EXIT 39: it sounds like a crime novel – but is it? Known best to Crime Time readers for his hard-hitting crime novels, Russell James has stepped outside the genre several times before, with 4 historical novels and 4 biographical encyclopedias (including Great British Fictional Detectives) – but his latest is perhaps the most unexpected. This breakaway book is an up-to-the-minute tragicomedy – with a twist: the entire story is narrated into an iPhone! What’s more, it will be issued by Prospero exclusively in ebook format and, for one month, will be available ENTIRELY FREE. For Kobo, Nook, Kindle and readable on an iPhone or any other device, you will be able to get the complete book (not just a sample) for free to keep for life.

Why is he doing this? Is he mad?

‘Perhaps,’ he says. ‘But the world of publishing has changed. The digital revolution has sent the skittles flying and publishers don’t know how to pick them up again, let alone how to set the nine pins straight. They’re concentrating on first-time novelists and established best-sellers. The rest of us, the middle ground authors, are being frozen out.’

‘So what can you do about it?’ we asked him. ‘Are midlist authors doomed?’

‘I don’t think so; writers can change too. We can speak directly to our readers via that same digital technology. That’s why I’m launching my latest book in a revolutionary way. It’s a bold step for a professional writer to take but I’m prepared to see Exit 39 offered exclusively as an ebook and, for the first month (November) anybody will be able to download the whole book for free. No strings. No obligation.’

‘But this is a new book, not an old one reissued. Is this wise?’

‘I chose Exit 39 for this approach because it is a very 2013 book, a digital book, narrated on the hoof into an iPhone whenever the all-too-busy narrator, Crosby Ravensworth, can find the time. Told in real time, often in short bursts from hotel bedrooms, his car, airport lounges, coffee houses, or wherever Crosby can snatch a precious minute. This man is so busy that, newly bereaved, he can’t make time to scatter his dead father’s ashes. There’s a mystery here, of course: why did his father commit suicide?

‘Back in the living world, the funeral will be the first time Crosby has met any of his uneasy family for five years – his stepmother (who never accepted him), his stepbrother (a priest), his half-sister (a businesswoman ever on the phone like Crosby) and his youngest half-brother (out of work). After the funeral Crosby is left with a sealed box of his father’s papers, a last letter and the knowledge that, as executor, he is to scatter his father’s ashes at a quiet location in the Lake District. When he has time.’

‘So is the story just about him trying to get up to the Lake District?’

‘Oh no. There’s the madness of his 24/7 job and the pressures it puts on him, and there are some great scenes with his family from hell. You’ll be happy to know, though, that he does find time – just about – for the women in his life: his permanent girlfriend (a lovely girl with marital ambitions) and (always a tad awkward) a previous girlfriend who lives upstairs. Soon he will meet a wonder-businesswoman in America. And we shouldn’t forget (he won’t) his brother’s girlfriend with her long blonde hair and biking leathers.’

‘Is it a romance, then?’

‘It’s a quest. A journey. A satire on modern life. I don’t know, like several of my books it defies easy categorisation. It’s fast. It’s a damned good read. What more do you want to know?’

‘How to get hold of it.’

‘I thought you’d never ask. You can wait till November 1st for your free copy, but why not jump right now to my blog page for a sneak preview? Use this link: http://russelljamesbooks.wordpress.com/books/exit-39/ There are pictures, extracts and . . . well, take a look.’

We did. And it was worth it.

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