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The Devil's Redhead

In this masterfully written fiction debut, David Corbett combines a gripping crime story with a poignant tale of enduring love.

Devil's Redhead
NEW! Now available in ebook format from Open Road Media/Mysterious Press
reelance photographer and wildcat smuggler Dan Abatangelo blows into Vegas to hit the tables and taste the nightlife. In his path waits Shel Beaudry, a knockout redhead with a smile that says, Gentlemen, start your engines. The attraction is instant—and soon the two are living the gypsy life on the West Coast, where Dan captains a distribution ring for premium Thai marijuana. His credo: "No guns, no gangsters. It's only money."

But the trade is changing. Eager to get out, Dan plans one last run, judges poorly, and is betrayed by an underling and caught by the DEA. To secure light time for Shel and his crew, Dan takes the fall and pleads to ten years. Now, having served the full term, he emerges from prison with a hardened will but an unchanged heart. Though probation guidelines forbid any contact with Shel, a convicted felon, he sets his focus on one thing: finding her.

Devil's Redhead
Shel's life has taken a different turn since her release from prison. She has met Frank Mass, a recovering addict whose son died a merciless death. Driven by pity, Shel dedicates herself to nursing Frank back from grief and saving him from madness. But his weaknesses push him into the grip of a homegrown crime syndicate in command of the local methamphetamine trade. Mexicans are stealing the syndicate's territory, setting in motion a brutal chain of events that engulf Frank, Shel, and Dan in a race-fueled drug war from which none will escape unscathed.

A brilliant crime novel of betrayal and retribution, passion and redemption, The Devil's Redhead heralds the arrival of a powerful new voice in fiction.

Read the Author's Note.

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Ballantine Books Hardcover, June 2002, ISBN-10: 0345447522, ISBN-13: 978-0345447524
Paperback reissue, June 2003, ISBN-10: 0449007162, ISBN-13: 978-0449007167
MysteriousPress.com/Open Road Media ebook, May 2012, ISBN: 978-1453253366

While visiting the archeological dig at Yax Ha in Guatemala near the border with Belize, one of David's hometown friends spotted the pictured salesperson, who was working at the one craft booth near the site, reading The Devil's Redhead. Someone had left the book behind, he said, and he was using it to learn English, with the help of a Spanish-English dictionary. The smile is not feigned—he said he was enjoying the book.
Copyright Alan Plutchok


"Corbett thunders out of the gate with this gritty, moving debut . . . . His prose dazzles, cutting across the page with passionate force, articulating themes of devotion, lost hope and spiritual renewal in an unforgiving world."
   —Publishers Weekly


2003 Anthony Awards
2003 Barry Awards

Voted one of the Best Hardboiled and Noir
Rara Avis

First Mystery Club Pick
June 2002
The Poisoned Pen
Scottsdale, Arizona

Discovery Book
of the Month

July 2002
The Mystery Bookstore
Los Angeles, California

Spotlight Pick
July 2002—Book Carnival
Orange, California

Pick of the Month
July 2002—M is for Mystery
San Mateo, California

A Best Debut Pick
for 2002

by Oline H. Cogdill
Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel

Best Pick of 2002
Dorothy L (Listserve)

* * *

The Devil's Redhead has been selected as a featured title by these book clubs:

Doubleday Book Club
Literary Guild
Mystery Guild
Book-of-the-Month Club
(Featured Alternate)

"The plot of David Corbett's first novel, The Devil's Redhead, might have come straight out of post-war noir fiction . . . . But the plot doesn't begin to tell this story, which comes from some deep well of suffering that finds its graphic expression in the noir vernacular of violence. People really get hurt in this book—fists, guns, hammers and bombs are among the weapons of choice—and Corbett writes with an intensity of feeling that doesn't gloss over their pain. In fact, the characters' pain, along with their capacity for bearing it, learning from it and offering it up for their own redemption and for the salvation of others, seems to be the main point here. Without compromising the stark realism of his bruising style, Corbett has written an astonishingly tender love story."
   —New York Times Book Review

"The Devil's Redhead is a compelling, shocking and beautifully-written tour de force that super-glues you to your seat from the opening sentence . . . . A dazzling debut, as violent, gritty and dirty as noir crime writing gets but with a moving love story at its centre."
   —The Irish Independent

"The Devil's Redhead is . . . an exceptionally assured first novel. . . . . Corbett handles dialogue, narrative and characterisation like an experienced novelist and is a name to watch."
   —Sunday Telegraph (UK)

