Magazine article Phi Kappa Phi Forum

Tony Hillerman

Magazine article Phi Kappa Phi Forum

Tony Hillerman

Article excerpt

TONY HILLERMAN (University of New Mexico), 83, the acclaimed Navajo mystery novelist, "blazed innovative trails in the American detective story," according to a New York Times obituary. He wrote 18 detective stories set on Southwest Indian reservations, including his 1970 breakthrough The Blessing Way. The protagonists of the series were Navajo police officers, the grizzled skeptic, Joe Leaphorn and the younger idealist Jim Chee, characters who expanded the traditional genre hero. "They struggled daily to bridge the cultural divide between the dominant Anglo society and the impoverished people who call themselves the Dineh," as a story from The Associated Press put it. He first paired the two in the same tale in 1986 in Skinwalkers, his initial commercial success. Other well-known works include Talking God and Coyote Waits; he produced more than 30 books and contributed to a dozen more. Hillerman, who died on Oct. 27, 2008, of pulmonary failure, grew up poor in Sacred Heart, Okla. …

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