“Corbett delivers a rich, hard-hitting epic.”

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review

“The best in contemporary crime fiction—or in contemporary fiction, period.”

Washington Post


“Corbett, like Robert Stone and Graham Greene before him, is crafting important, immensely thrilling books.”

—George Pelecanos

“That rare beast: a work of popular fiction that is both serious and thrilling.”

—John Connolly


“The line runs through Ernest Hemingway and Graham Greene, straight on to David Corbett. I’m not kidding. He’s that good.”

—John Lescroart

“For all the lyricism of his narration and the compassion he shows, Corbett never strays too far from the blunt vigor of California noir.”

New York Times Book Review


“Corbett is the best of Quentin Tarantino and Elmore Leonard. Nobody writes crime fiction better.”

—Robert Dugoni

“Corbett handles his story line and subplots adroitly, in economical but polished prose, but his real strength is in character development.”


Do They Know I’m Running?

Roque Montalvo is wise beyond his eighteen years. Orphaned at birth, a gifted musician, he’s stuck in a California backwater, helping his Salvadoran aunt care for his damaged brother, an ex-marine badly wounded in Iraq.

When immigration agents arrest Roque’s uncle, the family has nowhere else to turn. Badgered by his street-hardened cousin, Roque agrees to bring the old man back, relying on the criminal gangs that control the dangerous smuggling routes from El Salvador, through Guatemala and Mexico, to the U.S. border.

But his cousin has told Roque only so much. In reality, he will have to transport not just his uncle but two others: an Arab whose intentions are disturbingly vague and a young beauty promised to a Mexican crime lord.

Roque discovers that his journey involves crossing more than one kind of border, and he will be asked time and again to choose between survival and betrayal—of his country, his family, his heart.


In an unfortunate oversight, the list I prepared of all those individuals who gave so generously of their time and expertise in the writing of Do They Know I’m Running? was inadvertently omitted from the first edition of the book. I very much hope to rectify that with subsequent editions. Until then, if you’re interested in learning who provided invaluable guidance in the writing of the book (and I hope you do), please download the PDF.


“Corbett delivers a rich, hard-hitting epic that illuminates the violent and surreal landscapes of Central America and Mexico. . . .an unforgettable journey… Fans of Luis Alberto Urrea and Don Winslow alike will be richly rewarded.”
Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

“In this powerful, evocative, character-driven novel, Corbett has written what should be a breakout success. . . Readers who devour and then forget formulaic crime novels won’t soon forget this one.”
Booklist, Starred Review

“Corbett is superb. And, if it’s possible, he raises his game in Do They Know I’m Running? Corbett succeeds at exactly what he sets out to do. He has given us a thoroughly entertaining work that lingers long after the final page has been read. Do They Know I’m Running? is a powerful and sobering work. It is Corbett’s finest book to date and that’s saying a lot.”
—Biblio Bloggins (read the full review)

Do They Know I’m Running? Is David Corbett’s fourth novel and it’s his best yet. The writing is facile and shows great range. It is tender when it wants to be and tough when it has to be. For a book this complex Do They Know I’m Running? flat out moves. It starts off quick and never lets up… In the wake of the release of Jonathan Franzen’s newest novel, Freedom, and his picture appearing on the cover of Time magazine, the talk of the Great American Novelist came up again. A lively part of this ongoing debate (and a great way to get hip to some new and different authors/books) was the recommendations for who SHOULD have been given the title, the cover story and the hype. My participation in these discussions of who are overlooked great American novelists ultimately distilled to four names—two that are older and have been around for decades and two that are younger and have only been publishing novels for the last decade—James Ellroy, Charles Portis, Jess Walter and David Corbett. Stylistically Walter and Corbett are not alike but thematically these two writers are engaging in some of the most vibrant grappling of current issues in contemporary fiction and doing so in way that will resonate with readers now and in future generations.”
—Brian Lindenmuth, Spinetingler Magazine

“Corbett’s novel has the raw, powerful feel of a documentary film. It’s gritty, violent, but also engagingly emotional. His prose rides that line between sparse and evocative. Like any good detective, he knows when to tell us the details, and he knows when to hold them back. He involves us in the hearts of his characters, and we make that investment gladly, even if it looks to be harrowingly dangerous. The rewards outweigh the risks. But Corbett also knows how to write a ripping yarn. Roque, the family he was given and the family that he chooses, are all on the wrong side of both sides; they’re prey to the criminal predatory gangs that now control illegal immigration, they’re criminals to the police who control the border and they’re a potential threat to anyone who sees them and perceives them as not one of us. Corbett does not shy away from the dark, casual cruelty that casts fear into the lives of those in the shadows of the gangs. He doesn’t dwell on it, but he knows how to crank up the tension and create memorable scenes; not just for the orchestration of action, but as well, for the character arcs of these people his readers come to care so much about. With every word and every paragraph, he’s forging a new sort of noir, set in the desert of the human heart.”
—Rick Kleffel, The Agony Column

“With lyrical yet muscular prose, an ahead-of-the-headlines plot, and utterly believable characters, David Corbett’s Do They Know I’m Running? is nothing short of superb. This is not just a thriller, but an elegant novel, full of heart, soul, music, food, cruelty, betrayal, poverty and love. The line runs through Ernest Hemingway and Graham Greene, straight on to David Corbett. I’m not kidding. He’s that good.”
New York Times bestselling author John Lescroart

“A scintillating, politically fuelled mystery that grabs you by the heart and never, never lets up. Think Graham Greene writing today with the narrative drive of Michael Connelly. Borders—in every sense of the word—are transformed and manipulated by writing that seems as effortless as it is compelling. Rarely does a novel knock you totally out of the park; this one does. A major work of literary art that breaks all genre borders.”
—Bestselling Author Ken Bruen
“David Corbett’s new novel is a bold look into the darkness that is human-trafficking, a sharp revelation of the intended and unintended consequences of such evil. With powerful and observant prose he takes us on the smuggling routes, into the lives of those involved, the moments of terror and of hope. After reading Do They Know I’m Running? you can’t plead ignorance anymore.”
—Author Daniel Woodrell
“This may seem a strange thing to say about a novel, but I want to thank you for writing an honorable book. You not only make vivid what the sloganeering approach to immigration costs in human lives, your note at the end concerning racism shows an understanding of its cultural mechanism that is, I think, sadly rare. . . If I had to select a contemporary novel that might open minds . . . yours would be right up there. The novel does its imaginative work without being didactic about it. The essay is just a bonus.” With my respect and regard,
—Jeffrey Spear, PhD, Associate Professor of English, NYU

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