"Orion is the Manchester United of the crime publishing league, with an enviable stable of major writers and a determination to discover new authors. Its New Blood promotion must be applauded for launching nine new talents at an approachable price. Corbett's Vegas—and California-set noir thriller is, for me, the best of the bunch, a tense and hypnotic tale of amour fou split asunder amid the murky world of drug trafficking. Full of action, dark and brutal, this is a splendid evocation of West Coast crime and split loyalties that resonates long after the final page is turned, and it reveals a major new voice."
   —The Guardian (UK)

"The Devil's Redhead is a hard-boiled, gritty mystery set against the background of drug wars and organized crime. But it also is a story of redemption, of finding inner strength, and, yes, ultimately, of love. Author David Corbett keeps a perfect balance in his debut novel, never allowing the love story to overwhelm a dark tale that centers on the violent world of drug smugglers. That Corbett makes us care about ex-cons—and question the degrees of culpability—without preaching or stooping to gimmicks or cliches adds to the complexity of his strongly plotted story. Corbett's fluid pace is brisk and heart-wrenching at the same time. There's an echo of noir master Jim Thompson's attention to the anti-hero as hero that worked so well in The Getaway and The Grifters. That approach works here, too, thanks to Corbett's elegant writing and his focus on characters and Elmore Leonardesque dialogue. Corbett . . . delivers a highly charged, atmospheric story about flawed characters finding forgiveness in an unforgiving world."
   —Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel

"[The Devil's Redhead] is a multilayered novel that veers between hard-edged love story and straight good guy/bad guy thriller . . . This is a classy, well-written book and, provided he can keep it up, Corbett could well find himself up there with the likes of Coben, Connolly and Cornwell."
   —Time Out Magazine (UK)

"[A] full throttle thrill ride . . . . David Corbett may be the most promising American thriller writer to debut this year."
   —January Magazine

"Combining stark violence, dazzling prose and a poignant love story, David Corbett has created a masterful and gripping crime fiction debut, reminiscent of the noir atmosphere of James Lee Burke."
   —The Mystery and Thriller Club, BCA (UK)

"The Devil's Redhead charts the tempestuous relationship bertween two vividly drawn characters reminiscent of Bonnie and Clyde. Hard-edged, and a better indicator of modern America than much US literary fiction, the clever plotting invites comparison with Elmore Leonard. . . Arguably the most stunning crime novel in Orion's venture."
   —City Life (Everything Manchester—UK)

"Corbett's novel is like something Tarantino and Shakespeare would have dreamed up after a night out together."
   —Irish Examiner

"A Bonnie and Clyde on drugs for the modern generation."
   —York Evening Press (UK)

"...[A] star is born with The Devil's Redhead. . . the writing is strong and engrossing, the characters are richly developed, the storytelling is surprisingly self-assured, and there is every reason to both praise this debut and eagerly await what will come next from this author's pen . . . . I recommend this book without reservation."
   —Deadly Pleasures

"The Devil's Redhead succeeds as both a gritty romance and a terrifying insider's view of the awesome stupidity and insanity of methamphetamine-fueled criminal elements."
   —PAGES Magazine

"Here is a damn solid crime novel, and, in its treatment of the new hard West, reminiscent of the books of James Crumley and Kem Nunn. Corbett, a former private investigator, knows things about criminals, the drug trade, and the underworld that most writers of his genre can only guess at. He writes with care and power, and artfully describes the kind of people that David Goodis called "the wounded and the slain." The Devil's Redhead, by the way, is also a terrific love story. Is this a classic? Maybe not, but I bet Corbett has one in him. As for me, I'm off to read Done for a Dime, the author's second novel, now available in paperback."
   —George Pelecanos

"It is hard to believe that The Devil's Redhead is David Corbett's debut novel. What is believable is the fact that the author spent fifteen years working as a private investigator. His knowledge and experience flood the pages, making the fast-paced thriller believable and full of intense scenes.... Corbett has written a hard-boiled noir thriller that is sure to become a classic. The plot is tight and professionally crafted, with a cast of characters vividly drawn and full of life. The witty dialogue, clever clues and poetic prose should make The Devil's Redhead appealing to a wide variety of fiction lovers."
   —Phillip Tomasso III, Curled Up With A Good Book

