Austin Williams is the author of The Rusty Diamond Series of crime thrillers published by Diversion Books. The second novel in the series, Blind Shuffle, released in October 2015.
Other books by Williams include the cult suspense novels Crimson Orgy and The Platinum Loop. He is the co-author (with Erik Quisling) of Straight Whisky: A Living History of Sex, Drugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll on the Sunset Strip.
He lives in Los Angeles.
About two years ago, a New York-based editor of commercial fiction invited me to create an outline for a proposed series of suspense novels that would feature a recurring protagonist. This represented something of a departure from my earlier books, which were stand-alone novels populated with large ensembles of characters. Considering the offer, I experienced a wave of depression so strong I actually retreated to my bed for a uncharacteristic midday nap. What had me feeling down was the prospect of trying to insert a new figure into a mystery/suspense marketplace already teeming with established book series centered around popular recurring characters and written by capable authors.
How to find a niche in that crowded arena? I had no idea, but I knew one thing: the character I came up with had to possess a background and skill set distinct from the norm. That ruled out ex-cop, retired Secret Service agent, discharged Special Forces officer, jaded gumshoe, burnt-out investigative journalist, ex-con trying to make good, and a handful of other familiar tropes. I had no inkling of a fresh concept that might help my character find his or her place, and it felt like a bit of a lost cause. So I lay down for a nap, and woke up with an idea: “How about a magician?”
Not a working magician, that was too implausible to take even a little bit seriously. I couldn’t conceive of a character who spent his nights performing feats of illusion to sold-out crowds and then dabbled in crime-solving as a way to fill his spare hours. But a former magician, someone no longer in the spotlight … that idea held some potential. Better yet, a disgraced former magician, someone who’d not quit his profession by choice but had been forced out. And even better still, a person who’d not only quit but had to go into hiding to escape the consequences of his own misdeeds. It was starting to make sense. I could see the outlines of an agreeably complex character beset with a range of faults as well as strengths that would separate him from the bland category of “hero.”
That germ of an idea bolted me from the bed after my brief but productive siesta. And it was with a flawed but relatable protagonist in mind that I wrote an outline for three books in a proposed trilogy. The disgraced magician-turned-vigilante/detective was named Rusty Diamond. It took more than a year to secure a publishing deal (not with the editor who extended the original invitation) and to then complete the first of the three intended novels. The opening installment in the Rusty Diamond Series, entitled Misdirection, was published by Diversion Books in the summer of 2014. The second book, Blind Shuffle, comes out on October 20th.
Far from the neon lights of Bourbon Street, heinous crimes are being committed against young women, and a street magician seeks to pull off his greatest trick by staying alive long enough to see justice done. The stage is set for a New Orleans noir perfect for fans of James Lee Burke and George Pelecanos.
Rusty Diamond abandoned the Crescent City years ago to pursue fame in Las Vegas, leaving Marceline Lavalle, the daughter of his mentor, with a broken heart. Now Rusty has come back to make amends with his former teacher and his first love―but Prosper Lavalle won’t face him, and no one has seen Marceline for days.
Five months pregnant, Marceline’s vanished without a trace. Her estranged boyfriend, a casino boss with criminal ties and a hair-trigger temper, claims no knowledge of her whereabouts. With the police not yet ready to declare foul play, Rusty launches his own investigation.
The search for Marceline will take Rusty into the darkest corners of New Orleans, where enormous profit can be made from human misery, where desperate people hunt on the fringes, and where not all magic is sleight of hand. It will force him to confront the mistakes of his past, and offer him a shot at redemption. And it will leave him―if he’s not careful―at the bottom of a bayou.