The folks at Hoosier Noir have assembled an amazing list of authors to read from their work for a virtual Noir at the Bar. The Hoosier Noir at the Bar will be held on Saturday, April 17, starting at 7 pm eastern time.
I’ll read from my newest Sam the Thug crime fiction tale, “Jimi’s Dimebag,” in print April 20th in Hoosier Noir’s 4:20 special edition.
This anthology features tales of the underground, what’s beneath us, and what’s smothering us. My suffocating microfiction tale, “Sand Crush,” will be among the many voices featured in this new anthology of horror.
Preorders are up now here! Print copies available April 28th.
Blood Rites Horror released their latest anthology, “Wild Violence,” April 13th. The horror anthology features my prickly cactus story “Grand Daddy Saguaro” and a wealth of other great authors. All proceeds from the book go toward Wildlife Protection and Conservation.
Grand Daddy Saguaro follows Van, a border coyote, after delivering his passengers across the Mexican border into the United States. Only he ends up in Grand Daddee Vallee after evading the authorities, a place where only the saguaro dwell, and for good reason. As Van finds out.
Be sure to read my latest short story, “The Violent Snow,” in the anthology “Bitter Chills: A Horror Anthology.” Out today from Blood Rites Horror, the story features a wannabe writer cabin-bound during a snowstorm. He opens a package from a university friend and within it finds the 3-D printed larynx of an unidentified creature. But what creature? And what will happen when Ray uses it?
My Sam the thug story, “Art Model Noir,” is among the great tales found within. In Sam’s latest adventure, he finds himself hired out to pose nude for a group of senior artists. Only he wasn’t hired to be naked; he was hired to beat them up.
It was a year of weariness and masks, deaths and destruction, and a tough one on all of us. Staying home more than normal also meant changes in routines, or more accurately the loss of routine, and struggling to wear anything more than sweat pants and a robe, much less keep up with the news. A top five best books of 2020 seemed like an impossible task as well, maybe because the world seemed to make such thoughts trivial, or perhaps because in order to escape the world, I read often. In any event, I ultimately decided not to pick my top five favorite books. Instead I picked my top ten – listed in alphabetical order.
Reminder, while some of these books were released this year, not all were. My top picks are ones I happened to read during the course of it. In all, I managed to read thirty books while navigating the winding, treacherous river of 2020.
All the Way Down by Eric Beetner Between a rock and a hard place, dirty cop Dale Burnett takes on a task of Die Hard proportions in Beetner’s latest book, “All the Way Down,” and it’s a hell of a ride. Burnett is tasked with a singular task; rescue the mayor’s daughter and get out alive. Only she’s held captive by the powerful, and wholly criminal, Tat Losopo, in his skyscraper. It’s either rescue the girl or go to prison. Lucky for us, he chooses fifteen stories of literary thrills. Buy the book here. Visit the author here.
Coldwater by Tom Pitts Crime writer Tom Pitts sings the fourth song of his Northern California Quartet in his latest book, “Coldwater,” which features a struggling family forced to deal with the darkness across the street in their quiet, unassuming Sacramento suburb. As with all of Tom’s gritty dramas this one is tough to put down. Why not just read all night? Buy the book here. Visit the author here.
Cradle of the Deep by Dietrich Kalteis Bobbi Ricci, bored girlfriend of crime boss Maddog Palmieri, teams up with ex-mob wheelman Denny to lighten his wallet, a heist old Maddog doesn’t take kindly. Enter Lee Trane, an ice-veined killer, who pursues the couple on Maddog’s orders. As the chase intensifies, readers learn once again why Dietrich Kalteis rules the crime fiction roost. Buy the book here. Visit the author here.
Egg Drop Dead by Vivien Chien Amateur sleuth Lana Lee gets her first catering gig in author Vivien Chien’s fifth entry in the Noodle Shop Mystery series, “Egg Drop Dead.” Things never go as planned for Lana, as regular readers of the series can attest, and her first catering job sees no improvement in her luck. Is finding a body ever lucky. Chien has added another awesome entry to her series with Egg Drop Dead, the follow up to her hit “Wonton Terror.” Look for two more entries coming soon! Buy the book here. Visit the author here.
Hecate’s Cauldron edited by Susan Schwartz Alluring cover aside, Hecate’s Cauldron delivers on a witchy promise of short stories designed to explore the world of sorcery and witchcraft. Edited by Susan M. Schwartz in 1982, Cauldron stars an amazing lineup of authors, including the amazing Andre Norton, the awesome Tanith Lee, and the incredible C.J. Cherryh. In all there are thirteen tales by thirteen talented scribes, with stories ranging from mythology to nuclear energy, and a worthy addition to anyone’s library. Buy the book here. Visit the author here.
