May 27, 1925|
Sacred Heart, Oklahoma
|Died||October 26, 2008
Albuquerque, New Mexico
|Occupation||Novelist, Journalist, Educator|
Tony Hillerman (May 27, 1925 – October 26, 2008) was an award-winning American author of detective novels and non-fiction works best known for his Navajo Tribal Police mystery novels. Several of his works have been adapted as big-screen and television movies.
Anthony Grove Hillerman was born in Sacred Heart, Oklahoma, and was a decorated combat veteran of World War II, having served as a mortarman in the 103rd Infantry Division. He earned the Silver Star, the Bronze Star, and a Purple Heart.
From 1948–1962, he worked as a journalist, then earned a master's degree. He taught journalism from 1966 to 1987 at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, and also began writing novels. He lived there with his wife until his death in 2008.
Hillerman, a consistently bestselling author, was ranked as New Mexico's 22nd wealthiest man in 1996.
Hillerman wrote 18 books in his Navajo series. He wrote more than 30 books total, among them a memoir and books about the Southwest, its beauty and its history.
His literary honors were awarded for his Navajo books. He was also awarded the Parris Award (named in honor of Parris Afton Bonds) by Southwest Writer's Workshop for his outstanding service to other writers. Hillerman books have been translated into eight languages, among them Danish and Japanese.
Hillerman's writing is noted for the cultural details he provides about his subjects: Hopi, Zuni, European-American, federal agents, and especially Navajo Tribal Police. His works in nonfiction and in fiction reflect his appreciation of the natural wonders of the American Southwest and his appreciation of its people, particularly the Navajo.
His mystery novels are set in the Four Corners area of New Mexico and Arizona, sometimes reaching into Colorado and Utah and beyond, sometimes to Washington, DC, Los Angeles and other areas. The protagonists are Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee of the Navajo tribal police. Lt. Leaphorn was introduced in Hillerman's first novel, The Blessing Way (1970). The second book in the series, Dance Hall of the Dead (1973), won a 1974 Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America for Best Novel. In 1991, Hillerman received the MWA's Grand Master Award. Hillerman has also received the Nero Award (for Coyote Waits) and the Navajo Tribe's Special Friends of the Dineh Award.
Hillerman repeatedly acknowledged his debt to an earlier series of mystery novels written by the British-born Australian author Arthur W. Upfield and set among tribal aborigines in remote desert regions of tropical and subtropical Australia. The Upfield novels began to be published in 1928 and featured a half-European, half-aboriginal Australian hero, Detective-inspector Napoleon (Bony) Bonaparte. Bony worked with deep understanding of tribal traditions. The character was based on the achievements of an aborigine known as Tracker Leon, whom Upfield had met during his years in the Australian bush.
Hillerman discussed his debt to Upfield in many interviews and in his introduction to the posthumous 1984 reprint of Upfield's A Royal Abduction. In the introduction, he described the appeal of the descriptions in Upfield's crime novels. It was descriptions both of the harsh outback areas and of "the people who somehow survived upon them" that lured him. "When my own Jim Chee of the Navaho Tribal Police unravels a mystery because he understands the ways of his people, when he reads the signs in the sandy bottom of a reservation arroyo, he is walking in the tracks Bony made 50 years ago."
Legacy and honors 
- In Albuquerque, Tony Hillerman Middle School is named after him.
- The Tony Hillerman Library of the Albuquerque/Bernalillo County Library System is named for him.
Common themes of Leaphorn and Chee books 
A number of themes and elements are common to many of Hillerman's Navajo mysteries. Many of them focus on the different attitudes that Leaphorn and Chee take toward Navajo. Leaphorn is somewhat skeptical of tradition, although he takes seriously reports of witchcraft. He does not believe in witches, but following a murder-suicide early in his career, in which a man killed three people whom he believed to be skinwalkers, Leaphorn realizes that belief in witches can lead to problems.
Chee takes a more traditional Navajo worldview, believing in the power of traditional singers and other rituals; however, he has come to take a more figurative or symbolic view of chindi, Navajo ghosts. Chee likewise studies to be a yataalii, roughly speaking, a shaman, whenever time allows. Leaphorn does respect tradition. "While Leaphorn was no longer truly a traditional," said Hillerman in Hunting Badger (1999, page 44), "he still treasured the old ways of his people."
