So, why would I take one of my bestselling novels, and make it free for a limited time? On a series that’s done well, and continues to grow its audience with each passing month?

Because it’s the first book in the series, and as such, really should be read first.

That seems obvious. But for the last year and a half, I’ve been giving away the prequel to King of Swords, Night of the Assassin, free. And it occurred to me over cocktails that’s not the best way to find new readers, because the prequel is really much more satisfying if read after King.

So what I’ve decided to do is an experiment. See if sales of the rest of the series increases with a different book as the free one. I’m making Night a $2.99 purchase given its length (just under 60K words), and taking King free.

For anyone that hasn’t read the Assassin series, it’s a gritty, unflinching assassination thriller series set against a backdrop of very real cartel violence in modern Mexico. It features several of the most interesting characters I’ve come up with to date: El Rey, the super-assassin known as the King of Swords, because of the tarot card of the same name he leaves at the scene of his executions, and Captain Romero Cruz, of the Federal Police, who is not only the head of the anti-cartel task force, but is also chartered with stopping El Rey before he can do the unthinkable.

The model for all the books was Day of the Jackal, which was the seminal assassination thriller of our time, and really created the genre. It’s since become cliche, as protagonist after protagonist has been written, usually ex-CIA or SAS, and always because this time its personal. I wanted to try a different approach, and create two protags, one really more of a villain, and the other a conflicted good guy slogging through doubts and conflicts that are a necessary outcome of the corruption in the system and the futility of trying to battle an adversary that’s co-opted the government and has more money than God.

For that reason, the Assassin series has found its niche. It’s different. It’s fast moving, surprising, adrenaline-filled, but also grittier than stuff like JET, which is more just unbridled, over-the-top adventure. King is more realistic – some have said too much so, in that it leaves one somewhat disturbed due to the hopelessness of the whole drug war thing. That’s a function of telling the truth, not a deliberate buzz kill. Some don’t like to read anything that conflicts with their anodyne notions of how the world works, and King is probably not the right book for that set. Actually, none of my work is, come to think of it. But that’s a whole ‘nother story.

I was recently asked who I would envision playing El Rey in a film, and after some thought, I’d have to say a younger Johnny Depp or DiCaprio. For Captain Cruz, Benicio Del Toro or a younger Antonio Banderas. So if you’re looking for my take on who I sort of see them as in my head, there’s your model.

So get yer free copy of King of Swords, and if you like it, tell a friend or leave a review, or both. I don’t know how long I’m going to keep it free, so don’t tarry, or it will go back to paid and you’ll despise yourself for your procrastination and wind up sleeping under a freeway overpass before dying cold and alone in a drainage ditch while your enemies chortle with glee and your last moments are the horror of being boogarized by clowns. You don’t want that. Trust me. You don’t even want to joke about it. Don’t let that happen to you or the ones you love. Get the book, you cheap bastard – can’t get much more attractive than free.




  1. yoon
    Sun 30th Jun 2013 at 1:40 pm

    As if we didn’t already know you’re in love with Johnny Depp… are you sure you are not into Cher? I agree he’d would have made suitable El Rey, though I can’t picture DiCaprio as him. But I vote for younger David Boreanaz. Speaking of voting, can we vote on the cover of your new book UPH? With those two versions you showed me on the ballot? I really like the second one much more.

    • Russell Blake  –  Sun 30th Jun 2013 at 2:38 pm

      Nope. I have exercised executive privilege on that and gone with a final choice that I feel best suits whatever the hell I was thinking when I chose it.

      David who?

      • yoon  –  Sun 30th Jun 2013 at 5:51 pm

        Boreanaz. BOREANAZ.

        • Russell Blake  –  Sun 30th Jun 2013 at 8:04 pm

          God bless you. Must be allergy season. You should take some malbec for that. I hear it helps.

