Kathy: Your debut mystery series introduces readers to "Hammerhead" Jed Ounstead, a former professional wrestler. Are you a fan of pro wrestling?
AJD: Yes, I am definitely a fan of professional wrestling. I was a huge fan as a kid growing up in the 80’s, then lost touch with it for awhile, before coming back to it in the late nineties during the "WWE Attitude Era” and when behind the scenes documentaries like Beyond The Mat started to come out.
Kathy: Jed has turned in his pro wrestling gear and is now working as a bouncer and doing errands for his dad's detective agency. If you had to choose between those three jobs, which one would you choose for yourself?
AJD: If I had to choose between being a pro wrestler, bouncer, or working for a detective agency I would definitely choose working for a detective agency. While I love the theatricality and performance art of pro wrestling and appreciate the physicality of bouncing, I think I would enjoy sleuthing the most for sure. Plus no baby oil and less fistfights!
Kathy: In COBRA CLUTCH Jed's former tag-team partner asks him to help find his kidnapped pet snake. I admit, I think the snake's dinner makes a better pet (I love rats), but did you ever have a pet snake?
AJD: You love rats? Yikes! You’re braver than me! For the record I have never had a pet snake and reptiles, rodents, and bugs all kind of creep me out a bit (I might have to make an exception for hamsters). That being said,I don’t know why, but I’ve always been fascinated by people who have exotic pets that they adore. I saw a video on YouTube a while back of an Australian guy swimming in a creek while drinking a giant beer and throwing his pet snake around and every time the snake swam back to him and it’s equally awesome and adorable. And the video actually ends with the guy giving his pet snake a kiss on the lips! Needless to say, that video reinforced for me the fact that it is indeed very plausible that “Hammerhead” Jed’s former tag-team partner Johnny Mamba could love his pet snake so much that he wouldn’t hesitate to pay a ten thousand dollar ransom. Click here to see the video!
Kathy: What first drew you to mysteries?
AJD: My late professor, mentor, and friend, Academy Award nominated screenwriter and crime novelist Leonard Schrader, was the person who really turned me onto mysteries. Even though we were collaborating on screenplays together at the time, Leonard was always taking me to bookshops or recommending new crime authors for me to try. As a result I got hooked on mystery series by greats like Joe R. Lansdale, Robert Crais, Michael Connelly, and Charles Willeford. Leonard always used to refer to picking up the latest instalment of an ongoing series as “spending time with an old friend.”
Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?
AJD: When I used to write screenplays I dabbled in all kinds of genres. Action-adventure, thriller, horror, comedy, romantic comedy — I think the only one I never really tried in some way, shape, or form was science fiction (and I love good sci-fi). But as of now I am exclusively focused on crime writing and don’t see that changing anytime soon.
Kathy: Tell us about your series.
AJD: The “Hammerhead” Jed mystery series follows “Hammerhead” Jed Ounstead, a former professional wrestler who quit the business just as his career and fame were blowing up. One of the mystery subplots of the first book is what caused him to walk away from it all. Cobra Clutch begins with Jed having returned to his hometown of Vancouver, Canada, where he has found work as a bouncer and errand boy for his father’s detective agency. However due to a favour owed to a friend, Jed soon finds himself drawn back into the very world he tried so hard to leave behind.
Kathy: Do you have a favorite character? If so, who and why?
AJD: Joe R. Lansdale’s Hap and Leonard and Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch are definitely some long time favourite characters of mine, as well as Robert Crais’ Elvis Cole and Joe Pike. Over the last couple of years I discovered Sam Wiebe's series protagonist Dave Wakeland, who has become one of my favs as well, and like “Hammerhead” Jed he is based out of Vancouver.
Kathy: Did you have a specific inspiration for your series?
AJD: I have been a big fan of what I have dubbed the “hybrid-athlete detective” mystery sub-genre for years. From Harlan Coben’s ex-basketball star turned sports agent-amateur sleuth Myron Bolitar, to Tom Shreck’s boxer-amateur sleuth Duffy Dombrowski, to Jeff Shelby’s surfer-detective Noah Braddock, to Martin McKinley’s ex-hockey player-amateur sleuth Martin Carter – there were many different sports playing key roles in shaping these protagonists personalities. However, I realized that to the best of my knowledge no one had ever written a mystery featuring an ex-wrestler-amateur sleuth before and from there I was on my way to creating “Hammerhead” Jed.
Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?
AJD: My publisher NeWest Press has been publishing all kinds of radically rewarding literature over the last 40 years, with a particular interest in Western Canadian authors telling Western Canadian stories, so they always seemed like the perfect fit for “Hammerhead” Jed to me. I was then fortunate enough to learn that they were indeed interested in publishing Jed’s debut adventure.
Kathy: If you could have a dinner party and invite 4 authors, living or dead, in any genre, who would you invite?
AJD: Oh man, what a great question! Right off the bat I would have to say my late professor, mentor, and dear friend Leonard Schrader, as even though we spent so much time together and shared so much over the years, I would love nothing more than to have the opportunity to spend time with him again and get his feedback on Cobra Clutch. When Leonard was a student he studied closely under Kurt Vonnegut at the Iowa Writers Workshop, and one of my favourite college courses ever was an undergrad English class where we deeply analyzed Slaughterhouse-Five, so he would definitely be next. And then I would probably round out the list with Joe R. Lansdale and Michael Connelly as I absolutely love their work and both authors have greatly inspired and heavily influenced my writing.
Kathy: What are you currently reading?
AJD: I’m currently reading GIVE OUT CREEK, crime author JG Toews debut mystery novel and the first in her Stella Mosconi series, and then plan on starting the next book in R.M. Greenaway’s chillingly addictive BC Blues series, and can’t wait to dig into Joe R. Lansdale’s most recent Hap and Leonard mystery JACKRABBIT SMILE.
Kathy: Will you share any of your hobbies or interests with us?
AJD: Of course! When I’m not writing I’m a stay-at-home dad to my 6 year old son and 3 year old daughter so taking care of them and running them around town to their activities keeps me pretty busy! I’m also a bit of a news junkie and love Batman. I used to regularly collect comics, but have dialled that down ever since I attended Bouchercon 2017 in Toronto as now I have a major backlog in my to-be-read pile! The good news is that when I do have time to read I always have a great new book waiting for me. I also really enjoy running with my labradoodle Dexter (but only when the weather is nice, don’t forget I live just outside beautiful — but often rainy — Vancouver) and I actually outlined most of the next “Hammerhead” Jed mystery while jogging with my dog last year.
Kathy: Do you have plans for future books either in your current series or a new series?
AJD: Right now I’m pretty much focused exclusively on the “Hammerhead” Jed series but would love to take a crack at a stand-alone down the line.
Kathy: What's your favorite thing about being an author?
AJD: That when my son goes to school he is able to say “Yes, my dad may spend 80% of his time in his pyjamas, but it’s for a good reason!"
For more information about A.J. Devlin and COBRA CLUTCH, check out the following links:
The book is available now in Canadian bookstores and online at Amazon.ca and Indigo.ca. However, the US release has been delayed. But in the meantime US residents can still purchase the book directly from the publisher at www.newestpress.com
Stay tuned for my review coming next month!