NEWS! NEWS! NEWS! Real World Launch of In the Spirit of 13!

I’m really excited about our upcoming launch at Sleuth of Baker Street Bookstore, this Sunday, October 30th at 2 pm. It’s the Mesdames and Messieurs of Mayhem’s first public appearance since the beginning of COVID!

A warm review from Jack Batten of the Toronto Star who said: “There’s more than enough to light up and surprise readers for many nights of pleasure, some of it in easygoing whimsy.” Read the full review here: https://www.thestar.com/entertainment/books/reviews/2022/10/21/round-up-four-new-crime-fiction-to-keep-you-entertained-on-long-winter-nights.html

And here’s our blurb: Ghosts and demons and booze, oh my! 

To celebrate our 10th anniversary, we Mesdames and Messieurs of Mayhem have let our imaginations run wild to bring you our fifth anthology, In the Spirit of 13. Does “spirit’ mean ghost or demon – or debunking of same? Or simply the evil in twisted human hearts? Or could it be alcohol? You must read these 23 tales to find out!

The Mesdames and Messieurs of Mayhem are established award-winning authors as well as talented new writers. We aimed to keep our stories light-hearted to counter the world’s troubled times, but some of them have strayed into the dark. We are crime writers after all!

Laugh, shed a tear and prepare to be deliciously frightened.

 

 

 

 

EAT THIS BOOK: Five Moves of Doom by A. J. Devlin

Great news, Readers!

I just finished Five Moves of Doom, the third book in the PI “Hammerhead” Jed Ounstead series – and it’s terrific! Set in gritty East Vancouver, protagonist Jed has an unusual occupation: he’s a retired professional wrestler.

What makes for a gripping story, as in Fellini’s classic film La Strada and even hit Canadian comedy series, Trailer Park Boys, is the classic trio of characters representing brains, brawn and heart. Hammerhead Jed embodies all three in one person– and author A.J. Devlin pulls this off brilliantly. Jed is first and foremost a physical person. That, sometimes to his detriment, is his self-identity. But clients and bad guys tend to underestimate his intelligence – and that is always to their detriment.

In Five Moves of Doom, Jed is hired by former UFC fighter, Elijah Lennox, to find Elijah’s million dollar, diamond-encrusted championship belt. Trustingly, Elijah had it on display at his martial arts studio, but now it’s gone missing. Jed recovers the belt thanks to his smarts and underworld contacts, though finding it seems too easy. Then Elijah ends up dead and Jed’s heart drives him to find the murderer and bring them to justice.

Jed’s quest draws him into the murky realm of illegal fighting.  Devlin has created an ogre of a villain in Cassian, the ringleader, who wears the dog tags of his victims round his neck as trophies. (To me they’re more like the shrunken heads worn by a cannibal king!) Taking on Cassian draws Jed into some very dark places, many within himself. It takes a skilled writer to draw the reader along to explore Jed’s troubled path and Devlin pulls it off.

There are two aspects of the Hammerhead series that I especially enjoy. The first is the sheer physicality and choreography of the fighting scenes. Too often, fights in crime fiction are a bit predictable resulting in an urge to flip the page. Not so here.  Devlin knows fighting and that shines through in every scene. (Learn more about AJ’s fighting background on Cyber Café here.)

I also love Devlin’s secondary characters like Jed’s cousin, Declan, Irish barkeep and former IRA commando, who always has his family’s back. The chapter written from Declan’s POV is a tour de force of writing. My personal favorite is Sykes, Jed’s shady entrepreneur and informant, who in the previous book was bookmaking on dachshund racing.  This time out, Sykes has taken up goat yoga. That’s right goat yoga.  Both are comedy gold and even better, Readers, both weird activities are real.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

FIVE STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

MOST IMPORTANT: WHERE TO BUY THE HAMMERHEAD JED SERIES!

Five Moves of Doom, as well as Cobra Clutch and Rolling Thunder, are available for purchase on Amazon, Indigo, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, iTunes, and anywhere paperbacks and eBooks are sold.

In addition, Cobra Clutch is now available as an audiobook on Audible and wherever audiobooks can be found.

Order the “Hammerhead” Jed mystery-comedy series through bookshop.newestpress.com, which features a Find Your Local Bookstore link to support indie bookstores and shop local.

Finally, AJ is proud to have partnered up with his friends at the terrific Western Sky Books in Port Coquitlam, where copies of all three “Hammerhead” Jed books with personalized inscriptions can be requested and purchased online exclusively through their website WesternSkyBooks.com.

CYBER CAFE: Meet Fab Thriller Writer A. J. Devlin

A. J. Devlin

I’m delighted to welcome A. J. Devlin to Cyber Cafe!

We met at Left Coast Crime in Vancouver and bonded immediately over the movie business.  My daughter is a VFX producer in Montreal and AJ spent many years in Hollywood working as a screenwriter. 

