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PoMo screenwriter turns to mystery

A.J. Devlin releases his debut crime novel on April 15.
A.J. Devlin

A.J. Devlin worked in California as a screenwriter for six years, first as a student at Chapman University and the American Film Institute then in Hollywood.

But it was while he was an undergrad that his mentor, the late Leonard Schrader, pushed him into another genre: mystery writing.

As a child growing up in Port Coquitlam, Devlin loved reading the dialogue-heavy text common in mystery novels. Devlin longed for the snappy back-and-forth writing in such works as The Last Coyote by American crime author Michael Connelly.

The Hardy Boys and other box sets also piqued his interest as a child.

So when the Port Moody secondary graduate (class of 1996) returned home to the Tri-Cities to try his hand at mystery writing, he already had a good base to pen a series.

Next month, Devlin launches his first novel in his “Hammerhead” Jed mystery collection, starting with Cobra Clutch — a pro-wrestling term that introduces his audience to the main character “Hammerhead” Jed Ounstead and Vancouver’s criminal underworld.

“I had so much fun writing the first one,” Devlin told The Tri-City News last week, “that I’m already on my second book…. There’ll definitely be three but I’ve got the outlines for five or six books.”

Devlin said he shopped his manuscript around to North American publishers before landing a deal with NeWest Press (previously, he was on a long list for a contest through another company but had to drop out when he signed with NeWest).

On April 15, from 1 to 5 p.m., he’ll be at Moody Ales (2601 Murray St., Port Moody) to sell and sign copies of Cobra Clutch (they’re also available for purchase online via Amazon and Chapters).

Devlin said he got positive feedback when he read draft passages at the Gallery Bistro in Port Moody last year. And he believes its structure and format will appeal to all readers — not just book lovers interested in crime fiction.

“I started with a mystery novel and it kind of turned into a mystery-comedy,” the father-of-two said. “I wanted to write something that I would read, and it’s quirky and escapist entertainment. That’s how I remember the novels I read as a boy: very thorough and character driven.”