Home Front


Body of work

 I've gained a lot of new readers lately, including some who only know me by my new pen name, Max Austin. But I'm a 20-year veteran with 25 books to my credit.

   Latest to hit the public eye is DUKE CITY SPLIT, a crime novel that is Max Austin's debut. DUKE CITY SPLIT was published this month by Alibi, the new mystery imprint at Random House. Next in the series, DUKE CITY HIT, is scheduled for December release.

It's been 20 years since my first novel, LONELY STREET, introduced bumbling private eye Bubba Mabry to the world. Since then, Bubba has starred in eight other stories and a Hollywood film.
Lots of mystery readers prefer to read series (and authors' work in general) in chronological order, so I thought I'd share my body of work with you. The ones with asterisks are the Bubba Mabry series. 
"Lonely Street," 1994, Pocket Books*
"Baby Face," 1995, Pocket Books*
"Witchy Woman," 1996, St. Martin's Press*
"Shaky Ground," 1997, St. Martin's Press*
"Dirty Pool," 1999, St. Martin's Press*
"End Run," 2000, Intrigue Press
"Crazy Love," 2001, Intrigue Press*
"Cheap Shot," 2002, Intrigue Press
"Trophy Husband," 2003, University of New Mexico Press
"Bullets," 2003, Intrigue Press
"Fool's Paradise," 2003, UNM Press
"Boost," 2004, Speck Press
"Sanity Clause," a novella, in "The Last Noel," 2004, Worldwide*
"Bank Job," 2005, Intrigue Press
"Whipsaw," 2006, Intrigue Press
"Monkey Man," 2006, Intrigue Press*
"Payoff," a short story in the anthology "Damn Near Dead," 2006, Busted Flush
"Cutthroat," 2007, Bleak House
"Limbo," a short story in the Mystery Writers of America anthology "Crimes by Moonlight," 2010, Berkley
"Firepower," 2010, Amazon/Smashwords
"1500 Rules for Successful Living," 2011, Amazon/Smashwords
"Calabama," 2011, Amazon/Smashwords
"The Big Wink," 2011, Amazon/Smashwords
"Lost Vegas," 2011, Amazon/Smashwords
"Surf City," a short story, 2011, West Coast Crime Wave
"Party Doll," a novella, 2012, Amazon/Smashwords*
"A Box of Pandoras," 2012, Amazon/Smashwords

"Showdown," a short story, 2012, Amazon/Smashwords

"Found Money," a short story, 2012, Amazon/Smashwords

"Yvonne's Gone," a short story, 2012, Amazon/Smashwords

"Cemetery Plot," a short story, 2013, Amazon

Writing as Max Austin:

"Duke City Split," Random House/Alibi, 2014

Quite a list, eh? I'm proud of every one of those stories. I hope to write many more.


Elvis lives! And so does Bubba

I haven't done any public events lately, too busy writing and moving and rehabbing the new house. But I've got an event coming up the evening of April 4 that should rock. As part of "Elvis Day" in Albuquerque's Old Town, I'm signing LONELY STREET and other books at Treasure House Books & Gifts.

In LONELY STREET, bumbling Albuquerque private eye Bubba Mabry is hired by a stranger who appears to be the living Elvis, long after the King went to rock 'n' roll heaven. LONELY STREET was my first published novel -- 20 years ago! -- and it's been in print ever since. It was made into a 2009 Hollywood comedy starring Jay Mohr, Joe Mantegna and Robert Patrick..

If you're on Facebook, you can see more about the Old Town event here. Treasure House owner John Hoffsis says an Elvis impersonator may perform in the store. You've been warned!

I'm amazed that I've spent 20 years with Bubba and Felicia and Lieutenant Steve Romero and the rest. During those two decades, I've written eight other Bubba adventures, as well as 20 other books and a fistful of short stories.

The latest novel, DUKE CITY SPLIT, will be published April 8 under my new pen name, Max Austin. DUKE CITY SPLIT is a crime thriller, first in a trilogy set in Albuquerque. All three will be published by Alibi, the new mystery e-book imprint at Random House. The second, DUKE CITY HIT, comes out next December.

And before you ask: Yes, I'll probably write some more Bubba stories. Not right away, but someday. He's always hanging around.


Another moving experience

Every time we think we've settled into some sort of serene groove, Life bumps the turntable.

Yes, we've moved again. We hope this is the last time for a long while, but who knows?

We bought this house by accident. We weren't really looking for a place to buy, but a "For Sale" sign appeared in the yard of a fixer-upper in our neighborhood, and we couldn't resist

The past two months have been a whirlwind of paperwork and moving and workmen and cardboard and noise
and sawdust and paint. I've acted as general contractor, madly writing checks to get the house whipped into shape. We're almost there. A few small repairs remain, but the boxes are unpacked and the painting's finished and we've got new blinds and steps and rugs and refrigerator in place.

The house is adobe-colored stucco like many Albuquerque homes, but we've dressed up the porch with sage-green paint and white trim. Our son Seth did the painting, and he soon will launch into a major landscaping project. But that's being designed and supervised by my wife Kelly, so I can hang up my general contractor hat for a while.

