A (Partial) Atlas of Texas Crime Fiction

  • Post by Director of Suspense Molly Odintz

A hard land with a difficult history, Texas has always lent itself well to crime fiction. From the crime fiction greats who helped define the genre to those writers shaping the landscape of crime fiction today, Texas has a long tradition of social critiques and sendoffs of hypocrisy (the hallmarks of Texas crime fiction, in my opinion) delivered via murder mystery. Tales of Texas history may gaslight their audiences into believing in the state as a land of triumph, but we crime fiction readers know the dark, murderous truth about the land we call home….

Below, you’ll find an incomplete (of necessity) guide to Texas crime fiction, brought to y’all in honor of Texas Mystery Writers Month (that is, May). Emphasis is placed on well-known classic writers and the wide array of new crime fiction released in the past few years. We know we’re leaving out quite a few of the Texas mystery writer greats, and many of the good one-off novels. Some have gone out of print; others have simply dropped off our radar as we find new voices to champion.

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MysteryPeople Q&A with Carlos Cisneros

If you like legal thrillers, then this is the month for you.  Practicing attorney and author Carlos Cisneros presents his third novel, The Land Grant, the follow up to his debut novel The Case Runner.  He’s been called the Latino Grisham, an honor and comparison that Cisneros doesn’t take lightly.  Cisneros will appear here at Book People in conversation with Mark Pryor this Friday, September 27th at 7:00 p.m. to discuss their latest novels.  We caught up with Carlos and asked him a few questions.

MYSTERYPEOPLE:  The Land Grant is your third legal thriller, and it also takes place along the Texas-Mexico border.  Why are you so interested in the border area?

CARLOS CISNEROS:  Shows like Breaking Bad and The Bridge have brought to the forefront what folks like me – folks that grew up on both sides of the US-Mexico border – already know.  The border is a unique place, with its unique set of problems and its fair share of interesting characters and stories.  And there also happens to be two thousand miles of it!  There’s a little bit of everything: corruption, drug and alien trafficking, money laundering, narco violence, the clash of cultures, the language, music, the food and everything in between.  It’s really magical and scary, all at once.

MP:  Why legal thrillers?

CC: I love the thriller genre.  Guys like Patterson, Baldacci, Gimenez and Grisham are some of my favorite authors.  And you have to write about what you know.  So, I like to write about the things I’ve witnessed down at the courthouse and in legal circles.  If the public only knew!

MP:  It looks like Alex del Fuerte, the main character in The Case Runner and The Land Grant, might end up having his own series.  Is that something you did on purpose?

CC:  Even though Alex is a baby lawyer that has much to learn, I felt he could have his own series because the readership really liked him and wanted to learn more about him, plus he’s got room to grow.  So, the idea was to write different thrillers with different characters and story lines, but also continue the Alejandro “Alex” del Fuerte series.  The departure novels have been The Name Partner and The C.I., which should come out next Spring.

MP:  Is the legal thriller genre something you plan to stick with?

CC:  Yes, for the most part, but I’ve also started work on a fusion novel.  It blends romance, suspense and elements of the legal thriller.

MP:  Your novels have won 1st place at the International Latino Book Awards in New York and 1st place at the Books into Movies Awards, a competition sponsored by Hollywood Actor Edwards James Olmos.  What is the significance of the Books into Movies Awards?

CC:  Mr. Olmos, and others in the movie business, feel that Latinos are not being fairly represented in Hollywood and on TV.  The idea is to promote the winning novels and showcase them to the decision makers in Hollywood in order to get them to the big screen.

MP:  What is The C.I. about?

CC:  The Confidential Informant is about a female attorney that gets appointed in federal court to defend a member of a drug cartel and learns of a plot to assassinate the chief justice of the US Supreme Court.


Copies of The Land Grant are available in-store and via bookpeople.com. Come down to BookPeople to meet Carlos Cisneros and hear him talk about his book on Friday, September 27 at 7pm.