"I loved this book. It's dark, bleak, violent and hopeless. But it's also the opposite of all those things. There's an overriding sense of the power of hope and the ability of love to turn petty, weak, fallible people into something better. David Corbett has written a book which incorporates great themes of revenge, retribution, despair, hope, love, futility, desparation in the lives of ordinary people in a way that is both grand and down to earth. The writing is lush and resonant, but it's also realistic and often shocking. It's not a book for the faint-hearted, with its matter of fact descriptions of the results of senseless violence. The destruction and waste is sometimes overwhelming, but the impression of something better waiting for Shel and Abatangelo is always there. A gorgeous book which filled me with several emotions at once, and whose characters stayed with me long after I'd moved on to another book."
   —Donna Moore, Reviewingtheevidence.com

"The Devil's Redhead is filled with taut suspense and wonderfully vivid details—Corbett uses his words to maximum effect. I also fell in love with the characters, constantly hoping everything would work out for them. Corbett is a talented author who will take the mystery world by storm."
   —Robyn Glazer, Romance Times Bookclub

"One of the best books I've read this year."
   —Debbie Neckel, BookCrazy Radio

"There's tremendous energy in Corbett's work, and an air of dusty, violent, Old Testament depression that reminds me of Boston Teran (God Is a Bullet, Never Count Out the Dead), one of my favorite crime novelists."
   —San Jose Mercury News

"...excellently written with a plot that keeps throwing punches."
   —Fairfield Daily Republic

"The Devil's Redhead is a thrilling debut novel. Its scintillating plot and edgy characters create a wrecking ball of a story with a flashbang ending."
   —Easy Reader (LA)

"...hot enough to require flame-retardant gloves... Highly recommended."
   —"Grit Lit," Contra Costa Times

"In Shakespeare's Henry IV, Part I, King Henry of England is told that young Harry Percy spent "a sad and bloody hour" upon a battlefield in Scotland fighting against Scots and Welsh rebels .... David Corbett's dark and gripping first novel, The Devil's Redhead, recounts another sad and bloody hour of racial warfare, this in the California Delta region between Anglos and Latinos over the lucrative hard drug trade. This warfare is depicted with graphic, absolutely real, almost unspeakable violence. But it is also a template for the less vicious but just as real power struggle for political control of California between the two races. A remarkable and subtle achievement in a first novel.... Caught in the middle are Daniel Abatangelo, just out of prison after 10 years inside as a dope dealer, and Lachelle Beaudry, his ex-lover now tied up with a murderous loser always cranked up on speed. Everyone wants to kill both Dan and Shel, which makes these complex, gifted, exciting, but also incomplete people keep doing bad things while trying to do good, to keep on living, and to be together again.... There are no easy answers in this slashing thriller. It is at once a novel of white-knuckle suspense, a serious and even literary exploration of the blackest depths of the human psyche, and a love story of two badly flawed people fighting against all odds in any way they can .... The Devil's Redhead is a bullet-fast, high-wire act without a safety net. It will leave you weak and shaken, exhilarated and profoundly disturbed. If it does not get the MWA Best First Novel Edgar Award, there is no justice in this dark world of ours ..."
   —Joe Gores, Multiple Edgar Award Winning Author of Hammett and the DKA series, including 2001's Cons, Scams and Grifts

"The Devil's Redhead is a tense, terrific story, beautifully written, full of gritty details and lyric violence—when I finished it I thought of Ross MacDonald: David Corbett is that good."
   —Max Byrd, author of the best-selling historical novels Jefferson, Jackson and Grant, as well as Target of Opportunity, Finders Weepers, and other thrillers

"The Devil's Redhead isn't a walk on the wild side, it's a flat out run for your life with the hounds chasing after you. David Corbett writes with flair and passion, creating characters who live and breathe and do very bad things. I believed every word of it. Hit me again."
   —Robert Ferrigno, author of the novels Flinch, Heartbreaker, The Horse Latitudes, Cheshire Moon and Dead Man's Dance

"David Corbett handles both selfless love and unspeakable brutality with a poet's hand. The Devil's Redhead is the best debut novel I've read in years. Period."
   —Martin J. Smith, Edgar-nominated author of Time Release, Shadow Image and Straw Men

"Often dark, often hopeful, The Devil's Redhead takes you deep into the world of crime and drugs and the lives they inevitably consume. This is a compelling novel about loyalty, love lost and renewed, and the price we all must pay when we live too close to the edge."
   —James Brown, author of the novels Lucky Town, Final Performance and Hotwire

"Beware the contact high from The Devil's Redhead. It . . . is addictive, brutally realistic, and ultimately, very moving. Corbett writes crime with a deft touch, a professional investigator's knowledge and a rare talent for telling details."
   —Mark Coggins, 2000 Shamus and Barry Award Nominee, author of The Immortal Game


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