Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Tony Hillerman 1925 - 2008
Immensely popular mystery writer Tony Hillerman passed away at the age of eighty-three Sunday night. A chronicler of the Southwest, his nineteen mysteries and other nonfiction works explored the archaeological tensions and parallels between the past and present. His two main sleuths were members of the Navajo tribal police, Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn and Sargeant Jim Chee, whose skills included the understanding of mythic ritual, unspoken codes, mixed with psychological and sociological insight. Booklist reviewer Bill Ott said of him, (reprinted in our Biography Resource Center database,) "Nobody uses the power of myth to enrich crime fiction more effectively than Hillerman."
Among his more acclaimed mysteries were A Thief of Time, Coyote Waits, and The Shapeshifter. Also, Hillerman was an outstanding journalist throughout his initial career and later taught journalism at the college level. He did not begin writing novels until his mid-forties, giving more time to his literary career after retirement. His nonfiction books, as well as the bestselling mysteries, all gave rich detailed description of New Mexico and native-American culture.