          • yoon  –  Sun 30th Jun 2013 at 8:47 pm

            Too late. I’ve been drinking grenache noir/syrah/mourvèdre or something like that. And I hear it’s Monday tomorrow and I will have to go to work. I feel absolutely rotten.

          • Russell Blake  –  Sun 30th Jun 2013 at 8:49 pm

            Yes, it’s Monday tomorrow. And you’ll likely feel even worse tomorrow. Sort of how it works. Urp.

  2. Sun 30th Jun 2013 at 3:32 pm

    I must be the only woman on the planet that doesn’t think Johnny Depp is hot. Hmm, what about Taylor Lautner as El Rey? He’s young enough and in shape from a lifetime of martial arts training. Doesn’t seem to have to much going on after playing Jacob in Twilight.

    • yoon  –  Sun 30th Jun 2013 at 5:50 pm

      Johnny Depp does nothing for me. If I were to suggest somebody who I think is hot, it would be James Gandolfini, RIP, what? #Truth #AintNoLie #YesImUsingHashtagInABlogComment #IMightHaveStartedDrinkingALittleEarly

      • Kim Cano  –  Sun 30th Jun 2013 at 5:57 pm

        James Gandolfini? Really?? Huh. I would have to say for me it is Paul Newman in The Hustler. Hands down.
        Poor Russell, his blog was supposed to be about King of Swords and we’ve turned it into a hot guy commentary.

        • yoon  –  Sun 30th Jun 2013 at 6:06 pm

          Oh if we’re going back that far, I would have to say Steve McQueen. Love. Him. *drool*

          King of Sword, eh? I do have a knack for steering the comments off topic. My specialty. But, well, since it’s supposed to be about it, I guess I’ll have to say something about it to displease Mr. Blake. I don’t like its cover art. There. #IRock!

          • Russell Blake  –  Sun 30th Jun 2013 at 8:06 pm

            I was thinking about redoing it at some point, but it keeps selling, so why mess with it? You’re just down on my covers. Which is okay. God will punish you for it. You’ll see.

        • Russell Blake  –  Sun 30th Jun 2013 at 8:04 pm

          Maybe if I start doing blogs on hot guys and cats my sales will soar! Worth a shot.

          • yoon  –  Sun 30th Jun 2013 at 8:43 pm

            You could also change all your cover arts to something racy showing half-naked people doing something naughty if top 100 on Amazon these days is anything to go by.

          • Russell Blake  –  Sun 30th Jun 2013 at 8:48 pm

            I’m so all over that.

      • Russell Blake  –  Sun 30th Jun 2013 at 8:02 pm

        I didn’t even realize he’d died. He was young. Too young. That’s tragic. Maybe I better go get that physical I’ve been putting off for a decade…

        • yoon  –  Sun 30th Jun 2013 at 8:41 pm

          I stayed up late and watched him on Inside Actor’s Studio the day the news broke. I think he was a great actor with a huge heart and I was really sad about it.

    • Russell Blake  –  Sun 30th Jun 2013 at 8:03 pm

      I picture El Rey as, er, more, um, rugged.

      • yoon  –  Sun 30th Jun 2013 at 8:39 pm

        And you find DiCaprio rugged? He’s like the opposite of rugged.

        • Russell Blake  –  Sun 30th Jun 2013 at 8:48 pm

          Rugged was a euphemism. Never mind.

        • Kim Cano  –  Sun 30th Jun 2013 at 10:16 pm

          Why you gotta knock Leo? He’s awesome. “I’ll never let go Jack. I’ll never let go.”
          Cue the Celine Dion song…

          • yoon  –  Sun 30th Jun 2013 at 11:33 pm

            Now, look here. I was just trying to conjure up some charitable thing to say about DiCaprio on your behalf seeing how you are smitten and all that. And you had to mention Celine Dion. That was just cruel, Cruel, I say. Wasn’t I already feeling rotten? It ain’t right. The worst thing imported from Canada…. Well, they say Bieber kid might have trumped on that score, but I wouldn’t know since I managed to not hear him sing so far. Anyway, I gonna go puke now.

