Winner of the Best First Crime Novel at the 2019 Arthur Ellis Awards!
Nominated for a Lefty for Best Debut Mystery Novel!
"Hammerhead" Jed Ounstead thought he'd traded the pro-wrestling world for the slightly less dangerous one of a bar bouncer and errand boy for his father's detective agency, but the squared circle wasn't quite done with him yet. When his former tag-team partner draws upon their old friendship for help in finding his kidnapped pet snake, Jed finds himself dragged back into the fold of sleazy promoters, gimmicky performers, and violence inside and outside the ring. As the venom of Vancouver's criminal underworld begins to seep into Jed's life, a steel chair to the back of the head is the least of his problems.
Cobra Clutch is a fast-paced, hard-hitting debut novel by A.J. Devlin that features an unstoppable combo: a signature move of raucous humour with a super finisher of gritty realism.
About the author
A.J. Devlin grew up in Greater Vancouver before moving to Southern California 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.
Cobra Clutch, the first book in the "Hammerhead" Jed professional wrestling mystery-comedy series, was released in spring 2018 and nominated for a Lefty Award for Best Debut Mystery and won the 2019 Crime Writers of Canada Arthur Ellis Award 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, and on CBC The Next Chapter.
The third book in the series, Five Moves of Doom, will be published in fall 2022. For more information on A.J. and his books, please visit ajdevlin.com.
- Nominated, Best Debut Mystery Novel at the Lefty Awards
- Winner, Best First Crime Novel At the Arthur Ellis Awards
Excerpt: Cobra Clutch (by (author) A.J. Devlin)
"Some asshole kidnapped my snake."
"That sounds like a hell of a case."
"I'm serious, man."
"So am I."
"You don't believe me?"
"Not really, no."
"I thought you would. That's why I came to you."
"Just so I'm clear, by 'kidnapped' you mean someone actually stole your pet snake?"
"Yes. And her name is Ginger."
"The snake or the kidnapper?"
"Are you sure Ginger didn't, like, slither off somewhere?"
"Seriously, who put you up to this?"
"I can't believe you think this is a joke."
"It was my cousin, wasn't it?"
"You know what? Forget it."
I took another sip of my banana milkshake and glanced around the Dairy Queen in search of an accomplice. "You're videotaping this, right? Declan wouldn't go to all this trouble and not get this on camera."
Johnny slammed his fist down on the table. "Damn it, Jed! I'm not screwing around here!"
"All right, take it easy. I believe you."
"About goddamn time."
"You have to admit, it's not the easiest sell. I'm also not sure which is more disturbing -- the fact that someone went to the trouble of kidnapping your pet snake or that you actually named a reptile after a Spice Girl."
My old friend smirked despite himself. "You're an even bigger smart-ass than I remember."
"Fair enough. Now why don't you take me through this thing from the top?"
Johnny plucked a crinkled photo out of his wallet and handed it to me. In the picture he was leaning against the turnbuckle of a professional wrestling ring with a yellow python with brown patches draped over his shoulders. "That's my baby," he said.
"I can see the resemblance."
I pointed at the tattoo of a yellowish-brown python spiraling around one of his sinewy forearms.
"Oh, yeah. I got inked for Ginger's birthday a few months back. I've had her for three years now, Jed. I make my entrances with her around my neck and keep her ringside during my matches and everything. I can't wrestle without her."
"Any idea why someone would want to take your snake?" I asked, handing back the photo.
"Christ, I don't know. You're the private investigator."
"I'm a bouncer, Johnny. Not a PI."
"That's not what I've heard."
"My old man is the one with the licence. I just help him with some of the leg work from time to time."
"So do some leg work for me now and help me get Ginger back. You should have seen the cops this morning, man. They laughed at me while I filled out the theft report."
"I'm sorry, bub," I replied earnestly. "I can't help you."
Johnny gripped my forearm as I stood.
"Baton Rouge, man."
My heart skipped a beat. "That was a long time ago."
"You owe me."
"You sure you want to play this card?"
"I am. I got nowhere else to go."
"Cobra Clutch masterfully blends humor, mystery, thrills, action, romance, and heart into a hell of a story featuring a lively wrestler-turned-PI hero. The action scenes are intense, the quiet times heartwarming and engaging, and the humor expertly interjected to accentuate characters and breathe realism into the story."
~ John M. Murray, Foreword Reviews
"Set in Vancouver, BC, this intriguing debut offers a fast-paced, graphically violent mystery that pairs well with Glen Erik Hamilton's Past Crimes. Fans of pro wrestling will appreciate "Hammerhead" Jed."
~ Library Journal
"...high-pitched violent action sequences, daring escapes, and a thrilling climax."
~ Stephen Knight, Quill & Quire
"Cobra Clutch uses humor and gritty realism and includes a former tag-team partner, a kidnapped snake, sleazy promoters, and violence inside and outside the ring."
~ BC BookWorld