Here's the cover of The Mule Ears, fourth book in the Big Bend Country Mystery series. The striking image shot at Big Bend National Park is by Mark Cunningham, an avid photographer recently featured in Big Bend Literary Magazine.


As I've explained in earlier versions of this posting, I hoped that The Mule Ears would appear by late fall, 2022. But I held it back while I sketched out the plot for the fifth book in the Big Bend Country Mystery series—tentatively entitled The Roosevelt Cottage—tweakingThe Mule Ears to lead neatly into that climactic story.

Then I fell off my mountain bike. Surgery was required, slowing me down yet more....


The Lost Mine Trail, the third book in the Big Bend Country Mysteries series, is available on Amazon in paperback or as an ebook: No Virus, No Politics, Just Murder.

It's a complex tale of crime and retribution. New characters appear, but many favorites return too: Clayton Shoot and Claire Harp, of course, Velma Furcron, Lee Perciak, the Nixons, and Gretchyn Whyrl. Alonso Rangel & Fiona Tusk-Rangel are...


I'm happy to report that the Lone Star Cowboy Poetry Gathering returned in person in February 2022 after a pandemic layoff. Once again in Alpine, hearty live crowds enjoyed the distinctive style of authentic cowboy poetry, music, and story-telling. And kudos to the organization (I'm a Partner member) for keeping that spirit alive with a virtual gathering in 2021. For more information, you can go...

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Think Clayton Shoot is far-fetched as a name for a fictional sheriff? Think again. In fall 2020, the write-in candidate for Sheriff of Brewster County was one Will Drawe. Only in Texas.


I've told this story a number of times to friends. In December 2018, as I was closing in on the final chapters of The South Rim Trail, my nine-month old schnauzer pups—left alone in the house—tore apart the sole copy of my detailed outline for the book.

Of course, any author of mysteries needs tight control over who is doing what to whom when. So I'd prepared a scene-by-scene description for my story using the...


Early copies of The South Rim Trail shipped with an error on the spine. New books now come with the correct spelling. Many eyes missed the seemingly obvious gaffe, mine included, of course.


Look closely at the selfie that accompanies my Facebook posts or Amazon reviews (as JRAlpine) and you'll see this painting in the background. It plays a huge role in The South Rim Trail. Of course, you'll have to read the novel to learn all the details.

Terlingua Townhouse is a work in a style called plein air, and if you don't know what that means, that's yet another reason to read the novel. And if you do...


Copyediting can be every bit as tough as composing. When I wrote textbooks, my manuscripts went through at least two or (more often) three levels of professional review to get every detail right—and even then errors slipped through.

I don't have that luxury now. Just one copyeditor and so many reviews of the manuscript on my own that I know parts of it almost by heart. And there's he rub. Very soon, I'm reading what I think...


With theThe South Rim Trail now available, I made a list of places or sites in Big Bend Country mentioned in the book. Authors often take liberties with locales and geography, but part of the fun for readers of series like the Big Bend Country Mysteries is recognizing familiar places or discovering new ones. Let me know if there are any West Texas spots I should take my characters to in future books.


Just finished the important task of synching the upcoming book in the Big Bend Mysteries series The South Rim Trail with the first book in the series The Window Trail. I made dozens of small changes in the latest manuscript to be certain the community introduced in the first book jibes with the one in the second. For example, one character had changed eye color (fixed).

I also revisited sites in Big Bend country to be...


Mystery writer J.A. Jance pays attention to the cars her characters own. In Kiss of the Bees, it matters when a new tribal attorney on an Arizona reservation pulls up in a Saab 9000 rather than a Chevy or Ford pickup. Everyone notices.

So characters living in Far West Texas can’t drive just anything either.

With the nearest supercharger 100 miles away, Teslas are rare as Ferraris—though I’ve seen both out here recently....


J J Rusz discusses The Window Trail and The South Rim Trail in an interview with Charlotte Canion for Indie Beacon Radio (February 12, 2019 from Alpine, Texas). Rusz explains his experiences as an author, his process of writing, and the ideas behind the Big Bend Country Mystery series. (30.27 minutes / 12 February 2019)

Also listen on:...

At Big Bend National Park

Welcome to the Big Bend Country Mysteries website. The Window Trail (named Texas Authors 2019 Best Mystery/ Thriller) was the first book in the series. The South Rim Trail followed in 2019, The Lost Mine Trail appeared late in 2020, and The Mule Ears followed in 2023.

The published novels are available via Amazon in eBook or paperback form—and on Kindle Unlimited, if you subscribe....