Another excerpt from LOST VEGAS

Here's another sample from my new crime novel. The start of Chapter 2:

>>Nick Papadopoulos couldn't concentrate on what Lola was saying. A fluorescent light above their corner booth was dying, and the buzzing and flickering drove him crazy.

The whole damned casino was falling apart. The interior hadn't been updated since the Starlite was built forty years earlier, and it still looked like something out of "The Jetsons." Contoured booths and lollipop chairs and light fixtures shaped like Sputnik. All very cool in the days when Rat Packers in sharkskin suits stopped in Fowler, Nevada, for "one night only" shows on their way to Las Vegas, but dated as hell now.

The Starlite already felt like a retirement home for astronauts when Nick took over as managing partner eight years earlier. Since then, he never got far enough ahead to pump any money into renovations. Just limped along, year after year, while his more up-to-date competitors siphoned the traffic off Highway 95.

You'd think any damned fool could make money running a small-town casino, but profits were eaten up by repairs and taxes and payroll and payoffs and the percentage raked off by the Mob. Nick could make more dough (and suffer less indigestion) in some other kind of business, but how would he tell Roberto "Bobby Crabs" Calabrese he no longer wanted to be his front man?

Nick suspected that Bobby had known the Starlite was a dud when he offered the partnership as payment for services rendered. Nick had eliminated several protected rivals for Bobby, so the mob boss could step up. After he was comfortably in place as a capo, Bobby suggested the time had come for Nick to pursue another line of work. The Starlite's manager having recently met his unfortunate demise (thanks to Nick), Fowler seemed the perfect place to start a new life. Bobby had insisted that a share of the Starlite was a better long-term investment than a simple cash payment, and even a tough guy like Nick Papadopoulos had known better than to argue with Bobby Crabs.

Looking around the outdated casino now, though, Nick thought: I should've demanded the fucking cash.

"Nicky!" Lola's voice sliced through his recollections. "You're not even listening to me."

"Sorry, hon. I've got a lot on my mind."

She was moving into a full pout. Christ, she had the lips for it. Nick wondered once again about the transplanted fat pumped into those lips. Every time he kissed her, he had the niggling feeling he was smooching someone's ass.

Lola admitted having "some" work done, but she wouldn't reveal details of her plastic surgeries. In the bedroom, she kept the lights low. Like it mattered. Whenever they were in bed together, Nick wasn't hunting for microscopic scars. That would've been quibbling.

Lola Cantrell had the face of a co-ed (granted, one who was awfully fond of cosmetics) and the curvy body of a stripper, tucked and inflated in all the right places. She was pushing forty, but she remained as firm and ripe as a fresh grape.

Nick, meanwhile, was speeding through his fifties, going to flab, silver sprinkled through his thinning black hair, his face etched with worry. Sometimes he could hear his own heartbeat thudding in his temples, like he was listening for it to stop. He should be taking it easy, putting together his retirement portfolio, pursuing a mindless hobby. Instead, he's sitting in the Starlite Casino at midnight, smoking Winstons and drinking whiskey, listening to this blow-up doll give him grief.<<

Now available for only $2.99 at Kindle and Smashwords.


Sample my new heist novel

Here's the opening of my crime novel LOST VEGAS:

>>Tony Zinn's attention wandered during the heist.

This was supposed to be the big payoff -- quick-cut scenes of the robbers in action, their plan coming together right before the audience's eyes -- but Tony thought the movie was bullshit. Another improbable thriller in which nobody gets hurt, the crooks have hearts of gold and the crime somehow settles an old score.

In real robbery, there's one motivation: Desire. Somebody has something and somebody else wants it. Wants it so bad, he's willing to take it by force. He pulls a gun and the item changes hands. Simple. Quick. All the clockwork complications with computers and nightscopes and grappling hooks? That's show business.

The bullshit factor was even higher in the theater next door. It was Memorial Day, which meant opening weekend for the annual special-effects blockbuster starring BadgerMan. Damned movie had been so loud, Tony heard the explosions and car crashes through the wall. Huge turnout for BadgerMan, lots of people willing to hand over their hard-earned money for two hours of superhero fantasy.

Only a handful watched the heist movie, which ended predictably with the handsome robbers standing around the loot, showing off their cleft chins and golden hearts as they shipped the money to charity or some damned thing. As the credits rolled, Tony tucked his chin into his leather jacket and sank lower in his chair, trying to be an inkblot of black clothes and dark curly hair.