I Am Legend by Richard Matheson There’s nothing better during a pandemic than a book exploring worse pandemics, namely the sort that turns you into a vampire. Such is the pandemic Robert Neville is faced with in Richard Matheson’s epic novella, “I Am Legend,” and every paragraph is savory as hell. Matheson, one of horror master Stephen King’s influences, took the mundane and made it terrifying. And let’s not even mention the ending. Worth a late night to read in one sitting. Buy the book here.
Love and Other Criminal Behavior by Nikki Dolson Author Nikki Dolson knows her way around a page, and is especially talented in the short story realm, as readers discovered in her newest collection of short stories, “Love and Other Criminal Behavior.” This quick read offers up some true gems of crime fiction, and literary fiction. Particular favorites of mine included “Our Man Julian” and the opening tale “Georgie Ann.” Buy the book here. Visit the author here.
The Ninja’s Blade by Tori Eldridge Modern-day ninja Lily Wong returns in “The Ninja’s Blade,” Tori Eldridge’s follow up to her 2019 novel “The Ninja Daughter.” In her latest adventure, Lily brings her formidable skills to Los Angeles county’s despicable underbelly in search of a missing teen. The unofficial investigation leads her from rich suburbia to Compton, and the heart of a nefarious human trafficking ring. Eldridge weaves a thrill ride of tension and action – and it’s one readers won’t want to miss. Buy the book here. Visit the author here.
River of Lies by R.M. Greenaway Author R.M. Greenaway has worked her literary magic once again when it comes to the fifth installment of her B.C. (British Columbia) Blues Crime series. RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) detectives Dave Leith and Cal Dion, joined by Constable Judy Temple, face two seemingly unrelated cases in “River of Lies.” Twists and turns abound in Greenaway’s latest is another great addition to B.C. Blues Crime, which began with her award-winning book, “Cold Girl.” Buy the book here. Visit the author here.
Velocities by Kathe Koja Meerkat Press is lucky to have award-winning author Kathe Koja in their house. She returned in 2020 with a new short story collection, “Velocities,” which features a vivacious assortment of literary appetizers. I devoured her latest in nearly one sitting (with thanks to a Hennessy chaser) and found her dreamlike style and poignant tales, such as “Baby” and “At Eventide,” a stimulating intellectual detour into darkness and light. Buy the book here. Visit the author here.
My short story “Stuffing for a Sacrifice” is up at Pulp Modern Flash. I’m stoked they liked this story, which features my character Sam the Thug and a nerdy devil worshipper. There’s also a cute black kitten.
Had the pleasure of sitting down virtually with fiction authorDietrich Kalteis and talk about, what else, writing. It’s always a pleasure to kick back with you, Dietrich, and congratulations on the new book, “Cradle of the Deep.”
Hope everyone enjoys the chat, linked below, and be sure to grab a copy of Cradle here.
Read my “Off the Cuff” interview right hereand be sure to let me know what you think!
For a horror anthology, starting with a sense of affection may seem a bit off genre, but when you crack open the book and read the forward, the introduction, and the summation, the passion for the project shines. We’ve all read the following words before, but this book is indeed a labor of love. With that out the way, the frights roar to life. Horror anthologies are the best way to get quick fixes of drama, not to mention a way to discover new talent and, with luck, a new favorite author. This is one of those deals.
Like “The Book of Cthulhu,” “Stalkers,” or “It Came From the Multiplex,” “Collective Darkness” has range.
These stories were a blast. Chilling. Terrifying. And, most importantly, surprising. Within these pages we get stories from 17-year-old author Edward Suggs, a twisted fairy-tale of vampiric destruction by Jonathan Reddoch, a bloody rampage on a movie set by Becca Rose, a creepy young girl in lace in a story by Jen Ellwyn, an eerie tale told from the lips of a madman by Elizabeth Suggs, and many more. And they’re all perfectly dark.
Authors in the collection: Edward Suggs, Jonathan Reddoch, Alex Child, Becca Rose, Brandon Prows, K.R. Patterson, Austin Slade Perry, B. Todd Orgill, Jen Ellwyn, Chris Jorgensen, Samuel Smith, and Elizabeth Suggs.
