About Me

My photo
Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Discussing Five Moves of Doom with A.J. Devlin

As part of the book tour arranged by A.J. Devlin for Five Moves of Doom he offered an opportunity for a Q & A with regard to the book. I accepted. I sent him a letter and he responded. My letter with his response in blue italics is below. Thank you A.J. for your candid and thoughtful responses.


Dear A.J.

As I neared the end of Five Moves of Doom I went down to the local Dairy Queen and bought a large banana milkshake. I finished the book while drinking the milkshake.

That’s a fitting way to do it! A few people have sent out some social media posts with my books before at Dairy Queens — now I just need to figure out how to get those guys to donate some coupons for some cross-promotional bookmarks or something.

The milkshake was great and certainly brightened my day. I think I could get addicted to DQ banana milkshakes.

After finishing my DQ banana milkshake I wondered if you like them?

I do. Growing up, every lacrosse season my Dad would often stop at DQ on the way home from a practice or a game for ice cream. I liked banana milkshakes but enjoyed working my way around the menu like “Hammerhead” Jed’s father Frank. But I can tell you if we ever visited a Dairy Queen and returned home without a small banana milkshake for my mom there would be trouble. So, that’s where Jed’s passion for the fruity frozen treat came from.

I know I will always associate banana milkshakes with Hammerhead Jed.

Crime fiction sleuths do not often contemplate their mortality. In Five Moves of Doom Hammerhead must face his physical strength and toughness cannot always save him.

Those are definitely the challenges I wanted Jed to be forced to confront in this threequel.

I thought of my own personal reckoning with life in the late 1980’s. In the fall of 1987 I was in Vancouver General Hospital undergoing neurosurgery. The night after my surgery the patient to my right in the neurosurgical intensive care unit died. The next year my father passed away. The following year my wife was in a severe car accident.

I thought a lot about life in those years. Since those difficult times I have tried to appreciate each day and do what I wanted when possible rather than wait for a future day that might not happen. I believe the challenges I faced reinforced my core beliefs including religious faith.

I’m sorry to hear of such a difficult time in your life. I think it’s very natural for such events to trigger deep thought, reflection, and contemplation.

In Five Moves of Doom I felt Hammerhead was profoundly changed by the terrible beating he endured. 

I don’t want to sound callous toward my grappling gumshoe, but the intent was to always shake him to his very core. I wanted him to have no choice but to explore and discover what was left within after being stripped of his most defining characteristics.

I acknowledge I was frustrated with his subsequent decisions. The character I thought I knew well did not handle adversity as I expected. He became a darker personality.

He has, albeit from my point of view, by necessity. And I see him as less “dark” and more “seasoned” and “world-weary.” 

This is a guy who has an aptitude for righting wrongs and helping more and more people with each case he takes on as a PI, but it felt unrealistic and unearned to me if everything kept getting wrapped up for him all neat and tidy. Which is why his perspective has become less black and white and more shades of grey over the course of three novels. 

And if you go back and revisit Cobra Clutch and Rolling Thunder, you’ll see clear hints of this coming down the pipeline. Rya even calls him out on it in book 2 when she witnesses him getting caught up in vengeance and viciously inflicting pain on an incapacitated and defeated antagonist. This is why she warns Jed that he could be started down a slippery slope.

I knew he could not be the same man but I did not anticipate a major shift in the principles that guide him through life. I believe Hammerhead rationalized his actions at the end of the book. 

Well, I partially agree with you here. He does rationalize his actions at the end of Five Moves of Doom, but in my opinion only to a certain extent. He knows what he’s done. And he’s willfully choosing to accept the consequences and pay the price for the greater good.

Jed is aware his cousin Declan has done some serious stuff for just reasons in his IRA past. And without giving away too much, he watches his retired police officer father Frank do something rather shocking near the end of Cobra Clutch that truly surprises him. 

As a result, I feel like Jed’s character arc in this threequel has been slowly and strategically set up over throughout the entire series. Jed keeps saving the day, but each time it’s leaving his hands a little more dirty and costing him a little piece of his soul. 

You succeeded in leaving me in turmoil. I would love to discuss the ending directly but that would be a complete spoiler. When some years have passed and you have written more books I would like to have a full dialogue on the conclusion. In the meantime, I would be interested in whether you think Hammerhead changed as much as I felt he changed.

I would love to have such a conversation too! I think Jed has definitely changed, but maybe not as much for me as he has for you. I believe a series character’s growth — for better or worse — is essential. Stakes are raised. Difficult decisions must be made. And the fallout from all of these things is going to fundamentally shape the protagonist moving forward. The moment “Hammerhead” Jed stops evolving is going to be the moment I start to find him less exciting and interesting to write.

