A LATINA LONGMIRE. That’s what Alisa Lynn Valdés says she had in mind when she began writing her New Mexico–set crime series starring rookie game warden Jodi Luna. The first book, Hollow Beasts, has won raves from the Washington Post and Amazon, which named it a “Best Book of 2023 So Far.” Since her acclaimed debut novel, The Dirty Girls Social Club, in 2003, Valdés has written 12 more novels and a memoir, but none are quite like Hollow Beasts. The crime thriller, published in April by Thomas & Mercer, follows Luna as she defends the natural world against humanity’s predations. Valdés might just get her TV wish before long, too—actress Gina Torres has a shopping agreement with the author to star in a potential adaptation of the series.

Alisa Lynn Valdés says the best thing about New Mexico is the earth itself. Photograph by Steven St. John.

I LOVED THE SHOW Longmire. There’s a scene where Walt is driving, and he’s got his sunglasses on in this beautiful northern New Mexico background. He’s kind of the stoic cowboy in his truck. And I thought, I feel like that all the time when I’m driving around rural New Mexico. So why couldn’t it be someone like me?

MY FAMILY’S BEEN HERE for 11 generations. My grandmother lived in a dugout, and she ran a ranch. She had her first baby in a literal manger.

I HAVE A FRIEND WHO’S A GAME WARDEN. He told me that being a game warden is the number-one most dangerous law enforcement job in the country. I wanted to put a woman in that job because there aren’t a whole lot of them.

JODI LUNA is a Latina, but does not feel like an oppressed minority, which I think is a luxury of growing up here. She’s a person who’s very rooted in place and feels very much like she belongs to this land in this place and has every right to be here.

THE BOOK’S MESSAGE is a serious one: Human beings are not separate from nature. What we do to wild places we also do to ourselves. 

THE BEST THING ABOUT NEW MEXICO is the energy of the earth itself.

THE LAND IS THE MUSE, because the natural environment is alive here in a way it isn’t in other places. Mentally I’m more in tune out here than in a big city.  

ONE OF MY FAVORITE BOOKS is The Red Badge of Courage, by Stephen Crane. It was an old book when I read it as a kid, but it was totally riveting to me. On the surface it’s a novel about the Civil War, and it has a great deal of history woven through it. If you read more deeply, though, its anti-war sentiment is strong and convincing, and it still speaks to me. 

I’VE WRITTEN ALL KINDS OF BOOKS, but Hollow Beasts is my first stab at a crime thriller. Suspense writing was such a fun challenge for me, and I did my best to make sure the reader stayed hooked on the characters and the story.

IF YOU’RE IN ALBUQUERQUE, don’t miss El Patio de Albuquerque, on Harvard Drive. It’s this unassuming little place with blue trim and a picket fence, but the papas are some of the best I’ve ever had. It’s right next to UNM, where my dad taught for years, and I remember going there as a kid. 

I’VE LIVED ALL OVER THE WORLD, but there’s no place I’d rather be than New Mexico. I’ve been back for 23 years, and it’s still the place that feels the most me. 

Read more: Joe Leaphorn, Jim Chee, and Bernadette Manuelito return to investigate a shadowy cult, while Leaphorn comes face-to-face with the man who may be responsible for his son’s death.


Follow Alisa Lynn Valdés on Instagram (@authoralisavaldes) or purchase Hollow Beasts at nmmag.us/hollowbeasts.