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Gift Guide Week: A.J. Devlin
Arthur Ellis Award-winning author A.J. Devlin is our final gift guider this season with five book recommendations for true crime buffs, professional wrestling fans, Tim Burton devotees, and more.
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For the true crime buff
Dead Reckoning by Carys Cragg (Arsenal Pulp Press)I had the pleasure of getting to know Carys at a Vancouver Public Library event in 2018 where we both read from our debut books. She is a lovely and upbeat young woman, which is why when you learn of what Dead Reckoning is about it’s almost stunning. The subtitle of Carys’ first novel says it all: How I Came To Meet The Man Who Murdered My Father. A riveting read that showcases not only the strength of one young woman as she begins a quest to find answers, but also the depth of our capacity as human beings for understanding, empathy, and ultimately, acceptance. A true crime novel unlike any I have ever come across before, it’s no surprise Dead Reckoning was a Globe and Mail 100 Best Book of the Year and finalist for both the Governor General’s Literary Award in Non-Fiction and the Hubert Evans Non-Fiction Prize.
For the professional wrestling or sports fan
For the crime fiction aficionado and music lover
Zero Avenue by Dietrich Kalteis (ECW Press)As one of Vancouver’s best crime writers, Dietrich Kalteis’ books never disappoint. What makes Zero Avenue unique is that it features a crime story told against the backdrop of Vancouver’s early punk rock scene. Following the rise of Frankie Del Rey, who slings just enough smack on the side to keep her band going as she chases her dream, the young rocker quickly finds herself pulled into an opportunity for an even bigger score. Showcasing locations all across Greater Vancouver, including the always bustling and iconic Downtown Eastside, Frankie’s descent into the drug trade escalates quickly. The punk scene ambiance in this novel is potent, so don’t be surprised if while reading you may find yourselves listening to songs by the Sex Pistols or Ramones.
For the Christmas Cinephile
For the Tim Burton devotee and gothic enthusiast
Only Pretty Damned by Niall Howell (NeWest Press)Full disclosure: I had the honour and privilege to read an advanced copy of this one of a kind dark tale and was even fortunate enough to be able to blurb the book. That being said, this is the best novel I have read in years. An utterly gripping read that snakes its dark tentacles around your mind and makes one feel as if they can all but see the storyboards for a Tim Burton film adaptation. Only Pretty Damned is a captivating, engrossing, gothic noir that whisks the reader away and makes them feel as if they’re on the road with an old time travelling circus. The characters are complex, the prose rich, and riveting darkness abounds as the plot unfolds.
* * *A.J. Devlin grew up in Greater Vancouver before moving to Southern California for six years where he earned a B.F.A. in Screenwriting from Chapman University and a M.F.A. in Screenwriting from The American Film Institute. Cobra Clutch, the first entry in the “Hammerhead” Jed ex-pro wrestler turned PI mystery-comedy series, was nominated for a 2019 Lefty Award for Best Debut Mystery and won the 2019 Arthur Ellis Award for Best First Crime Novel. Book two in the series — Rolling Thunder — was published in spring 2020 by NeWest Press.
* * *Five authors and 23 book recommendations later, our gift guide week has come to an end. By now you should have a well rounded litlist to begin your holiday bookspree—or to buy for yourself because, books! Thanks for following along with us!