Monday, October 27, 2008

Acclaimed Author Tony Hillerman Dies at 83

I'm a big fan so this is sad news:
Tony Hillerman, author of the acclaimed Navajo Tribal Police mystery novels and creator of two of the unlikeliest of literary heroes — Navajo police officers Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee — died Sunday of pulmonary failure. He was 83.

Well, this has been a long time coming. I knew he'd been ill for several years. Though his later books continued to delight me, his weariness showed. I came along around when A Thief of Time was published and I gobbled up everything he'd written before and everything ever since. He seemed like a good guy and, best of all, he came from Oklahoma:
Born May 27, 1925, in Sacred Heart, Oklahoma, population 50, Tony Hillerman was the son of August and Lucy Grove Hillerman. They were farmers who also ran a small store. It was there that young Tony listened spellbound to locals who gathered to tell their stories.

The teacher at Sacred Heart's one-room school house was rumored to be a member of white supremacist group the Ku Klux Klan, so Tony's parents sent him and his brother, Barney, to St. Mary's Academy, a school for Potawatomie Indian girls near Asher, Oklahoma. It was at St. Mary's that he developed a lifelong respect for Indian culture — and an appreciation of what it means to be an outsider in your own land.

If you haven't already, treat yourself to these wonderful books. Great mysteries with great characters and great locations. What else could you ask for?

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