a tough guy PI’s game-changing personal journey.

But to describe it to a pro MMA fighter I might boil it down to three things: a swiped strap, a grappling gumshoe, and some hardcore no-holds-barred beatdowns and brutality.

WHITEHURST: This one has yoga and goats. Tell me about that? Are you a yoga person?

DEVLIN: I always was intrigued by and admired yoga, but the spiritual aspect of the discipline never really appealed to me personally. However, when I learned professional wrestling legend and WWE Hall of Famer Diamond Dallas Page had created a hybrid yoga system called DDP Yoga (which focused more on working around and recovering from injuries in addition to building functional strength), I had to give it a try and was immediately hooked. From there I learned of other types of hybrid yoga, and once I saw that first YouTube video of people doing yoga with goats, it was just so quirky and offbeat it felt like the perfect business venture to have Jed’s upscale bookmaker ally engaged in when the character returned for the threequel.

WHITEHURST: Jed Ounstead is growing as a character, from his first adventure to his third, what are some of the ways you’ve worked to keep the character fresh?

DEVLIN: By trying in all the books to tell two separate stories – the mystery that Jed finds himself drawn into, but also a distinct character arc where he is forced to acknowledge, accept, and embrace things about himself that his cases cause him to confront.

The idea was always to have the title of each book – each the name of a wrestling move – to also serve as a metaphor for where Jed is in his life.

In Cobra Clutch, Jed is a washed-up pro-wrestling superstar and stuck in a rut working as a bouncer while his retired Vancouver Police Detective father is trying to coax his son into moving on by joining the family business as a licensed private investigator. A “Cobra Clutch” is also a particular wrestling hold, not that dissimilar from a head lock, in which a person is immobilized and stagnant.

“Rolling Thunder” is an aggressive aerial move, which was meant to reflect Jed being almost over-confident as a newly minted PI until his borderline hubris causes him to make a careless mistake that has deadly consequences.

And “Five Moves of Doom” are a series of attacks that telegraph to the audience the end of a wrestling match is near. This dovetailed nicely with Jed’s third and most challenging case yet – occurring a full year after the events of Cobra Clutch – and puts a button on his journey up to this point as a body slamming sleuth while hinting at a changing of the guard or finality to Jed’s new career. Without giving too much away, it’s also an ominous lingo used within the confines of the squared circle, and I wanted that feeling to permeate this story as it’s a kind of adversity that Jed has never faced before, whether it be as a wrestler, detective, or even as a man.

WHITEHURST: Last time we chatted, I asked about Jed as a TV show or film. Still waiting for that magic in my life! Any chance there’s something in the works?

DEVLIN: And what magic that could be! Coming from a screenwriting background I strive to make these novels as cinematic as possible, and the fact that people like yourself can envision this kind of escapist entertainment I’m trying to provide is about as high as praise can get in my opinion, so thank you. It’s definitely something that’s in the back of my mind, but like the time I take to craft these novels, it’s also something I would work very hard at trying to have happen the right way in order to do justice to a character that readers have so generously embraced and whose escapades they seem to enjoy.

WHITEHURST: Jed can be found on audiobook for those who like to hear their stories rather than read them. How has that process been for you? Did you enjoy hearing your words spoken aloud?

DEVLIN: It was pretty amazing. I subscribe to the theory of reading one’s work out loud to yourself a fair amount, as often it will sound different than in your head. But hearing the voice of Dan Condie, the talented performer who recorded the audiobook for Cobra Clutch, was a pinch yourself kind of moment. It was also a relief to hear him nail the voice of Jed’s cousin and former IRA operative cousin Declan, as I think my biggest fear was having the sidekick sound like the leprechaun from Lucky Charms commercials due to the abundance of Irish slang he uses in the novels.

WHITEHURST: As you write, have you noticed any changes in your writing habits? Is it getting easier or harder?

DEVLIN: Great question! In some ways easier for sure, as these series characters become more fully formed and familiar with each book, and I catch myself hearing them talk to me and feel at times as if I’m channeling their voices more so than I am writing them.

But the flip side is finding a way to identify and combine Jed’s next character arc with a new mystery in a way where readers are hopefully still getting to experience the same signature action and humor I hope my series is becoming known for, all while providing some emotional and narrative expansion that feels fresh, exciting, and like it’s an authentic and earned direction to take “Hammerhead” Jed and company.

WHITEHURST: What’s next for you and what’s next for Hammerhead Jed? Anything you can give away?

DEVLIN: More adventures for sure! But reaching the milestone of completing an actual trilogy of books has been much more rewarding than I initially anticipated, and while the door is open for future tales, there’s also a bit of closure at the end of Five Moves of Doom that was extremely satisfying for me.

It feels like it might be a good time to perhaps explore ideas I’ve flirted with for spinoffs and standalone stories as well, but I certainly won’t be forgetting about “Hammerhead’ Jed anytime soon, as he’s been pretty good to me and is just too much fun to write.

WHITEHURST: In person events coming up? Online events? And where can people find you?

