For fifteen years, David worked for the San Francisco private investigation firm of Palladino & Sutherland, and played a significant part in a number of high-profile criminal and civil litigations, including the Lincoln Savings & Loan Case, the DeLorean Trial, the Coronado Company marijuana indictments, the Cotton Club Murder Case, the People's Temple Trial, the first Michael Jackson child molestation case, and a RICO civil litigation brought by the Teamsters against former union leaders associated with organized crime—as well as numerous other drug, murder, and fraud cases.
"Corbett, like Robert Stone and Graham Greene before him,
is crafting important, immensely thrilling books."
In 1995, David eased out of private investigation work to serve as "Man Friday" for his wife, Terri, as she launched her own law practice, specializing in probate litigation, estate planning, and small business law. Sadly, Terri was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in September 2000, and in January 2001, passed away at age 46.
Six weeks before Terri's death, Ballantine purchased David's first novel, The Devil's Redhead. Widely praised, it was nominated for both the Anthony and Barry Awards for Best First Novel of 2002.
His follow-up, Done for a Dime, was also broadly acclaimed ("the best in contemporary crime fiction ... one of the three or four best American crime novels I've ever read."—The Washington Post), was named a New York Times Notable Book, and was nominated for the Macavity Award for Best Novel of 2003.
His third novel, 2007's Blood of Paradise, was compared to the work of Graham Greene and Robert Stone, was chosen by Admiral James Stavridis, then Commander of the US Southern Command, for the SOUTHCOM reading list. It was also selected one of the Top Ten Mysteries and Thrillers of 2007 by The Washington Post and was nominated for an Edgar® Award.
His fourth novel, 2010's Do They Know I'm Running?, also garnered widespread praise ("a rich, hard-hitting epic" —Publishers Weekly, starred review), was named one of the top ten crime fiction books of 2010 by January Magazine, and was selected as Best Novel—Rising Star Category for the Spinetingler Award.
In 2013 he turned to non-fiction with the acclaimed writing guide The Art of Character, described as a "writer's bible that will lead to your character's soul" by bestselling author Elizabeth Brundage, selected by Barnes & Noble as one of the five craft guides every writer must have, and chosen one of the 13 Top Picks for Writing Guides for 2013 by The Writer Magazine.
In 2015 he returned to fiction with both The Mercy of the Night (" Superlative hard-boiled crime fiction with a strong emotional center." —Booklist, starred review) and the novella The Devil Prayed and Darkness Fell ("As always with Corbett, it's tough, compassionate, and powerfully written." —Vince Keenan, Noir City), both featuring Phelan Tierney, "the St. Jude of the justice system."
"[T]he best in contemporary crime fiction—or, if I may be so bold, in contemporary fiction, period."
—Patrick Anderson, Washington Post
David's short fiction has also been widely praised, with stories appearing twice in Best American Mystery Stories, and another, "It Can Happen" from San Francisco Noir, nominated for the Macavity Award for Best Short Story of 2005. Those stories and others have been compiled in the 2016 short story collection Thirteen Confessions.
In 2018, David produced the most ambitious novel of his career, The Long-Lost Love Letters of Doc Holliday, a tour de force mixture of epistolary novel, historical romance, courtroom drama, and action thriller.
He teaches and gives seminars and workshops at conferences throughout the United States, Canada, and Mexico; he's a regular contributor to the writers' blog Writer Unboxed; and his articles on craft and theory have appeared in the New York Times, Narrative, Writer's Digest (where he is a contributing editor), The Writer, Zyzzyva, MovieMaker, Bright Ideas, Crimespree, Mystery Scene, and other outlets.
In October 2014 he remarried, and he and his wife, Mette, currently divide their time between Northern California and coastal Norway.