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Duke City splash

Big week for my alter ego Max Austin, with the publication of his latest Duke City crime novel and a big e-book sale.

DUKE CITY DESPERADO releases Tuesday, and thanks again to all who pre-ordered the e-book. It's only $2.99, and I'm hoping lots of folks get a copy on the first day to pump up the rankings on Amazon and such sites. Sales will determine whether I publish more of these Duke City books with Random House/Alibi, so please tell all your friends to give it a try.

The Duke City novels are standalone "crook books," though some cross-over characters pop up in all three stories.

DUKE CITY DESPERADO is the story of two nimrods who try to rob a drive-thru bank, and what happens to them on the lam. Best-selling author Charlaine Harris said the book is "more fun than a barrel of heavily medicated monkeys." Lefty Award-winning author Bill Fitzhugh calls DESPERADO a "page-burner of tart dialogue and breakneck pacing."

The second of the three novels, DUKE CITY HIT, is on sale for only 99 cents this week. DUKE CITY HIT features Vic Walters, a middle-aged hitman who finds something worth fighting for.

On Tuesday evening (6/9), I'm giving a talk to Rogue Writers, the new offshoot of SouthWest Writers here in Albuquerque. The 5 p.m. event is free and open to the public. Details here.

I've had a nice break from writing over the past few weeks, culminating in a visit to lovely Olympia, WA, where I met with longtime editor/partner-in-crime Frank Zoretich and picked up my latest manuscript, which is covered with red ink, as usual. So, it's time to get back to work.

Hope you're all having a terrific summer. Read more books!


Time off means time to read

My latest work-in-progress is off to my first editor, so I'm enjoying a brief respite from writing. I'm not one of those writers who believes you absolutely must write every day. Breaks are important, too.

Time off means I can catch up on my ever-growing reading list. I read fiction all the time, but much slower while I'm writing and editing. Given some idle time, I can get lost in reading and zip through books.

Currently, I'm reading MR. MERCEDES by Stephen King, which won the Best Novel Edgar this year. Before that, I polished off Lou Berney's THE LONG AND FARAWAY GONE. Up next is DRY BONES IN THE VALLEY by Tom Bouman, which won the Best First Novel Edgar, then TRUTH BE TOLD by Hank Phillipi Ryan, which won a whole slew of awards. Also, the brand-new novel from Duane Swierczynski, CANARY.

As you can see from that list, I try to read the big award winners and the cutting-edge stuff in crime fiction. Keeping up with your genre is part of the work of being an author. Fortunately, crime fiction is my favorite, so keeping up is a pleasure.

All of those books, by the way, are from the Albuquerque/Bernalillo County library system, which has an excellent online system for putting "holds" on books. I read on my Kindle when I travel, but I still read paper books at home.

Aside from reading, I've also been working around the house and helping my wife with her vegetable garden. Watching the NBA playoffs. Listening to a lot of music. Napping. Recharging my batteries.

Soon, I'll be busy doing lots of publicity for DUKE CITY DESPERADO, my third novel written as Max Austin. The crime novel, about two chumps who try to rob a drive-thru bank, comes out June 9. Only $2.99 as an e-book original from Random House/Alibi.

And my editor will return my latest manuscript, all covered in red ink. And I'll get back to work.


Big-name blurb

My pal Charlaine Harris, best-selling author of the books that inspired "True Blood," has given a great blurb to my next Max Austin crime novel, DUKE CITY DESPERADO.

Duke City Desperado is more fun than a barrel of heavily medicated monkeys," she writes. "The crime caper novel is not dead, but in the capable hands of Max Austin it takes on a whole new twist. Two inept criminals equal one good time for the reader.”

That's the kind of blurb authors dream of. I've already thanked Charlaine a couple of times, but I'll say thanks again here publicly. Charlaine is one of the greats of mystery fiction, and she's a warm, charitable person besides. You should all go buy her new book, DAY SHIFT, which comes out soon.

DUKE CITY DESPERADO has also received wonderful blurbs from two other terrific authors, Bill Fitzhugh and Charlie Price. Go here to see what they had to say about this new comic thriller.

Publication date for DUKE CITY DESPERADO is June 9, but it's available for preorder now everywhere e-books are sold. Only $2.99!


Help your favorite authors

It's a tough, strange time in book publishing, and readers need to help their favorite authors as much as possible to make sure they keep writing.

How do you support authors? By buying their books, obviously, but it also helps a lot if you post favorable reviews of the books on Amazon, Goodreads and other such sites. Mention the author's books to friends and relatives and on social media. Encourage your local libraries and bookstores to carry the books.

With literally millions of new books crowding the market, it's all about getting the word out about the authors we love. The more readers the author accumulates, the better the chances that the publisher stays happy and the author can continue to write for a living.

Another way to help is to preorder books that you're anticipating. Publishers look at those early sales with a critical eye, and base marketing decisions on them, so it's important that readers show that they're looking forward to the next book.

Which brings me -- ahem! -- to my latest title writing as Max Austin. DUKE CITY DESPERADO comes out June 9 from Alibi, the new mystery imprint at Random House, but it's available for preorder now. Only $2.99, everywhere e-books are sold.

DUKE CITY DESPERADO is a rollicking thriller about two idiots who try to rob a drive-thru bank and what subsequently happens to them. While there are some cross-over characters from the other Duke City novels, DESPERADO works as a standalone. I guarantee that you'll get a kick out of it.


Max Austin and me

The other day, a distant friend commented on a Facebook post about the Max Austin books, saying, "How did I not know you were writing under another name?"

This from a woman who's a big deal in the mystery community, one who organizes conferences and programs panels and knows everybody. And she didn't know about Max Austin? At first, I thought she was yanking my chain (she does have a wicked sense of humor). But no, she really hadn't heard about my pen name.

This is the worst thing about using a pen name. Friends and fans have never heard of Max Austin, while I've dropped off their radar. If they think of me at all, it's to wonder when the next Steve Brewer novel will be published.

I've done all I can to get the word out, to the point where I was sure all my social media "friends" were sick of hearing about DUKE CITY SPLIT and DUKE CITY HIT. But it turns out people still haven't heard about these new books, which were published in 2014 by Alibi, the new e-book imprint at Random House.

Using a pseudonym for the Duke City books wasn't my idea, and I wish now I'd fought to publish under my real name. I'm very proud of these books and, in some ways, they indicate a new direction in my work. I'm writing books about crooks these days, as opposed to mysteries with clues and red herrings and good guys and bad guys. In my latest thrillers, most everyone is a bad guy. Some are just worse than others.

The pen name was supposed to indicate this change in direction, and the publisher liked the idea of a hot new voice instead of an old warhorse like me. But we've suffered from the disconnect. I've published two dozen books under my own name and developed a small following, but that hasn't yet translated into sales for Max Austin. In some ways, it feels like starting over after more than 20 years in the business.

So, here I am, saying it again: For now, at least, I'm Max Austin, and I really wish you'd give these new
books a try. Each stands alone, but some of the characters continue through these interlocking tales. The third one in the series, DUKE CITY DESPERADO, comes out in June. It's a comic thriller with great cover art, and I hope it finds its audience.

DUKE CITY DESPERADO is available for preorder now. Like the other two books, it's only $2.99.