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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Tune in this week as we share book recommendations from some of your favourite authors. It was a real thrill to be asked by All Lit Up to recommend some of my favourite books that would make great gifts or stocking stuffers this holiday season. There is so much quality writing to choose from on,  however, these books in particular really stood out to me as both fantastic and distinctive reads.

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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.

Available on All Lit Up.


For the professional wrestling or sports fan

by Bertrand Hebert & Pat Laprade with Tony Stabile
(ECW Press)

The definitive biography on arguably the most legendary and transformative professional wrestler of all time, The Eighth Wonder of The World takes a deep dive into the amazing and complex life of André Roussimoff. Everything from his childhood, rise to fame, demands of the job, and you have-to-read-it-to-believe-it drinking stories that almost seem like urban legends are recounted in detail. Despite living such an epic lifestyle that is so fascinating to learn about, the biography is also tinged with sadness as the reader discovers how André often lived day to day in chronic pain, while the rigors and challenges of spending three hundred plus days a year on the road travelling from city to city to its toll on his body. Ultimately, the life of André The Giant was an inspiring one, in which it becomes clear that despite his gargantuan size, his love for life and boundless spirit was even bigger than he was.

Available on All Lit Up.


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. 

Available on All Lit Up.


For the Christmas Cinephile

by Caseen Gaines (ECW Press)

There are many memorable Christmas films out there, but a case could be made that A Christmas Story tops them all. After all, how many other holiday movies are played on a singular channel on television on a continuous loop on Christmas Day? This delightful gift book is chock full of little known stories about the film’s production, exclusive interviews with the cast, and never before seen photographs from the beloved holiday classic. As timelessly entertaining and nostalgic as it is to watch Ralphie Parker’s quest for a Red Ryder air rifle again and again, the story of how a handful of radio broadcasts and short stories were adapted into one of the greatest and most enduring yuletide flicks is equally captivating.

Available on All Lit Up.  


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.

Available on All Lit Up.  


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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.

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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!