Shaman or Sherlock? The Native American Detective

Shaman or Sherlock? The Native American Detective

Shaman or Sherlock? The Native American Detective

Shaman or Sherlock? The Native American Detective

Synopsis

Highlights and explores the range of Native American detective fiction and the many sociocultural agendas at work in this subgenre of the crime fiction story.

Excerpt

20 to 22 percent of all books sold in the United States are … mystery
or detective fiction … enjoyed equally by male and female readers
from age seven to adults.… And … much contemporary detective fic
tion explores issues of cultural interaction … through the investigation
of serious crime.

—Klein, Diversity and Detective Fiction, 2

When this project began, a recurrent objection by colleagues was, “Native American detectives? A whole book about them?” The incredulity of these questioners, many of them avid consumers of popular fiction in general, is easily understood: in their view, the project lacked a subject matter. This puzzlement was usually followed by, “Well, there’s Tony Hillerman, of course, but does anyone else write about Indian detectives?”

The answer, as the bibliography of primary sources shows, is, “Yes, lots of writers.” In fact, indigenous “detectives” (known by other names but functioning similarly to contemporary urban investigators) have a long, honorable history in American culture. As Lisbeth Paravisini-Gebert observes in The Oxford Companion to Crime and Mystery Writing entry . . .

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