I discovered J. Michael Orenduff’s Pot Thief mysteries a bit over four years ago. Subtle, occasionally sly, witty, and humorous. In a nutshell, Hubie and his adventures make for sublime reading. I’m always up for a new Hubie undertaking.
To best enjoy Hubie and his cohorts I recommend reading the series in order. The relationships are fluid and even better, unpredictable. Hubie’s path isn’t often the expected one and he’s better enjoyed by growing with him. Each can be read as a stand-alone but why deny yourself the pleasure of the full Hubie experience.
The books in order are: ( All synopsis’s from Open Road Media)
THE POT THIEF WHO STUDIED PYTHAGORAS ~ A dealer of ancient Native American pottery, Hubert Schuze has spent years combing the public lands of New Mexico, digging for artwork that would otherwise remain buried. According to the US government, Hubie is a thief—but no act of Congress could stop him from doing what he loves. For decades, Hubie has worn the title of pot thief proudly. Outright burglary, though, is another story.
But an offer of $25,000 to lift a rare pot from a local museum proves too tempting for Hubie to refuse. When he sees how tightly the relic is guarded, he changes his mind, but the pot goes missing anyway. Soon a federal agent suspects that Hubie is the culprit. After things take a turn for the serious, Hubie knows he must find the real thief quickly, or risk cracking something more fragile than any pot—his skull.
THE POT THIEF WHO STUDIED PTOLEMY ~ Pot thief Hubie Schuze is back, and this time his larceny is for a good cause. He wants to recover sacred relics lifted from San Roque, a mysterious pueblo that is closed to outsiders. Usually Hubie finds his pottery a few feet underground—but these artifacts are one hundred fifty feet above the New Mexico soil, on the top floor of the Rio Grande Lofts.
Hubie will need all his deductive skills to craft the perfect plan—which is thwarted when he encounters the beautiful Stella. And then he is arrested for murder. That tends to happen when you are in the room with the body, with blood on your hands. Follow Hubie as he stays one step ahead of security toughs, one step behind Stella, and never too far from a long fall.
THE POT THIEF WHO STUDIED EINSTEIN ~ A shady pottery collector is dead, and Hubie was one of the last to see him alive. Maybe it was the chance to make an easy $2,500. Or maybe it was the opportunity to examine a treasure trove of Anasazi pots—or maybe it was just a slow day at the antiques shop that convinced Hubie Schuze to agree to a strange proposition. A reclusive collector wants a confidential appraisal, with one catch: Hubie must be blindfolded and driven to an unknown location by a chauffeur. Sure, it’s an odd setup, but what could possibly go wrong?Hubie’s nonchalance fades fast when he finds three replicas among the genuine antiquities. Worse, after returning home, he can’t seem to find the $2,500 cash that the collector gave him. Incensed at the rip-off, Hubie is determined to recoup the money, but Detective Whit Fletcher interrupts his scheme, dragging him instead to the morgue to identify a John Doe. When the sheet is pulled back, Hubie is shocked to see the body of the unknown art collector.Hubie is not a suspect—yet. But the longer he pursues this mystery, the more tangled he will become in the dead man’s shadowy life.
THE POT THIEF WHO STUDIED GEORGIA O’KEEFE on sale January 26th.
Recently, Mike took the time to answer a few questions for me. Hope y’all enjoy the interview.
What are Hubie’s origins? Did he come to you fairly complete or is he an amalgamation who came together over a period of time?
I knew I wanted a protagonist who was sort of lost in space. Knows nothing about technology, social media, popular music, politics, fads, etc. He’s a pottery nerd. Likes digging them up and likes copying them. He sells the ones he digs up and his copies because it’s the only way he knows to make money. But if he didn’t have to sell them, he’d just collect them. Once I determined that was his basic character, all the details fell into place.
Why New Mexico and a pot thief, of all the professions & possibilities?
New Mexico because it’s the place I know best. As the saying goes, write what you know. And a pot thief for the reasons mentioned above and also because Native American pottery is associated with New Mexico.
How much research do you have to do regarding the pots and their creators?
Very little. I’ve been interested in New Mexico pottery since I was a kid. So I knew quite a bit about it.
