Monday, September 21, 2009

"The Pot Thief Who Studied Pythagoras" In Bookland Heights!

"The Pot Thief Who Studied Pythagoras has all the components of a great read – an intricate plot, quirky characters, crackling dialog, and a surprise ending. What’s more, Orenduff successfully captures the essence of New Mexico through humor, romance, and even a little philosophical musing. New Mexico’s rich history, people, food, and landscape come alive on its pages. But, while Orenduff’s account is authentic, this book leaves you wanting more of New Mexico, and the only way to remedy that is to come see for yourself." – Bill Richardson, Governor of New Mexico

BOOK site

What or who most influenced your writing?
Margaret Atwood, Lawrence Block, Garrison Keillor, and Woody Allen

What is the one thing you want readers to know about your book(s) and/or writing?
If you look carefully for the clues, you might solve the mystery between laughs.

What is your next project and when can we expect to read it?
The next book in the series, The Pot Thief Who Studied Ptolemy, is due out this fall.


Brought to you in part by:
BUY: WOOF: Women Only Over Fifty , BUY: Wendel Wordsworth, BUY: Cynthia's Attic


  1. Hi, Mike! Welcome to Bookland Heights...

    Okay, the mention of quirky characters in "The Pot Thief Who Studied Pythagoras" gets my attention. Care to share a bit about them?


  2. An endorsement from the former governor! WTG, Mike! And, love the intriguing title.

    Yes, more about the quirky characters, please!


  3. Mike Orenduff came honestly to a love for the American Southwest, growing up so close to the Rio Grande that he could "Frisbee a flour tortilla into Mexico." The Pot Thief Who Studied Pythagorus is an homage to Albuquerque (Duke City) and to the wondrous state of New Mexico, the Land of Enchantment. His clever novel more than satisfies the dual criteria of good literature: to instruct and delight.

    Mild-mannered activist Hubert Schuze runs a small antiquities shop in Old Town, nestled among other seventeenth-century adobes where "treasures" rub elbows with "tacky." Hubert's not averse to a creative deal, since many of the pots he likes collecting and selling are "out there" essentially for the taking on public land. Before the onerous Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1980, treasure hunting used to be an honourable profession. It's Hubert's duty to bring these gems to light. Suppose King Tut's legacy still lay beneath the shifting sands?

    The money-challenged Hubert is offered twenty-five-thousand dollars to "deliver" a classic pot from a local museum, but he has his standards. Besides, the museum has too many security systems for the object to be removed. Then another pot is stolen from the fabled Bandelier site, and because of his reputation, he's accused by a sinister agent of the notorious Bureau of Land Management. Along with his younger sidekick Susannah, Hubert orchestrates a brilliant but dizzying caper. Only a thorough grounding in the art and science of ancient Mogollon pottery as well as a talent for magic gives him the chops. How in the world will he succeed in stealing a pot by not stealing it?

    Hubert makes an ideal guide for this historical city, the perfect combination of reverence and candid observations. The smells of hot corn tortillas fresh off the steel drum, head-blowing chilis, and daily fortifications of Gruet Brut New Mexico champagne ($13 a bottle) fortify the stomach between scenes of action and cunning. Sip the perfect margarita: "never from a mix, always with silver tequila made from one hundred percent blue agave, never frothed or frozen, and never with strawberries, raspberries, peach liqueur, peppermint swizzle sticks, [or] crumbled Hershey bars." And who can argue with his desire as a potter, antiquarian, and humanist, to touch the hand of the artist?: "I found my way to that same rise on that sheltered dune using knowledge of the land she possessed a thousand years before I was born. I'm holding the pot she took with her to carry water or gather juniper berries. When I find that pot, I find her, someone like me who knew the feel of wet clay between her fingers." Pure poetry.

    The dialogue is fresh and witty, reminiscent of sparkling Thirties screwball comedies with Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn bouncing off each other's energy and zinging home tart observations. The wry Hubert makes the perfect foil for insouciant Susannah, perpetual student whose university major shifts with the desert winds. Her interpretations of Socrates and his Allegory of the Cave are an antidote for depression. Characters like Miss Gladys with her Chicken Delight casserole, the nymphet-on-the-run Kaylee, and Layton Kent, the charming upscale lawyer with a preference for sage hens, make up the rest of Hubie's eccentric world.

    As for Pythagorus, Orenduff accommodates his master with aplomb, including mind-boggling permutations on numbers and angles. Who could have thought the old mathematician to have so much philosophy in him? His maxims hold true today: "Speak not nor act before thou hast reflected, and be just."

    Orenduff's next book, The Pot Thief Who Studied Ptolemy, will appear this fall. Time to return to lazy afternoons at Dos Hermanas Tortilleria, where the food is choice and the company even better.

    Lou Allin, New Mexico fan

  4. As a life-long mystery fan, it can only be expected that titles in that genre outnumber all the others in my publishing company's catalog. Each one has a stand-out reason why I chose it from all the queries that come my way.

