Cobra Clutch (NeWest Press, 2018)
A.J. Devlin grew up in Greater Vancouver before moving to Southern California for six years where he earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Screenwriting from Chapman University and a Master of Fine Arts in Screenwriting from The American Film Institute. After working as a screenwriter in Hollywood he moved back home to Port Moody, BC, where he now lives with his wife and two children.
Why you need to read this now:
Cobra Clutch is perfect pulp with characters that leap off the page as if from turnbuckles. Take its protagonist: “Hammerhead” Jed Ounstead may be out of the wrestling world, but he’s not down and out. Having trained and worked as a professional wrestler, he understands how to respond to dramatic situations with superb quickness, both in and out of the ring. Standing alongside him are his cousin, a wise-cracking Irish bartender, with wit, a past, and a gun collection that are helpful in a tight corner; and his cop father’s ex-partner, Detective Constable Rya Shepard; not to mention Jed’s father, a retired police officer turned P.I. Any one of these characters would be interesting enough to lead a mystery series, but who help create a fuller reading experience.
And the crime that starts Jed’s return to the wrestling world is a corker. Jed is biding his time working as a bouncer, with his father regularly pressuring him to join the Onstead Detective Agency, when he is approached by his ex-tag-team partner: Johnny Mamba. Imagine a less successful Jake the Snake Roberts, one who did not make it to the big show, and instead, with his body wearing out, keeps wrestling for smaller and smaller gains. And then someone snake-naps his pet python, the one that drapes his neck when he does enter the ring. Owing his ex-partner, Jed agrees to look into the matter not knowing that what could seem like a laughable crime is about to turn bloody and personal.
The city of Vancouver is the perfect place for Cobra Clutch to take place: on one hand, a world-class city with the glossy sheen and wealth of the high-end wrestling ventures, and on the other, with the poverty and desperation and pain of those living on the city’s (and professional wrestling’s) edges. A.J. Devlin peers into this divide with fast-paced action and the snappy dialogue you’d hope from someone who sharpened their writing skills with screenwriting. Cobra Clutch balances its intensity with choke-slam humour.
X plus Y:
Take a dash of the 1999 wrestling documentary Beyond the Mat, with performers at different stages of their careers, the highlights and lowlights of fame in the squared circle, and drizzle it with the Vancouver of Sam Wiebe’s Wakeland mysteries and the humour of Carl Hiaasen.