Those are the magic words, aren’t they? So let’s look at some things that are undeniably New, and arguably Improved—and, yes, Free.

Why do I get the feeling we’re gonna hear about Kindle Unlimited?

You’re just a deeply intuitive human being, that’s why. Amazon unveiled this new program on July 18, and it could be a real game-changer for ebook readers. Here’s how it works: (1) Anyone with a Kindle (or a Kindle app for a smartphone or iPad) can subscribe for $9.99 a month. You do not have to be an Amazon Prime member. And right now you can get a trial month free. (2) A subscription entitles you to borrow up to ten books at a time at no charge, and keep them as long as you like. When you want a new title, you simply select one you’ve read and tell them to take it back.

Spoons_CoverSo I get to read ten books a month for my $9.99?

No, you can read a hundred books, or a thousand. There’s no limit. You pay the monthly fee, and you read as rapidly as you please, and you replenish your KU library as you go.

What books are available?

At the moment, Amazon has 600,000 titles in the program. That includes ALL self-published titles enrolled in the Kindle Select program (which essentially means they’re Amazon exclusives). It also includes books of those commercial publishers who elect to make them available to KU.

So is your stuff available?

Some is, some is not. Of my self-published work, the KU-available titles include most of the short stories, most of the John Warren Wells books, and The Burglar Who Counted the Spoons. Open Road is the publisher of 40+ of my backlist works—the Chip Harrison and Jill Emerson novels, most of my non-series crime novels, Random Walk, Ronald Rabbit, and a spread of my Midcentury Erotica—and all of their titles are enrolled in KU.

car2KU looks to be particularly good for short fiction. Here’s a case in point. in 2012 Hard Case published my novel Getting Off, and it’s been available ever since in both printed and electronic form. The book’s an episodic novel, and it started life as a short story series, so I broke the book into twelve sections and ePublished them separately as the Kit Tolliver Stories.

That makes it easy to sample the book, or to read a section you may have missed. But if you buy all 12 stories at $2.99 apiece, you wind up paying way too much; the complete Getting Off ebook is a much better deal at $6.99. With KU, however, you can read all the stories absolutely free.

So I’ll be saving $6.99.

Or $35.88, depending how you look at it. More to the point, it’s all free. I hate to say anything’s a no-brainer, but it seems to me that anyone with a Kindle who doesn’t jump on the free month’s enrollment in Kindle Unlimited is, um, eating with one chopstick.

But even if you don’t sign up, you can get the first Kit Tolliver story free.

I can? How?

It’s called “If You Can’t Stand the Heat,” and for the next five days it’s free to all comers. The link is to, but it’s every bit as free on all the other Amazon sites—Canada, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, India, Australia, Brazil, Mexico, Japan, Mars, Alpha Centauri…Sorry, my bad, Amazon hasn’t officially announced those last two yet. You won’t be borrowing the story, it’s yours to keep, and after you read it you can (1) sign up for KU and read the others for free, or (2) cut to the chase and buy the Getting Off ebook, or (3) decide you don’t much care for Kit Tolliver, the homicidal slut, and quit while you’re ahead, or (4) do nothing, which is always a safe choice.

A last word on Kindle Unlimited: I don’t know what it’s going to amount to, or even if it’ll be around for very long. Amazon doesn’t make many dumb moves, but whether or not this’ll fly is something I can’t know yet, and I’m not sure they can either. While it’s here, I’m taking full advantage of it myself—I just downloaded Jerrold Mundis’s 5-book Shame and Glory saga—and I can only suggest you do the same.

Borderlineaudio150dpiCan we move on to something else now?

I’d be happy to. I’m a little punchy at the moment, because earlier this week I did something I once thought I’d never do again. I wrote a new book.

A book! A book! What’s it about? What’s the title? When will it be out? Who’s gonna publish it? How can I get my hands on a copy?

Whoa! Easy there, big fella. You’ve asked a lot of questions, and the only one I’m prepared to answer is the first. What’s it about? It’s about 60,000 words long. I can also say that it’s a non-series crime novel, but as for the rest, I don’t even know the answers myself. Some weeks ago I moved to a rented apartment in another city, propped my MacBook Air on a desk, and got to work. A few days ago I typed The End and collapsed. Rest assured that you’ll know more as soon as I do.

Meanwhile, some other news. I think I’ve told you about my venture into audio self-publishing. Hard Case Crime brought out my very early novel Borderline this spring, and just last month I published it as an ACX audiobook, superbly narrated by Mike Dennis. The whole process was so quick and easy and so much fun that I looked through my backlist Thirty_Cover_mockup 2for other titles not yet available in audio, and found Thirty, which I wrote as Jill Emerson. The book’s in diary form, covering the thirtieth year in the life of a restless married woman, and Open Road offers it for $2.99. (Or free, via KU, but you already knew that, right?)

A female voice artist was called for, and I found a terrific one in Emily Beresford. She’s completed the narration, and in a week or two you’ll be able to buy her rendition of Thirty from Amazon, Audible, or in the iTunes store. Emily tells me she loved reading the book, and I think you’ll love listening to her.

Before I forget, ACX gave me a batch of one-time free download codes for Borderline reviewers, and I have a few left. If you’re a fan of audiobooks—and of old-time pulp fiction—and think you might like to review Borderline for a print or online publication, or blog about it, email me and ask for one. I only have a few, I can’t get more when they’re gone—so, well, you get the drift.

I’m sure there was something else…

Uh, like the movie???

Oh, right. A Walk Among the Tombstones opens September 19, with Liam Neeson as Matthew Scudder. This week the trailer began getting wide distribution in theaters, and the reactions have been all I (or Universal) could hope for. And I’ve just been booked to join my good buddy Craig Ferguson on the Late Late Show on CBS on the night of Wednesday, September 10th. Astonishingly enough, I believe this will be my tenth appearance on the program—and probably my last, as America’s favorite Scotsman is leaving the show in December.

Gosh, I’m gonna miss that wild and crazy guy.

You won’t be the only one. Rest assured, though, that the great man will be Doing Other Things. He’s about as likely to retire as I am.