AJ grew up in Greater Vancouver and moved to Southern California to earn two degrees in screenwriting. Luckily for Canadian crime fiction, he moved back home to Port Moody, BC, where he now lives with his wife and two children and writes full-time.

Cobra Clutch, AJ’s first book in the “Hammerhead” Jed professional wrestling mystery-comedy series, was released in spring 2018. It was nominated for a Lefty Award for Best Debut Mystery and won the 2019 Crime Writers of Canada Award of Excellence for Best First Novel. 

The sequel, Rolling Thunder, was released in spring 2020 and was featured in the Vancouver Sun, The Province, The Globe and Mail, Kirkus Reviews, and Library Journal Reviews, as well as on The Next Chapter with Shelagh Rogers on CBC Radio.

The third book in the series, Five Moves of Doom, was published by NeWest Press on September 15th, 2022.  Look for my review here on Eat This Book, Monday, October 3rd. (Spoiler alert – it’s terrific!)

 

 

 

Welcome to Cyber Cafe, AJ. You worked many years as a screenwriter. How did you turn to crime…fiction?

I grew up loving films like Die Hard, Lethal Weapon, and The Last Boy Scout and remember vividly reading The Silence of the Lambs (at probably too young of an age), so crime stories always captivated me.

When I was living in Southern California earning my BFA and MFA in Screenwriting from Chapman University and the American Film Institute Conservatory, I studied closely under my mentor and friend, Academy-Award nominated screenwriter and novelist Leonard Schrader. He also shared the same passions and planted the seed that crafting crime fiction wasn’t that dissimilar from structuring screenplays, but it wasn’t until I moved home, got married, and became a father that I finally took a break from writing scripts and tried my hand at a mystery novel.

Why set your thrillers in the world of wrestling? How did your hero, Hammerhead Jed, appear in your imagination?

As I immersed myself in crime fiction, especially during my college years, I began exploring sub-genres, and one of my favorites was the athlete-detective since I grew up very much into sports. My father was a star basketball player for Simon Fraser University and later the Canadian Men’s National team, having competed in the 76 Olympics. So, it’s safe to say athletics factored heavily into my childhood.

I also spent my youth as a rabid fan of professional wrestling, enjoying the over-the-top feats of strength and agility combined with the in-ring panache of the squared circle. After reading about boxer-detectives, basketball-player sleuths, and surfer PIs, it occurred to me that, to the best of my knowledge, no one had cooked up a grappling gumshoe.  I saw that as an opportunity to draw upon my knowledge and experience while hopefully providing a series character who was a little unique.

You write terrific fight scenes. How do you research the moves?

Thank you! I definitely prioritize the choreography of such scenes.  I figure it’s likely that a guy with the moniker of “Hammerhead” Jed could handle himself in a scrap, and like me he has trained in freestyle wrestling and Judo. I definitely researched a lot about combat and beefed up his skill set by giving Jed experience with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. I also wanted him to have a formidable striking ability; hence his proficiency in Krav Maga and other such martial arts. But at his core Jed is definitely a “grappler,” and his identity as a fighter is examined in Five Moves of Doom.

I especially love your colorful minor characters like Jed’s informant, Sykes, the bookie. Now Sykes is into goat yoga? Why goat yoga??

I love the juxtaposition of a dapper, well-manicured, and upscale gentleman like Sykes having a vested interest in unusual or atypical business ventures. He was originally conceived as a one-and-done character for Rolling Thunder, but my editor encouraged me to bring him back for Five Moves of Doom.

This now seems like a no-brainer, especially given what a breath of fresh air I find Sykes to be when he appears. It’s also been fun to explore the evolution of Sykes’ affinity for “Hammerhead” Jed and how despite being so different, these two men have become unlikely allies with great respect for one another.

My mom (who I dedicated this threequel to alongside my wife) was the person who started keeping an eye out for quirky and offbeat sports and activities as my series progressed.  She suggested goat yoga could be something fun to use in my future books. Coincidentally at the time, I had started exploring hybrid-yoga myself through the DDP Yoga Program (created by professional wrestling legend and WWE Hall of Famer, Diamond Dallas Page) as a way to increase my own functional strength in an effort to keep up with my kids. Both ideas dove-tailed for Five Moves of Doom.

In Rolling Thunder, Sykes is into dachshund racing. Is that real, too?

100%! Every year at the Hastings Racecourse there are the Annual Wiener Dog Racing Championships, sponsored by the venue itself and Schneiders Premium Meats. I may have taken a few creative liberties in Rolling Thunder, but make no mistake, competitive dachshund racing is the real deal and serious stuff with prize money at stake.

Your books are a terrific blend of comedy and violence. Sometimes you take us to very dark places, too. What advice do you give emerging writers on keeping the balance right?