DEVLIN: I’m excited to be back promoting this latest book in person and am in the midst of a Western Canadian book tour which has so far been a blast. And I’m thrilled to be doing a blog tour again with some old author pals and familiar stops along the way like PatrickWhitehurst.com of course.

I’m hoping to put boots to the ground and get to some mystery conventions soon including Left Coast Crime 2023: Trouble in Tucson, taking place in your neck of the woods, which is such a great place for it to be held.

And I look forward to returning to some Fan Expos and Artists Alleys at comic cons as well. Finally, I’m particularly thrilled to be appearing at and promoting Five Moves of Doom and all the books in the “Hammerhead” Jed mystery-comedy series at independent pro wrestling shows, roller derby matches, and mixed martial arts events.

You can follow my upcoming schedule through ajdevlin.com and also my social media, which is all under the same handle of @ajdevlinauthor

Thanks so much Patrick for having me back for another awesome and fun interview!

PINTO’S BAG OF CHIPS – A New Sam the Thug tale

Thank you to Guilty Crime Story for publishing Sam’s latest adventure on their flash fiction page. Head on over there to see how Sam manages to take on a guy who likens himself like Lou Ferrigno’s understudy. Pinto’s Bag of Chips can be read here.

Voodoo, new Sam the Thug tale up at Punk Noir Magazine

Big thanks to Stephen J. Golds and Punk Noir Magazine for taking in my latest Sam the Thug, “Voodoo,” in which Sam is hired as a guinea pig for mystical madness. The story can be read free today!

Read Voodoo here.

Creepy new comic!

I’m excited to announce I’ve scripted a flash horror comic for the folks at Adrenaline Shots Comics. Hosted by the ghoulishly fun Mistress Morphine, my story is Ray Jay, a sordid tale of a pickpocket who sees more than he bargained for. Read the short comic, illustrated by Smart Cookie Design, below! And be sure to visit Adrenaline Shots Comics on Instagram here and find them on Tapas and Webtoons!

Weird Fiction: ‘Berge Manor’ out now

Happy to announce the publication of my weird fiction novel BERGE MANOR, from Strange Particle Press. Look for print and audiobook editions coming soon! Special thanks to the publisher for such a goth cover too! Get your ebook copy here!

Read below for the blurb:

In the creepy tradition of Robert Bloch’s PSYCHO and Shirley Jackson’s WE HAVE ALWAYS LIVED IN THE CASTLE, Patrick Whitehurst cooks up a batch of weirdness and dangerously eccentric characters in BERGE MANOR.
It started with mysterious and inexplicable murders in the town of Oak Creek but led to so much worse.
In this disturbing and enthralling novel of unimaginable horrors, readers will meet:
Lounge club singer Rhombus Berge, head of the Berge family, who wants only happiness for his siblings, and isn’t above murder to make it that way
Eyeball man, his psycho brother, covered in gruesome eyeballs, who’s hell bent on murder and mayhem
Glass, the family introvert, with see-through skin that tears easier than papier-mâché and a knack for keeping out of sight
Janis, a lover of Lord Byron, who falls in love despite Eyeball man’s keen disapproval
Big Jim, a man’s man who loves cars and country music, and harbors a secret he hoped would never be exposed
Mama, the family’s caretaker, who learns firsthand of the evil under her roof
The youngest Berge, Billy, who takes his love of comic books too far when it comes to the neighborhood bullies
And newspaper editor Peter Smart, whose job leads him on a collision course with Berge Manor’s odd residents
As new murders occur in the small community of Oak Creek, and an investigation closes in, the Berge clan faces a tough decision – quash the evil under the manor themselves or risk becoming victims

Talking Murder and Mayhem on Words and Work

Thank you to Ted Prezelski with the Tucson chapter of the National Writers Union for having me on his Words and Work podcast this week. I had a great time chatting up Murder & Mayhem in Tucson.

Listen to the podcast here!

Get a copy of Murder and Mayhem in Tucson here!

Monterey Pulp out in Audiobook

Book two of the Barker Mysteries, “Monterey Pulp,” is now available in audiobook from Wordwooze Publishing . Narrator Theo Holland does an outstanding job reading Barker’s first adventures! Click here for the Audible copy!

BOOK BLURB:

The mysterious sleuth of California’s Central Coast returns in a new episode of the Barker Mysteries

Following hot on the heels of his rescue of Carmel’s mayor from the ship Wicked Joe in Monterey Noir, Barker once again finds himself in a hot mess of danger and intrigue. Seeking escape from his newfound popularity, the handsome man with no memory of his past travels deep into the Carmel Highlands, only to find adventure has followed him there. 

From an encounter with the disturbing Easter Bunny Man at Pacific Grove’s famous Lover’s Point to a diabolical plot by the homeless denizens of Deadrent Kingdom, trouble is never very far from Barker and his collection of loyal canines. And mystery has a way of following this strange man who deliberately chooses to live in the margins of society. Barker can make anywhere a home; he is as resourceful as the pack of hounds that are his devoted companions.

©2020 Patrick Whitehurst (P)2022 Wordwooze Publishing