    In the case of Mike's POT THIEF series, there is a long list of reasons but the one that shines the brightest is his roll-out of Hubert Schuze, known to all who love him as Hubie. I know I am on the hook when the line between reality and fiction blur and I wonder what delightful omelet Hubert is making and whether he and Susannah will be going to Dos Hermanos for margaritas later in the day. I feel like I could actually walk into his shop and admire the pottery he has on sale...and probably even peer a little closer to see if I might decide which ones were genuine and which ones were the result of Hubie helping antiquity and/or art along.

    The thing is, plots are fun and exciting, and sometimes even thought-provoking, but once a cast of really good characters come to live with you, they just seem to stay!

    If you haven't read THE POT THIEF WHO STUDIED PYTHAGORAS, you owe yourself this treat.

  5. I am a huge fan of Mike Orenduff and his Pot Thief. I thought the plot and Hubie were both ingenious and clever, and Mike is right when he says you won't be able to stop laughing. I love a little funny with my mystery, and this had me laughing out loud. Can't wait for the second novel, and I hear Hubie may be getting some companionship, which I truly welcome. No man is an island, not even Hubie.
    Holli Castillo
    Gumbo Justice

  6. A very enjoyable book! Can't wait for Hubie's next adventure...

  7. Thanks for the welcome, Diana. It's good to be here at Bookland Heights. Sounds like a great neighborhood for writers and readers. Okay, "quirky characters" was Governor Richardson's phrase, and he should know - New Mexico seems to attract them. Just stand in the Plaza in Taos for an hour. My mysteries are 'cozies', and to me that means they are driven by their characters as much as by plot. When I read one of Simon Brett's Charles Paris books, for example, I enjoy just following the daily life of a bit player actor with a drinking problem. I like him. I enjoy his consistent failures to reunite with his wife, his strange acting assignments, his bed-sitter, his elusive agent. Of course I enjoy trying to figure out whodunit, but even if I don't - even if the plot is not that great - I still enjoy the read. I enjoyed The Da Vinci Code for the plot and action, but I wouldn't read a book just because that protagonist was in it. See? I've forgotten his name..Langdon? I hope my protagonist, Hubie, is like Charles Paris or Bernie Rhodenbarr, or Rabbi David Small. Quirky, yes. But mainly likable in a curious way.


  8. Book pushers are busy trying to nominate a Tony Hillerman replacement for tales of the southwest. Orenduff has already been suggested as one of these. I found the characters of Orenduff more accessible than Hillerman's. I liked Hubie and Susie immediately. It took several Hillerman books for me to appreciate Leaphorn. And the Pot Thief was fun to read. It makes you feel good. I have lived in northern New Mexico for four years. Orenduff is a realistic writer. He points out things about the cultural and the people here that I have learned already, and to see new insights.

    My sisters came to visit me this month. So I drove to ABQ to pick them up at the airport. This trip takes more than three hours: beginning on rutted, unpaved roads, and finally after reaching Santa Fe, ends with an hour of four lane interstate to the airport. I arrived a bit early in the city and so took time to visit Old Town for the first time. I went looking for Hubie's shop. I found the street mentioned in the book and the church across the corner.... Wondering where Hubie was, I wanted to have a margarita with him and Susie, but knew that I had too much driving ahead of me to have one.

    I look forward to learning more from Orenduff, watching Hubie get out of trouble, and sharing a life lived behind brown adobe walls.


  9. On my latest trip to Albuquerque, I stopped in Old Town and found a pot shop. I asked the owner if anyone had come in and asked for Hubie. "No" was the reply. I suspect he'll hear that question again. Hubie's that real.

  10. Hi Mary,

    Bill Richardson is not the 'former' governor of New Mexico, although I suspect the Republicans out there wish he was.:-) You may recall that Obama picked him as Secretary of Commerce, but Richardson withdrew because he was under investigation. That investigation has ended and the Governor has been cleared. I try to steer clear of politics. I like Bill Richardson because he supports education and he's a fascinating conversationalist on any topic from opera to nuclear physics.

    For the sequel, I thinking I need endorsements from publications and authors. Any suggestions?


  11. Funny, Mike, but when I wrote that I struggled with whether he still is the governor! So much has happened that I wasn't sure after his withdrawal for Secretary of Commerce. I happen to like him, too, and thought he'd would've been great for the job. Glad to hear he's been cleared. Thanks for setting me straight.

    It's been great having you at Bookland Heights!

  12. Being at Bookland Heights has been great. This is the first time I've done something like this. Actually, that sounds wrong. I didn't do anything; Bookland Heights did it all. It's been a fun week, and I now plan to be an avid follower of this site. Can't e wait to see who's next. Thanks for a great week.


  13. The honor is ours, Mike! You've been a fabulous guest. We've had such a stimulating conversation going all week!

    You're welcome back anytime.


  14. As Mary said, the honor's all ours! Wishing you all the best with your new release, Mike. Please keep in touch, and hang your hat here next chance you get!