  3. Sun 30th Jun 2013 at 10:06 pm

    What the heck happened to poor Taylor Lautner as El Rey? Isn’t anybody down with that?

    • yoon  –  Sun 30th Jun 2013 at 11:36 pm

      I just had to google Taylor Lautner to see who you’re talking about. Is this kid allowed to drink yet?

      • Ki m Cano  –  Mon 01st Jul 2013 at 9:11 am

        Yes. He just turned 21. El Rey is not a drinker so it would be a great match I think.

  4. Mon 01st Jul 2013 at 6:53 pm

    Antonio Banderas as Cruz definitely works for me. But for El Ray, I picture a younger Benjamin Bratt all the way!

    I already have these books. I love them and will continue to spread the word. 🙂

  5. Tue 02nd Jul 2013 at 3:43 pm

    I’m afraid “free” just doesn’t quite do it for me, Russell. Can you get it any cheaper?

    Just kidding. Have grabbed it. I really enjoyed Jet and your Gazillion Ebooks spoof. More than that, though, I’ve found you an inspiration as a writer.


    • Russell Blake  –  Tue 02nd Jul 2013 at 4:09 pm

      I think I best serve as a cautionary tale.

      Hope you enjoy it. I think it’s one of my better ones.

  6. Joe
    Fri 05th Jul 2013 at 3:32 pm

    I’ve read everything you’ve written

    What the hell am I supposed to do with my time now?

    Tried Politics, too honest, sports, too easy.

    • Russell Blake  –  Fri 05th Jul 2013 at 8:37 pm

      Fortunately I release novels faster than politicians tell lies, so there’s never long to wait. I’ll have another one out mid-month.

  7. Alan Smith (Downunder)
    Sun 07th Jul 2013 at 2:55 am

    Hi Mate!

    I’m headed to the Port Douglas area in Queensland for a couple weeks holiday shortly!! Would love to have Upon A Pale Horse to read with a nice Shiraz at hand!!! Hope to get the email as soon as it’s available!!!!!


  8. Frenchie
    Tue 09th Jul 2013 at 7:37 am

    I clicked on it just to realise that I already have it.
    I have put it on the freebie thread on the Amazon kindle Forum UK. so I hope people took advantage of it.

  9. JD Adams
    Tue 09th Jul 2013 at 7:46 pm

    Russell, I found the perfect cover for Under A Pale Horse…unfortunately someone else got there first…

    • Russell Blake  –  Wed 10th Jul 2013 at 12:14 am

      Hard to top ponies pooping rainbows, I’ll grand you that.

  10. Lynn
    Wed 28th Aug 2013 at 7:57 pm

    Finished “Blood of the Assassin” and was wondering when the next of the series is coming out. I loved the Jet series and the Geronimo Breach as wel,l but the Assassin is my favorite…looking forward to finding out if El Rey will totally recover from the injection and what Cruz will be doing.

    • Russell Blake  –  Thu 29th Aug 2013 at 12:32 pm

      I plan on releasing the next Assassin novel sometime in the spring. The production schedule for next year is Black 5, Requiem for the Assassin, JET VII. And probably a few collaborative efforts with other authors. I’m scaling back my production from this year’s insane schedule to something more normal (but still insane, because I’m still talking 5 or 6 novels once the collaborative efforts are factored in). Glad you liked the Assassin stuff. It’s some of my favorite work.

  11. Nic Adams
    Tue 24th Nov 2015 at 8:46 am

    Hi there
    I have just finished reading both the first Jet book and Night of the Assassin – I followed the link s to subscribe and to try and get your “free” book King of Swords and there is a price attached to the kindle download.
    Any way you can help?
    Cheers from Namibia in Africa

    • Russell Blake  –  Tue 24th Nov 2015 at 3:58 pm

      If you follow the link in the book, it goes to a special download page just for that book that isn’t Amazon or any other vendor.


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