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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.


DUKE CITY HIT on sale now

My latest crime novel came out this week and it's a doozy. DUKE CITY HIT, written as Max Austin, is the second in a trilogy I've written for Random House's Alibi imprint, and it's available as an e-book original for $2.99.

DUKE CITY HIT is the story of an accomplished hit man named Vic Walters, an Albuquerque resident who learns he has a grown son. And the son wants to get into the family business. It's a tight, gritty novel with a big, shooty finish.

Early reviews have been good and the book currently is featured on a tour of book blogs. You can see reviews here and here. Also, an interview with "Max Austin" is here.

The third Duke City novel, DUKE CITY DESPERADO, is now available for pre-order. It's scheduled for publication next June.

I just finished work on what would be the fourth Duke City book, assuming the series continues, and I've started outlining a new novel that I'll start writing in January. Whenever people ask if I'm working on a new book, I say, "Always."

December also finds me gearing up for my Jan. 3 speech to SouthWest Writers and preparing for the spring semester at the University of New Mexico, where I'll be teaching "Meet the Authors" in the Honors College.

Busy time, but happily so.

Happy holidays to you and yours!


New boxed set will slay you

Say hello to DIE LAUGHING 2, a new boxed set of full-length novels from Ben Rehder, Paul Levine, Parnell Hall, Bill Fitzhugh and yours truly.

Our first e-book collection, which is called -- surprise! -- DIE LAUGHING, came out over the summer and has sold very well, gaining us some new readers in the process.

My contribution to the new collection is CALABAMA, a novel of hillbilly noir set in the wilds of Northern California. It's the story of a young slacker whose life goes so wrong, he winds up in a doomed kidnapping plot. I love this story. Very dark humor. A great villain named Rydell Vance.

I've read the stories by Fitzhugh and Hall, and they're superb. Looking forward to the other two, soon as I can get to them.

I'm staying very busy as autumn arrives here in Albuquerque. My writing seminar at the Honors College at
the University of New Mexico is going full steam ahead, and I'm planning a "Meet the Authors" class for next semester. My latest manuscript is with my beta readers, but I'll be giving it a final polish soon.

Bouchercon is less than two weeks away.

Last, but certainly not least, we're gearing up for the Dec. 16 launch of my second Max Austin crime novel, DUKE CITY HIT. Today, I heard from a reviewer who really liked an advance copy. "Great plot," he said. "Great characters."

Music to my ears.


Looking forward to Bouchercon!

I'm delighted to report that I'll be on two author panels at Bouchercon this November in Long Beach, CA.

Bouchercon is the world mystery convention, the biggest event of the year for fans of crime fiction of all kinds. The convention moves around the country (and occasionally overseas) and I try to go every year or two.

A big chunk of what we do at these conventions consists of panel discussions by authors, publishers, fans and others, who talk about mysteries old and new, trends in the publishing industry, the best ways to write, etc. Because most of my crime novels include humor, I'm usually assigned to the "murder is funny" panels, and this year is no exception.

On Thursday, Nov. 13, I'll be on a panel called "A Spoonful of Humor Helps the Murder Go Down" with five other authors, including Paul Levine and Bill Fitzhugh, two of my cohorts in the recent box set DIE LAUGHING. Then on Saturday, Nov. 15, I'll join Donna Andrews, Daniel Stashower, Deni Dietz and others on a panel called "Make 'em Laugh: The Value of Humor in Mysteries."

I really look forward to seeing all my pals -- authors and fans alike -- at these mystery conventions. And I look forward to introducing more people to the new books I'm writing under the pen name Max Austin. For the schedule of events and other info, visit the Bouchercon website here.

By the way, DIE LAUGHING, which also includes full-length novels by Ben Rehder and Parnell Hall, is only available at Kindle until Sept. 30. A great sampler of comic crime for only 99 cents.


Big laughs, low price

I can't believe I forgot to blog about my latest offering, an e-book "boxed set" of five comic crime novels called DIE LAUGHING. The set, which includes my heist novel LOST VEGAS, is only 99 cents on Amazon.

The set includes novels by Bill Fitzhugh, Parnell Hall, Paul Levine and Ben Rehder, who spearheaded this little side project. You can see the titles on this shot of the cover art that I clipped from Amazon. (Don't try to "look inside" here. Click on the title above for details.)

The boxed set is one of the many experiments authors are trying to get readers' attention in the midst of the e-book boom. So far, this one has sold pretty well, and I hope it will get more people interested in my books. The set is available until Sept. 30, though the books will still be available separately.

Meanwhile, the publication date for DUKE CITY HIT grows ever closer. The novel, second in the series I'm writing as Max Austin, will be published Dec. 16, but it's available for pre-order now.

The first one, DUKE CITY SPLIT, has received good reviews. The novels are set in Albuquerque's underworld, and form a loose trilogy of crime thrillers. I'm writing one now that would be the fourth in the series.

Hope you all had a good summer. I taught my first writing class of the semester this week at the University of New Mexico's Honors College, and we're having a few unseasonably cool days here in Albuquerque. Feels like autumn is just around the corner.