2013 - Paperback
In late August of 1972, when the prize stallion Devil Dancer is shot, Wendell Clay, a war veteran recently turned detective, volunteers to solve the case. His investigation becomes a three-day ordeal that teaches him more than he ever wanted to know about the dark places of the heart. Distinguished by its precise evocation of the Kentucky Bluegrass region, as well as its range of authentic voices—from pickpockets, black hipsters, and Mafia thugs to the elite of the horse farm world—the novel deftly dramatizes a grim yet compassionate view of existence. As the action moves from the lush opulence of Sycamore Springs Farm to the sleazy underside of Lexington and the mobbed-up dives of Newport, Kentucky, Wendell interrogates a set of memorable characters whose tales lure him into a labyrinth where mazes devised by others merge with his own twisted desires. The novel combines poetic texture and mythic resonance with a mastery of character, voice, scene, and plot. While contemporary in its sensibility, Devil Dancer draws upon some of the oldest literary traditions of all: people swapping stories to sustain each other and a mortal man’s confrontation with the mystery of life.
Praise for Devil Dancer
“Kentucky thrives on vice,” says a character in Devil Dancer, and in this dark neo-noir it’s true of both sides of Lexington. How do you beat a crooked house? William Heath pits his Chandleresque shamus against the America of Manson and Vietnam, and the only winner is the reader.
—Stewart O’Nan, author of Songs for the Missing
A novel of intrigue, decadence, and complex human relations, William Heath’s Devil Dancer stands with the best of those that find their way through place and its implications. What Raymond Chandler does for California, Heath does for Kentucky. One can live in this novel, but the living is not easy.
—Toby Olson, author of Seaview
With prose that is both muscular and lyrical, William Heath takes us on a journey through the swanky horse farms and seedy back streets of Lexington, Kentucky in the early 70s in pursuit of the killer of a majestic thoroughbred. Mingling wry humor and tough guy dialogue that Elmore Leonard would be proud of, Devil Dancer is brimming over with haunting characters who are never exactly who they first appear. This is a first-rate novel of suspense that also accomplishes all the things we expect from our best works of literature.
—James W. Hall, author of The Hit List and Mean High Tide
Devil Dancer is an edgy un-put-downable novel. Heath is both original and elegant; he is, in fact, an engagingly entertaining writer. Devil Dancer reminds us all that love and life can be fragile and dangerous, and this comes vibrantly alive because of the author’s sleek and graceful style. This is eloquent writing and compelling story telling by someone who knows his craft.
—Bob Leuci, author of All the Centurians, the story of his life as the real “Prince of the City.”
In this entertaining novel, Heath delivers a fascinating and well-crafted tale that takes the mystery of the noir genre and injects it into Kentucky circa the sweltering summer of 1972. Wendell’s investigation proves to be a good old-fashioned barn burner as a cast of rather colorful characters stumble into view the deeper he gets, leading to a rousing climax.
— Publisher’s Weekly
Devil Dancer is a classic mystery with an ex-marine hero who has trouble with relationships and struggles to find his place in society. It moves at a good pace and is concisely written by William Heath. Most of the major characters in Devil Dancer are well drawn and step right off the page.