That’s high praise and I’m much obliged! And I think you pose an excellent question. For me personally, particularly for this series, I use sports entertainment itself as a kind of North Star. Pro-wrestling can be so goofy and light-hearted at times, but many of the behind-the-scenes stories are the opposite, rife with tales of addiction, tragedy, and even murder. I also believe that humor can be an essential coping mechanism in times of great grief or adversity.  I like to think Jed’s wisecracking nature helps balance out the trouble his cases bring not only for himself but also the reader. 

What’s next for Hammerhead Jed?

More adventures are definitely the plan! Hammerhead Jed was always conceived as a series protagonist uniquely suited for unusual investigations. I’m looking forward to perhaps taking him away from athletic-centric mysteries and having him delve into more unique subcultures in future stories, something that is touched upon in a subplot in Rolling Thunder.

And in addition to more “Hammerhead” Jed shenanigans, I’m also flirting with ideas for spinoffs and standalone stories, which could be a nice change of pace. But I certainly won’t be forgetting about my Piledriving PI anytime soon as he’s just too much fun to write and has been awfully good to me.

More importantly, what’s next for AJ Devlin? Do tell us about your upcoming podcasts and author appearances.

I’m excited to be back promoting the “Hammerhead” Jed mystery-comedies in person for sure, and have numerous author events, wrestling and MMA shows, and Fan Expos where I will be appearing. You can follow what I’m up to both in person and online at my website https://ajdevlin.com and / or on my social media under the same handle @ajdevlinauthor.

Catch AJ at upcoming events here:

 

MOST IMPORTANT OF ALL: WHERE TO BUY THE HAMMERHEAD JED SERIES!

Five Moves of Doom, as well as Cobra Clutch and Rolling Thunder, are available for purchase on Amazon, Indigo, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, iTunes, and anywhere paperbacks and eBooks are sold.

In addition, Cobra Clutch is now available as an audiobook on Audible and wherever audiobooks can be found.

Order the “Hammerhead” Jed mystery-comedy series through bookshop.newestpress.com, which features a Find Your Local Bookstore link to support indie bookstores and shop local.

Finally, AJ is proud to have partnered up with his friends at the terrific Western Sky Books in Port Coquitlam, where copies of all three “Hammerhead” Jed books with personalized inscriptions can be requested and purchased online exclusively through their website WesternSkyBooks.com.

 

NEWS! NEWS! NEWS! In the Spirit of 13 Available for Pre-Order

 

NEWS! NEWS! NEWS!

Greetings Readers!

Lots happening this beautiful summer to share with you. First of all, I’m delighted to reveal the striking cover of Red Dog Publishing’s GONE anthology. I’m honored to have my story, “Must Love Dogs – or You’re Gone”, in this collection. GONE will be available for pre-order August 1st.

And I had a wonderful opportunity to be part of the Dead to Writes podcast where fab  designer, Sara Carrick, reveals her secrets behind the cover for In the Spirit of 13, the Mesdames of Mayhem’s 10th anniversary anthology. In discussion with publisher, Donna Carrick and the story wrangler (me).

S5 E103: The Mesdames of Mayhem, In the Spirit of 13, Sara Carrick & M.H. Callway on cover design

And last but far from least, I’m honored to be a guest blogger on Writers Write. Here’s my take on Why I Write Short Fiction.

 

 

 

 

 

 

NEWS: Interviewing Mike Martin, Founder of Maple Leaf Mystery Conference

I was delighted to interview Mike Martin, creator of the Sergeant Windflower mystery series and the founder of the Maple Leaf Mystery Conference. To register, click on the poster!

Read my interview with Mike on the Mesdames of Mayhem website here.  Canada’s been without a national crime writers conference for a few years so the upcoming virtual conference is most welcome. Fingers crossed for a Real World conference in 2023.

Sergeant Windflower’s latest adventure, Buried Secrets, is now available on Amazon.

EAT THIS BOOK: HELL and GONE by Sam Wiebe

Eat this book!

I was delighted when author friend, Sam Wiebe, announced his latest Dave Wakeland thriller, Hell and Gone, the third in the series about the introspective Vancouver private investigator (Harbour Publishing). 

The first two Wakeland books were stand-outs: Invisible Dead was a finalist for the City of Vancouver Book Award and Cut You Down was short-listed for both the Hammett and Shamus awards. But Hell and Gone is the best Wakeland novel yet!

The book opens with a harrowing robbery and shoot-out, one of the most gripping action sequences I’ve read in recent memory. Wakeland witnesses the crime, tries unsuccessfully to help the victims and struggles with PTSD as a result.  He’s determined to bring down the perpetrators, but this puts him in conflict with his business partner, Jeff Chen.

