BORN: May 27, 1925, Sacred Heart, Oklahoma IDENTIFICATION: American writer of detective fiction that is distinctive for its setting in the Navajo area of the Southwest and for its two Native American heroes.
SIGNIFICANCE: Tony Hillerman, a white man who has spent most of his life among American Indians in the desert Southwest, found his literary calling with his first novel, The Blessing Way (1970). His more than a dozen detective novels, set among the Navajo people in the Four Corners region (where Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, and Colorado meet), have expanded the conventions of the police procedural, a crime novel that highlights analysis and investigation by law enforcement officials. In drawing from Indian lore, Hillerman has invigorated the detective genre and added significantly to the literature of the American West. Admired by Indian and non-Indian readers alike, his novels have won prizes from French academies and tribal councils.