Now I'm doing revisions on DUKE CITY DESPERADO, third in the thriller series I'm writing as Max Austin. The first in the trilogy of crime novels, DUKE CITY SPLIT, comes out April 8 from Alibi/Random
House. The second, DUKE CITY HIT, will be a December publication. Both will be e-books. DUKE CITY SPLIT, which is available for preorder now, is the tale of two bank robbers who hit it big, only to have all the other crooks in town come after the loot. The first review on Goodreads says it's "a thrill on every page."

If all that's not busy enough, I'm also teaching my weekly "Become a Better Writer" class in the Honors College at the University of New Mexico. I've got a full class of 17 very bright undergraduates, and we're having a lot of fun so far.

We've only been in the new house for a couple of weeks, and we're hoping things slow down now so we can enjoy it and get accustomed to living here. Get into a new routine. You know, find a groove . . .


End the old year with a bargain

The e-book of LONELY STREET, my debut novel, is on sale for 99 cents, but you need to act soon. Sale ends on Jan. 1.

 LONELY STREET introduced bumbling private eye Bubba Mabry to the world in 1994 in a story about a client who might be the living Elvis. In 2009, Hollywood released a movie version with the same title, starring Jay Mohr, Robert Patrick and Joe Mantegna.

Bubba has starred in eight other mysteries over the years, including the recent novella PARTY DOLL, but LONELY STREET is the place to start the series.

Kindle users can go straight to LONELY STREET by clicking here, but it's on sale everywhere e-books are sold.


Weathering winter

Welcome to December, the Official Month of Lost Gloves.

As colder weather settles over the nation, we're all indoors more, getting on each other's nerves. We must wear more clothing to brave the elements. Driving and walking outdoors take on an air of ice-slick danger.

We here at The Home Front want your winter to be safe and happy, so we've developed the following Winter Survival Guide to help you weather the months ahead:


Being shut up in a cozy house seems romantic when portrayed on TV -- flames dancing in the fireplace, frost on the windows, fuzzy slippers and candlelight. But let's face it, unless you're on an all-expenses-paid honeymoon in Aspen, life indoors just isn't that pleasant, especially if children are around. A few days cooped up with kids will make you long for summer, when "Go outside and play" worked as a remedy for frayed nerves.

Even happily married, child-free couples start to annoy each other if they're trapped together indoors. An innocent habit, such as gum-cracking or mindless sniffing, easy to ignore when you're outside a lot, becomes unbearably grating when you're indoors together for days on end. Pretty soon, homicide starts to look like a viable solution.

How to cope with cabin fever? Brandy seems to have medicinal qualities (why do you think those St. Bernards carry it around in the Alps?), and hot cocoa can soothe. But the best treatment remains time alone. You and your spouse should occupy opposite ends of the house as much as possible. And kids can still be forced to go outside if you slather on enough outergarments, which brings us to:


When it gets really cold outside, responsible parents provide their children with the following: long underwear, jeans or ski pants, two pairs of socks, waterproof shoes, T-shirt, sweatshirt, flannel shirt, anorak, heavy coat, gloves or mittens, a woolly scarf and a warm hat. Each of these items will be greeted by objections from the children, who see nothing wrong with dressing like Tarzan when it's snowing. Parents should calmly ignore the complaints and apply each layer as carefully as if it were a coat of paint. By the time you're done, you won't be able to tell whether there's a child inside all those garments. If the child can move freely, he's probably not wearing enough clothes.

The only exception to child clothing complaints: Kids want the biggest, bulkiest ski gloves they can possibly find, because those are the kind that shoot lasers.


Even a quick trip to the convenience store becomes an Arctic expedition during bad weather. If the kids are going with you, allow an extra 30 minutes for preparation and protests. Slick roads slow you down, so allow for that in your daily schedule. And, unexpected storms can bring the whole city to a halt. In fact, if you've got anywhere to go between now and Christmas, you'd better get started now.


If you must spend so much time indoors, at least it can be in an orderly environment. But, naturally, winter presents its own set of problems here, too, the worst being gravity. All those clothes mentioned earlier? They end up on the floor. So you won't need to exercise much during the winter. You'll be doing toe-touches all day long, bending over to pick up mittens and mufflers.

This problem is compounded by the fact that basketball season occurs during winter. Nothing can be put away normally. Every item can be discarded only in the following manner: "He shoots! He scores!" If you, the parent, hear "He shoots!" followed by silence, then you know that's another item you'll be picking up later.

All those clothes must be kept clean. Expect your weekly laundry load to double.

Another problem: All the snow/ice/sludge/dead leaves tracked into the house. Ignore this at your peril. Soon, the footing inside won't be any better than the icy sidewalks outside.


Keep them in the house with you as much as possible. Otherwise, they'll go missing and you'll have a big surprise when the snowdrifts melt.

There you have it. If you follow this advice, you can survive the coming winter and all its hazards. And remember, spring is only 18 months away.

(Ed. note: This is a Home Front column from several years ago. It certainly applies this week. Brr.)