Hell and Gone focuses on Jeff, who up till now was more Wakeland’s foil: the moral, stable, non-violent half of the partnership. Sam delves into the intricate historical ties to crime in Vancouver’s Chinese community and the traps that can befall the modern generation of business owners like Jeff. His portrayal of Wakeland’s PTSD is especially believable.

The plot offers enough twists and betrayals to rival Dashiell Hammett himself. (Sorry no spoilers!) You’ll stay up all night to get to the last page.

And for emerging writers, I highly recommend Sam’s online Mystery Writing Mastery courses. The 14 beginner’s lessons are free.

My rating: Five Stars!

 

EAT THIS BOOK: Forgotten Books #6 -The Neon Flamingo by W. R. Philbrick

Eat This Book

 

 

 

 

I read my first T.D. Stash novel  while vacationing with the family at a tourist lodge on Lake Temagami. Despite being exhausted after canoeing with a 3 year old, I sat up all night to finish The Neon Flamingo. Its Florida Keys setting was as removed from Northern Ontario as you can imagine.

Gripping and smoothly written, W.R. Philbrick’s book has stayed with me, mostly because its hero, T.D. Stash, was so unusual for the late 1980s. He was a screw-up – a  stoner and sometime fisherman desperate enough for cash to do favors for friends – legal or not so much. He often made dire situations worse.

I quickly read the next two books in the series, The Crystal Blue Persuasion and Tough Enough. Then waited in vain for more.

A few years later I met W. R. Philbrick at a crime writers’ conference. He happily signed my copy of The Neon Flamingo then passed on the bad news that his editor didn’t want any  more T.D. Stash novels. A damn shame!

I suspect that TD Stash series was too dark. In other words, too intense, truthful and violent for 1990s readers. Like Liza Cody’s Bucket Nut, the books were fine examples of noir – and thus decades ahead of their time.

So what happened to W. R. Philbrick? I’m happy to tell you that he’s written over 30  novels under three pseudonyms, including the Connie Kale and J. D. Hawkins crime series.  He’s had great success as a YA author, winning multiple awards.  His YA adventure story, Freak the Mighty,  was translated into several languages and is studied in classrooms throughout the world. Later it became a successful film.

BOTTOM LINE:

The T.D. Stash books are not  available on Amazon in print or digital form. Abe Books carry only a very few used paperbacks listed between $3 to $8US.

DECISION: Keep this rare book.

EAT THIS BOOK: Never Going Back by Sam Wiebe

Novellas are relatively rare in crime fiction where formats are far more rigid than in literary and speculative fiction.  Short story lengths greater than 5000 words are tolerated…barely. And novels must be no less than 65,000 and no more than 95,000 words.

No doubt the formats are dictated by business rather than artistic imperatives. The story or book length a publisher believes will hold readers’ attention spans.

So what is a novella exactly? A long story or a short novel? As an author whose work naturally tends to fall in this category,  I believe a novella is a story with a linear plot but with more texture, atmosphere and complexity of character than can be captured in 5000 words or less.

The Orca Rapid Reads Series  breathed life into the crime fiction novella. Mostly because of this series, the CWC Awards of Excellence have had enough entries to create and sustain a novella category. (CWC defines a novella as a story between 8000 and 20,000 words.)

The Rapid Reads series is aimed at adults who are ESL students, who have difficulty reading or those who simply want a fast satisfying read. Although the language is uncomplicated, the books are not simplistic. They are hard-hitting, with adult themes and they often focus on social issues.

It’s a challenge for an author to streamline their writing style without losing its essence. That’s why Orca contracted with leading Canadian crime fiction authors for the 68 books in the series, including my friend, Sam Wiebe.

Sam’s novella, Never Going Back  (Orca, 2020is one of the latest books in the Rapid Reads series.  Its protagonist, Alison Kidd, is a tough young woman, a master thief who’s just gotten out of jail. She hated prison and she’s determined to go straight, but the local crime boss blackmails her into pulling off a risky job. If she refuses, her brother will be killed. Can she outsmart her old boss and save her brother and herself?

Sam’s hard-hitting, critically acclaimed Dave Wakeland series and his debut novel,  The Last of the Independents, are both written very much from a man’s point of view. I was intrigued that Sam chose a woman hero for Never Going Back. Could he pull it off?

I’m delighted to say that, yes, Sam did! Alison Kidd is a terrific and likeable character.  (More books and stories with strong women, Sam!) The plot has the twists and turns of a switchback highway and the suspense that goes along with it. An excellent thriller!

EAT THIS BOOK:  5 STARS

 

 

YOUR INVITATION TO THE LAUNCH OF A GRAVE DIAGNOSIS!

Do join me and my fellow crime writers for the Zoom launch of Carrick Publishing’s new crime fiction anthology, A Grave Diagnosis.  This collection of tales of murder and malaise appropriately launches on Halloween!!

AND a special Halloween treat – here’s our video on YouTube!  Thank you, editor and publisher, Donna Carrick!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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