Have there been events in your recent life that led you to write about Hammerhead examining his destiny?

Nothing in my recent life aside from the Covid uncertainty and isolation we all endured. But everyone has had their ups and downs. I certainly drew upon a lot of my own personal adversity in years past to craft this latest adventure. My mentor used to say eliciting feelings from your audience is the best thing a writer can do. You can love the story or hate it, but if it’s resulting in an emotional response, something is working. Nobody wants to read or watch stories about happy people doing happy things. Or, I suppose, I don’t.

When I read Sam Wiebe’s Hell and Gone I learned of the major trials he has faced in the last few years.

Sam’s awesome. And the depth and subtle social commentary in his page turning crime fiction is second-to-none.

In your Acknowledgements I saw that Five Moves of Doom was the last book in a trilogy. 

Cobra Clutch, Rolling Thunder, and Five Moves of Doom do form a trilogy that tells a three part story of “Hammerhead” Jed’s first full year as a pro-wrestling private investigator. 

But a completed trilogy does not mean a series is over.

I’m working on a fourth Jed book, and while there will be connective tissue to the previous novels, it won’t be as tightly interweaved as the first trio of mysteries are. So I like to think of book 4 as hopefully Trilogy 2 Book 1.

I read in your interview on the Cozy Up with Kathy blog that you are moving on to other writing projects.

Not moving on, but flirting and exploring ideas for other projects. I was pretty laser focused on getting a trilogy out as quickly as possible and as a result didn’t think about anything else creatively. But now the timing feels right to be more open to perhaps something different. But I’d be lying if I said writing more Jed adventures wasn’t a top priority for me. 

One of my favourite things about Five Moves of Doom is that it provides a certain degree of closure, but also very clearly leaves the door open for future “Hammerhead” Jed mysteries. I’m not only excited to write these stories, but I believe they can be a worthy addition to the overall narrative that has occurred so far.

I thought of Anthony Bidulka who, after writing 8 books featuring Russell Quant, put the series on indefinite hiatus.

He told me in an email:

I still stand by my never-say-never response which you quoted. For the moment, Russell continues to be on hiatus. I certainly appreciate your interest and the interest of other Quant readers in another book, but for the moment it is simply a matter of not having enough time to pursue all my opportunities and interests. When I began my career as a writer, having left a successful but time-consuming and sometimes grueling career as a CA, although part of the transition was the dream of attempting to write a book, it was also a personal promise to find better balance in life. If I spent more of my time writing, could I crank out another Russell Quant book? Absolutely. Do I have plenty of ideas for Quant stories? Certainly. But I never want to 'crank' out any book. Not good for readers, not good for me.

Wise words from a talented writer. Quality over quantity is paramount.

Are you able to say if Hammerhead Jed is on a definite or indefinite hiatus?

No hiatus. I’m going to be doing all I can to ensure he returns sooner rather than later. What that may look like, however, I don’t want to reveal just yet.

It is my hope he will return. Where Russell Quant was in a good place when his series stopped, I would like to know if Hammerhead can find a way out of the dark realm he was in at the end of Five Moves of Doom.

I’m happy to hear that! I’m starting to liken the series to a swinging pendulum. Cobra Clutch was Jed’s action-packed gritty and quirky debut, Rolling Thunder is the most colourful and zany of the books so far, and I think Five Moves of Doom is the most mature and interesting in the sense there is a deeper dive into what makes “Hammerhead” Jed tick. So, I think shifting back to some more lighter-hearted fare — while still addressing the fallout from the latest novel — is where things will be headed.

Not many books have left me thinking as much as Five Moves of Doom. I am glad I read the book.

Thank you for taking the time to review and discuss it! Hearing someone is glad to have read their writing is all an author can hope for.


All the best.



Devlin, A.J. - (2019) - Cobra Clutch; (2020) - Rolling Thunder and Stampede Wrestling and and Exchange with Author A.J. Devlin; (2022) - Five Moves of Doom


  1. Thanks, both, for an interesting conversation. I think it often happens that major events in an author's life impact the author's writing. It's not surprising, really, since things like major surgery can really have an effect on one's outlook and perspective. It's also nice to get a 'behind the scenes' look at Hammerhead and his stories.

    1. Margot: Thanks for the comment. Trials come to all of us with individual responses. Sometimes you just need a large banana milkshake.