It’s hard to compare “Hammerhead” Jed Ounstead with other fictional detectives – as I’ve not really come across any characters quite like him. He’s got the smoothness of a Phillip Marlowe, say if Marlowe was an ex-pro wrestler with a quirky set of family members and a penchant for banana milkshakes. Or perhaps he’s more like Lana Lee of the cozy Noodle Shop Mystery novels, who deals with a fair share of family drama herself. If you like either of these, or both as I do, you need to meet Jed. Author A.J. Devlin‘s mystery series is anything but cozy. They can be damn brutal, but a hell of a good time for those interested in tough guys, crime yarns, and solid, often laugh-out-loud, books. “Intense and Cinematic” is what author Sam Weibe called the first in the series, 2018’s “Cobra Clutch,” and he wasn’t kidding. These things are begging for the big screen. Failing that, the binge screen. His freshman book won both the 2019 Arthur Ellis Award and was named a finalist for the 2019 Left Coast Crime “Lefty” Awards. We first met Jed in Cobra Clutch (Devlin’s debut novel) when he’s hired by his former tag-team partner, Johnny Mamba, to find his kidnapped pet python, which Mamba’s named Ginger. Jed isn’t a full-fledged private eye, however. He only works for his father, but Johnny doesn’t care. He trusts Jed to get to the heart of the matter and retrieve his beloved pet. Only things don’t go at all as planned. Before long Hammerhead finds himself up to his neck in blood and guts. What started as a missing snake quickly becomes a murder investigation. In 2020’s “Rolling Thunder” we find that Jed has become a full-fledged private investigator and tasked with yet another gritty case of athletic prowess – this time the edgy world of women’s roller derby. Stormy Daze, a wrestler we first met in Cobra Clutch, needs Jed’s help. Now known as roller derby star Amazombie, Daze enlists Jed’s talents in the search for their missing coach. In no time, it too becomes a deadly mystery.
Keep reading below for my interview with the author himself! And purchase copies of Devlin’s series here.
WHITEHURST: First off, kudos for creating such a fun series and a memorable character in Hammerhead Jed. I never knew I needed a former wrester-turned Canadian detective in my life, but there you go. Now I do. What inspired you to write this series?
DEVLIN: When I was working toward my M.F.A. in in Screenwriting from The American Film Institute, my professor always encouraged me to read mystery novels over watching films as he thought it would help me more as an aspiring character-driven writer. He also encouraged me to one day take a crack at crime fiction myself, which I finally did. During my time reading so many mystery novels I sort of stumbled upon a sub-genre, if you will, of the athlete-detective. I’ve read mysteries featuring boxer detectives, surfer detectives, hockey player detectives, sports agent detectives — you name it, I’ve most likely read it. However, to the best of my knowledge, no one had ever cooked up a pro wrestler detective — and given my affinity for sports entertainment growing up and the theatricality and behind-the-scenes drama of the industry, it seemed like a good angle to try and introduce a different type of athlete-detective.
WHITEHURST: What’s next for you in the writing world?
DEVLIN: I’m still promoting book 2 — “Rolling Thunder” — in the “Hammerhead” Jed series and am currently finishing writing book 3. I’m hoping to spend more time with Jed and continue the series for a while as I have many ideas for future mysteries and love writing the character so much and finding new ways to challenge him.
WHITEHURST: Will Hammerhead ever be a bingeable series on an app? I think we all need that.
DEVLIN: That’s a great idea! I’d love to have “Hammerhead” Jed as accessible as possible and would be thrilled for his misadventures and shenanigans to be available on an app!
WHITEHURST: Tell me a bit about your background? What does A.J. Stand for and…. were you a wrestler yourself?
DEVLIN: A.J. is short for Alexander Jeremy — which is a mouthful — so in addition to going by my initials I also think they look a bit better on a book cover. I did start wrestling in grade 8 and fell in love with the sport, despite it not really resembling the product put out by WWE. That being said, wrestlers like Kurt Angle and Brock Lesnar have successfully transitioned from their amateur wrestling success into amazing professional wrestling careers. And despite the sometimes over-the-top in-ring antics, all pro wresters bust their behinds to put on a hell of a show night in and night out, utilizing their skill set as to entertain fans.
WHITEHURST: Did you love wrestling as a kid? Who was your fave?
DEVLIN: Yes, I definitely grew up as a big pro wrestling fan. I would have to say my favourite wrestlers as a kid were Hulk Hogan, Andre The Giant, Macho Man Randy Savage, Ricky Steamboat, and Jake “The Snake” Roberts. I lost touch with pro wrestling in my teens but revisited it in my early twenties during the WWE’s “Attitude Era” and was enamoured yet again by talent like “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, Triple H, The Undertaker, and The Rock — who could beat you on the microphone before a match even began. As a result, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is probably a pretty big influence on “Hammerhead” Jed’s swagger and tendency to crack wise as often as he does.
WHITEHURST: Your second Hammerhead, “Rolling Thunder,” has Jed entering the world of roller derby. How are you on skates?
DEVLIN: Ha! Great question. I played hockey up until I was fifteen (Canadian!) so I’m okay on skates, although I’m definitely more comfortable on blades or in-line wheels than I am the traditional four-wheeled roller derby style skates. That being said, I think it’s awesome how roller derby preserves that retro element. That was one of the things I quickly realized when writing Rolling Thunder — the respect and pride these strong women warriors have for their amazing sport which is not only badass, but also counter-culture and anti-establishment. It was a pleasure to dip my toe into the pond of women’s roller derby and do it justice while hopefully spinning an entertaining murder-mystery yarn.
