In Memoriam: Tony Hillerman

Mystery writer Tony Hillerman passed away yesterday. Ordinarily, I’m not really a reader of mysteries (Poe, Doyle, and Cornwell being about it), but Tony Hillerman’s novel’s were different. They were smart, well written books that revolved around the Hopi and the Navajo. What set them apart, in my opinion, is the fact that the solution to the mystery revolved around some bit of cultural knowledge about the Hopi or Navajo – and Hillerman clearly knew these two groups well. I would, in point of fact, recommend them to aspiring cultural anthropologists.

9 Responses

  1. I always felt somehow connected to the culture Hillerman described so well. While reading, I often felt the peace he created in the wide open spaces on the various reservations. I will miss his stories and his characters. I’ll never know whether Jim Chee gets to be a hatalee or whether Leaphorn marries Louisa.
    Oh well.

  2. Oh, I am sorry to hear this!

  3. I was very sad to read about this. I remember when he had prostate cancer a decade or so ago, and aside from Stephen J Gould, he was the only writer I was ever really sad about potentially losing.
    I started reading him when I was living in the southwest, and visited the country he wrote about. I affected me very strongly at an important time in my life.

  4. I attended elementary school in Northern Arizona. My classmates included memebers of the Hopi, Navajo and Havasu nations. The kids, my friends, helped me to see my world through a different set of eyes. Their values were different than mine — not wrong, but different. Hillerman’s books brought back that cultural dissonance, each time in a new way. He was able to show the differences realistically and fairly. I’ll keep reading his books. And thanking him.

  5. I’ve read most of Hillerman’s novels and really enjoyed every one. He had that knack of making you see in the mind’s eye what he was describing. I was sorry to hear he’d passed away.

  6. I only heard about the great loss of Tony Hillerman today. It is very sad to hear of his passing, but I am sure his soul will roam the beautiful country of New Mexico which we visited 3 years ago. I have read or listened to on tape all of his books and always looked forward to new ones. The characters were wonderful, the places wonderous and the reader of his books on tape was just the right one to do so.
    My sincere condolences to his wife.
    Many will miss him there are so few go writers of Native American history. Janet Williamstown New York

  7. Tony Hillerman’s books were the only mysteries I really enjoyed, precisely because of the Native American culture in them. I understand that the Navaho adopted him as an honorary member, too.

  8. The first Hillerman novel I read, a long time ago, was “Fly On The Wall,” a political murder mystery. Nice, but routine. When he started writing about the native Americans of the southwest, I stayed away for some considerable time, thinking that this was too strange. What a mistake! They have been great: informative and exciting. Jim Chee, Joe Leaphorn and the rest have been good companions for many years. I’ll miss him.

  9. Thank you Tony Hillerman
    Oklahoma farm boy,
    WWII GI, in the thick of it,
    Friend and keen observer of all the varied tribes (white ones too!),
    Family man,
    Wonderful storyteller and writer,
    Friend to millions (like myself) who had never met him,
    Future friend to many more!
    NPR’s FreshAir
    remembered Tony Hillerman Thursday October 30 –
    I feel like sharing the email their recollection inspired———-
    Fresh Air Thank you for remembering Tony Hillerman.
    I’ve been a resident of the Colorado corner of the greater Four-Corners region since 1979, and discovered Hillerman in the mid eightees. He has stood my test of time in a way no Zane Gray or Louis L’Amour (fun as they are) could.
    He managed to bring to life a certain essence of America’s southwest desert in a human way, others haven’t touch.
    I think it was his extraordinary cross between the gritty newspaper man and an extremely insightful and sensitive down home human.
    He will be missed.

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