In respect to Hubie’s friends and family, how did you decide on such an eclectic bunch?
I wanted to highlight New Mexico’s diversity. I thought about giving the series a subtitle: A multicultural murder mystery series. But that sounded too political, so I decided against it. I prefer to let the characters speak for themselves and let the readers form their own view of the series free from labels.
How do you choose what the Pot Thief “studies”?
Well, I have to admit, this is a case where I missed the obvious. What I do now is have Hubie study people connected to New Mexico. The last three have been D. H. Lawrence, Billy the Kid and Georgia O’Keeffe (forthcoming January 26), all of whom lived in New Mexico for part of their life and all of whom are part of the state’s lore. But when I first started, this obvious idea didn’t come to me, so I chose figures I was interested in.
We all occasionally see ourselves in feats of derring do. Do any of the Pot Thief adventures stem from ones you envision yourself having?
No. I’m not much like Hubie, but one thing we have in common is an aversion to risk. Which is why I like putting him in uncomfortable situations. He hates when I do that, but it’s great theater.
Do you ever see yourself settling Hubie in a happily ever after and moving on to another protagonist and or series, maybe focusing solely on writing plays?
I’ll probably do that. I don’t have a plan, but I’m open to suggestions.
After teaching in three countries and seven states, how did you decide where to settle?
Did you have a favorite?
My wife followed me around the world and delayed her own career to support me. When my last job ended, we were in Bermuda. She had finally finished her doctorate and wanted to be a professor. She had several offers and chose Valdosta State in South Georgia because the Southeast was the only part of the country we’d never lived in and she liked the people she met during the interview. She said she wanted to teach a year or two. She’s now been at VSU for eleven years, the last two as dean of undergraduate studies. As Hubie likes to say, life is what happens while you are busy making plans for things that never happen.
Your play, The Christmas Visitor, won quite a few awards and played to sold out houses. Are you writing more plays?
I continue to write plays because I love the theatre. It’s much more difficult to get a play produced that to get a book published, but I keep trying.
Have you read anything lately that you’d highly recommend?
I recently read Anne Hillerman’s Rock With Wings. It was terrific.
What can we look forward to next from Hubie and his coterie?
After The Pot Thief who Studied Georgia O’Keeffe comes out next month, book number eight is The Pot Thief who Studied Edward Abbey. For those who don’t remember him, he was the author of over twenty books, the most famous of which is The Monkey Wrench Gang, the book (and film) that spawned the radical environmentalist movement. Like me, he was a graduate of the University of New Mexico.
Thanks so much, Mike, for taking the time to visit with us. I hope y’all will give Hubie a go. Would enjoy hearing your thoughts on him and his friends…
About Michael Orenduff
All six existing books in J. Michael Orenduff’s award-winning “Pot Thief” murder mystery series have just been released in new editions with snappy new covers and fresh edits by his new Publisher, Open Road.
The first book in the series, The Pot Thief Who Studied Pythagoras, won the national Dark Oak Mystery Contest, and the Kindle version won the EPIC eBook Mystery of the Year for 2009. It was also named New Mexico Book of the Year.
The second book in the series,The Pot Thief Who Studied Ptolemy, won the Best Fiction Book of the Year for 2010 from the Public Safety Writers Association, and the Kindle version won the EPIC eBook Mystery of the Year for 2009. This was the first time that two books in the same series had won back to back “Eppies.”
The most impressive award is the Lefty, awarded to The Pot Thief Who Studied Einstein at the Left Coast Crime Conference in Santa Fe for the best humorous mystery of the year.
Mike received his M.A. from the University of New Mexico and his doctorate from Tulane University, and he taught at universities in seven states and three countries before starting a writing career after taking early retirement (or, as his friends describe it, a midlife crisis).
The seventh Pot Thief book will be out later in 2014.
One of Mike’s stage plays, The Christmas Visitor, had its world premier in December, 2013 at The Pasadena Little Theater to full houses for all ten performances. The play won the 2009 Jewel Box Playwriting Contest, and has also received recognition from the Solano Repertory Playwriting Contest in California, the McClaren Comedy Contest in Texas and was selected as one of the “Top 100” by Writers Digest.
Mike loves to hear from readers and theater patrons: ThePotThief@gmail.com