WHITEHURST: You just wrapped up a blog tour. Tell me a bit about that. How’s your book business in these pandemic days?
DEVLIN: Another great question. I’m not going to lie, it was a significant adjustment. I literally locked down a five city Canadian book tour just before Covid hit and we all went into quarantine. In some ways, I would even say launching a book virtually has been more challenging than doing it the traditional way. I was so fortunate to have author friends and bloggers I had gotten to know from the release of Cobra Clutch who were so supportive and understanding while I launched Rolling Thunder, so cobbling together (last minute) a blog tour was much easier than expected. And people like yourself, Patrick, have been so generous even though I just fired off a few cold call emails in hopes of promoting my work, so I really don’t have much to complain about! At the end of the day, I am very lucky that my wife and kids and myself have remained healthy and that despite current circumstances I still have had the opportunity to share my work. The “Hammerhead” Jed series was always intended to be escapist entertainment and if ever there was a need for it I’d say it would be now!
WHITEHURST: What would you tell someone at a coffee shop who says, “Hey, man. Why should I get into these books?” What’s your best elevator pitch?
DEVLIN: As I mentioned before, the series is intended to be pure, unadulterated, fun and escapist entertainment. I was born in 1978 so I grew up on movies like Back To The Future, The Goonies, Die Hard, The Last Boy Scout — all adventures with a degree of humour and whimsy I have tried to emulate with the “Hammerhead” Jed series. I believe there is value in storytelling that can whisk you away from your troubles or reality, even if only for a brief amount of time. That is the essence of what I’m trying to do with my writing.
WHITEHURST: Let’s get into the technical writing questions. It interests me, so I’m going to assume it does for others! Describe your typical writing day?
DEVLIN: Oh man, my routine kind of went out the window with the pandemic and homeschooling! There’s been a return to form with back to school in Greater Vancouver and the elementary schools have been awesome and super cautious — so I’ve had a bit more freedom of late. When I’m not working I’m the primary caregiver to my kids, which is a plum gig for a writer! But generally I write when my children are at school or in activities as my wife has a 9-5 career so you just have to find the time when you can. And then while I might not write necessarily after we get the little ones down for the night, I will review my work of the day, which is nice because it kind of at least allows you to edit your work before bedtime.
WHITEHURST: Do you have a playlist you listen to while working?
DEVLIN: It’s funny you ask that as my playlist fluctuates greatly. Sometimes I write in silence, other times I throw myself down a rabbit hole of different types of musical genres. I find instrumental music is the most beneficial as I’m not distracted by lyrics. There’s a song by Moby called “Everloving” that is amazing and without giving away any spoilers, I listened to it non-stop when writing the most emotional and intense scene of Cobra Clutch in which “Hammerhead” Jed shares a pretty significant skeleton from his closet with another character. Something that happened that now defines him. I don’t know why, but that heartfelt, beautiful, but also somewhat haunting tune really helped me channel Jed’s pain into a soliloquy which is crucial to his character and reveals so much about who he is and how he came to be where he is.
WHITEHURST: What authors influence you?
DEVLIN: I got to go with my big three. Although a life long fan, when I really got into crime fiction, I was in grad school for screenwriting. My late professor, mentor, and great friend, Academy Award nominated screenwriter and novelist Leonard Schrader — who I had the honour and privilege of dedicating Cobra Clutch to — gave me three different novels as a graduation present. “The Last Coyote” by Michael Connelly, “Mucho Mojo” by Joe R. Lansdale, and “The Monkey’s Raincoat” by Robert Crais. Not only are they three of my favourite novels of all time, I also learned so much by seeing how they crafted a story. I tried my best to not only cherry pick from their collective genius, but also put my own spin on the story I wanted to tell with “Hammerhead” Jed, including all of the wisdom that Leonard shared with me. I have been absolutely blessed to have had Leonard as a mentor, and every time I write I hope I can honour his memory by utilizing the lessons he taught me.”
WHITEHURST: What’s your advice for writers looking to burst forth into the crime fiction scene or any scene outside of drug dealing?
DEVLIN: Lol, yeah, it’s a tough racket. No doubt about that. I know it sounds cliché, but if I had to choose a word — I would say resilience.
Cobra Clutch was rejected by every publisher and agent in Canada, before finding a home with my amazing publisher NeWest Press — who totally understood what I was trying to do with the series — and the book went on to be nominated for the 2019 Lefty Award for Best Debut Mystery in North America followed by winning the 2019 Arthur Ellis Award for Best First Canadian Crime Novel and is also now available in audiobook format and in its third printing. If you write from your heart, and believe in your work, you will find a path.