The sparse audience hustled out and the house lights came up, but Tony watched the credits, wondering for the hundredth time what a "gaffer" was, or a "best boy."

He stayed in his seat until the music stopped and the movie reached the copyright date at the end. Then he stood and stretched and looked at his wristwatch. Nearly midnight. Last late show finally over, the theater would now close for the night.

He ambled over to the fire door, where a green EXIT sign glowed. A taste of cool night air as he swung open the door, then Tony stepped aside to let three men enter. Two were wiry guys of average height – five-nine, five-ten, a few inches shorter than Tony – but the third was a beefy three-hundred-pounder who had to duck to keep from hitting his head on the doorway. All three wore red motorcycle helmets with black face shields, gray coveralls and white rubber gloves. One of the men carried an extra helmet. As he handed it to Tony, Ross Cooper said, "How was the movie?"

"Same as always," Tony said. "The good guys won."

"Aw, you always give away the ending."

Tony slipped the helmet onto his head, the black visor dimming his view like sunglasses.

The other three produced stubby revolvers from the pockets of their coveralls. Tony pulled a fearsome old Browning Hi-Power 9mm from inside his biker jacket. He thumbed off the safety, and said, "Let's do it."<<

Only $2.99 via Kindle and Smashwords.


How I published 3 books in 3 months

My E-book Empire is complete -- for now -- as I've published LOST VEGAS, my latest crime novel, on Kindle and Smashwords.

LOST VEGAS is the story of a casino heist, but with a twist: The casino owner hires the robbers to rip off his establishment. Just when it looks as if he might get away with it, another small-town casino owner and his giant Samoan sidekick jump into the fray. LOST VEGAS is an action-packed thriller with lots of humor mixed in, and I think you'll love it. Only $2.99!

LOST VEGAS is the third original novel I've self-published this summer. Here's how that happened:

My agent had been shopping my manuscripts around New York the past few years, but having no luck in the ever-shrinking market. I optimistically kept writing away, and developed a backlog of unpublished material.

A year ago, I dipped my toe in the e-book waters by publishing a quirky hitman thriller called FIREPOWER. It was well-received, and the process taught me how to load books to Kindle and Smashwords. Soon, I secured the rights to my backlist and re-published all my earlier work as e-books.

This summer, I got tired of waiting on New York, and I asked my agent to reel in the submissions on LOST VEGAS as well as my novels THE BIG WINK and CALABAMA. While Kelly and I have enjoyed our foggy summer in Santa Cruz, we've also been busy publishing these books -- I did the proofing/formatting, and she did the cover art.

Self-publishing allows us to get books to market quickly (THE BIG WINK, with its medical marijuana storyline, is particularly timely), and to charge less for them. These novels are only $2.99. From each purchase, I earn about the same as I'd make on a $24 hardcover. And no trees died.

I haven't given up on New York publishing altogether, though my faith has been shaken. My agent is currently shopping around my latest manuscript, A BOX OF PANDORAS, and I hope some publisher picks it up. But if that doesn't happen, I'll happily publish it myself.



Kelly and I are moving back to Albuquerque, NM, at the end of the month, and look forward to getting reacquainted with our many friends there.

We've found a wonderful house near Summit Park, within easy walking distance of the University of New Mexico, where I'll be teaching part-time, beginning in January. I taught in the Honors Program at UNM for several years before we moved to California in 2003, and they've welcomed me back. I'll teach "Hard-boiled Fiction and Film Noir" in the spring semester.

It's difficult to leave our oceanside cottage in Santa Cruz, CA, but we'd come here with the idea of spending a Year at the Beach, and the year is nearly up. I've done lots of work while we've been here (launching the E-book Empire and writing a new novel), but the whole year felt like an extended vacation. Just the break we needed.

Looking forward to New Mexico sunrises (no fog!), and spending time with family and friends.


New site for book news

Over on Facebook, we've created a Steve Brewer author page where you can get my latest book and publishing news. Check it out at www.facebook.com/stevebrewerauthor.

The latest posting there is the cover art of my upcoming crime novel, LOST VEGAS.

All you Facebookers please go "like" my author page. Thanks!


Can't top reality

There's some pretty broad comedy in my new crime novel THE BIG WINK, which explores the medical marijuana industry in far Northern California. But I didn't dare write a scene as outlandish as this:

This weekend, in Oakland, there's a huge marijuana festival scheduled to take place in front of City Hall. It's all legal. Just like the farmers market in your town, except all the products center on the one crop.

How is a comic novelist supposed to keep up with the real world?

Full story here.