Tony Hillerman (1925 – 2008) is one of my favorite authors. His books prove that novels and mysteries need not be placed in two separate categories. I can’t define “literature”, but I know it when I read it.
Talking Mysteries was published in 1991, when Hillerman was about halfway through his eighteen book Joe Leaphorn/Jim Chee mystery series. He had already received the award he valued most, the Special Friends of the Dineh from the Navajo Nation Council.
Talking Mysteries is the kind of book publishers throw together when they realize they have a winner in their midst. A few interviews, a short story. Some commentary…
Who was Ernie Bulow? A man of many trades (including trader), he wrote (including a book called Navajo Taboos and two other books of “conversations”) , taught and practiced the arts of photography and silver smithing.
The icing on this cake is a set of sketches from Navajo artist Ernest Franklin, who illustrated some of Hillerman’s novels. On line, I found the even more exciting paintings by Franklin. My thanks to Parrish Books for the thumbnail image reproduced above.
Hillerman was a prolific writer, and we are fortunate he wrote an autobiography called Seldom Disappointed: A Memoir seven years before his death. I recommend it highly.
The Tale Teller is subtitled “A Leaphorn, Chee and Manuelito Novel”. Hillerman catches my attention so quickly and completely that I ignore the pings of my cell phone. (This is saying a great deal.)
Like her deceased father Tony Hillerman, who started writing his Navajo mystery novels in 1970, Ms. Hillerman writes about a few characters who start to seem like old friends. The trio featured in this book are familiar.
These books delve into various aspects of Navajo life. In The Tale Teller, history is crucial. The cultural element of witchcraft is also explored. What did it mean in the past? What does it mean to the contemporary characters we meet, who live in the dual worlds of reservation life and 21st century America?
All this is seamlessly woven into an exciting police procedural/mystery. Don’t miss it!
I’m very happy to say that Anne Hillerman lives up to the standard set by her much-published father, Tony Hillerman. Ms Hillerman adopted her father’s characters (Leaphorn, Chee and Manuelito) to write more mysteries set in the Navaho Nation located around the Four Corners area of the American Southwest.
Tony Hillman, who died in 2008, was exceptional because he wrote about Navaho life from an insider’s perspective, though he had no native blood. He also left behind a wonderful autobiography, Seldom Disappointed.
Spider Woman’s Daughter focused on tribal police officer Bernadette Manuelito, wife of Jim Chee. Chee had been forced to chose between Navaho life and “mainstream” America. Still finding their way, the couple has come down close to traditional Navaho life.
Anne Hillman’s first two novels are brisk and appealing, and she has published two more since Rock with Wings came out in 2015. Her writing background is in journalism, and she doesn’t waste words. I hope she keeps writing. I visited the Southwest many years ago, and hope to get back there before too long.