In many novels, Leaphorn and/or Chee investigate reports of witchcraft or other supernatural events, often while at the same time investigating seemingly unrelated crimes of a more ordinary sort. In many cases the two are related, the supernatural events being staged as a way to cover up the other crimes. Many novels also explore the interaction of traditional Navajo culture with the bilagáana, or white man; Chee, especially, sees this assimilation as destroying Navajo culture and making it difficult for many to fit into either world. In particular, several characters are "Relocation Navajos," raised in Los Angeles after a government program of the 1930s relocated them.
The Navajo idea of hózhǫ́ is frequently referred to. This refers to beauty, harmony, and the interconnectedness of the natural world. The crime in a Hillerman novel is a synecdoche for that which destroys hozho. In addition to "white" versus "Navajo" culture, Hillerman often explores differences in social status in white society. For example, many wealthy antagonists feel that the status brought by their money allows them to do certain things that would be considered immoral. Some of the lower-class antagonists feel jealousy and a desire to be seen as equals.
Following the Navajo tradition of giving names based on personal attributes, Hillerman often refers to unnamed characters by descriptive nicknames. For example, a man wearing gold-rimmed glasses is called "Goldrims" until his name is identified later in the book; a boy wearing a Superman sweatshirt, a boy who is the grandson of a man under investigation, is called "Supergrandson." A murder victim is referred to as "Pointed Shoes" even after the body is identified.
Leaphorn and Chee books 
- The Blessing Way (1970) ISBN 0-06-011896-2
- Dance Hall of the Dead (1973) ISBN 0-06-011898-9
- Listening Woman (1978) ISBN 0-06-011901-2
- People Of Darkness (1980) ISBN 0-06-011907-1
- The Dark Wind (1982) ISBN 0-06-014936-1
- The Ghostway (1984) ISBN 0-06-015396-2
- Skinwalkers (1986) ISBN 0-06-015695-3
- A Thief of Time (1988) ISBN 0-06-015938-3
- Talking God (1989) ISBN 0-06-016118-3
- Coyote Waits (1990) ISBN 0-06-016370-4
- Sacred Clowns (1993) ISBN 0-06-016767-X
- The Fallen Man (1996) ISBN 0-06-017773-X
- The First Eagle (1998) ISBN 0-06-017581-8
- Hunting Badger (1999) ISBN 0-06-019289-5
- The Wailing Wind (2002) ISBN 0-06-019444-8
- The Sinister Pig (2003) ISBN 0-06-019443-X
- Skeleton Man (2004) ISBN 0-06-056344-3
- The Shape Shifter (2006) ISBN 978-0-06-056345-5
Three-in-one volumes 
- The Joe Leaphorn Mysteries: Three Classic Hillerman Mysteries Featuring Lt. Joe Leaphorn: The Blessing Way, Dance Hall of the Dead, Listening Woman (1989) ISBN 0-06-016174-4
- The Jim Chee Mysteries: Three Classic Hillerman Mysteries Featuring Officer Jim Chee: People of Darkness, The Dark Wind, The Ghostway (1990) ISBN 0-06-016478-6 The first appearance of Jim Chee in the Leaphorn-Chee series is in People of Darkness. In these three books, Joe Leaphorn is only briefly mentioned once, as "Captain Leaphorn at the Chinle substation" (POD, ch. 6). In the later books, where he is again prominent along with Jim Chee, he is "Lieutenant Leaphorn."
- Tony Hillerman: Three Jim Chee Mysteries: People of Darkness, The Dark Wind, The Ghostway (1993) ISBN 0-517-09281-6
- Leaphorn & Chee: Three Classic Mysteries Featuring Lt. Joe Leaphorn and Officer Jim Chee : Skinwalkers, A Thief of Time, Talking God (1992) ISBN 0-06-016909-5
- Leaphorn & Chee: Three Classic Mysteries Featuring Lt. Joe Leaphorn and Officer Jim Chee: Skinwalkers, A Thief of Time, Talking God (2001) ISBN 0-06-018789-1
- Tony Hillerman: The Leaphorn & Chee Novels: Skinwalkers, A Thief of Time, Coyote Waits (2005) ISBN 0-06-075338-2
- Tony Hillerman: Leaphorn, Chee, and More: The Fallen Man, The First Eagle, Hunting Badger (2005) ISBN 0-06-082078-0
Other novels 
- The Fly on the Wall (1971) ISBN 0-06-011897-0
- Finding Moon (1995) ISBN 0-06-017772-1
- The Boy Who Made Dragonfly (for children) (1972) ISBN 0-06-022312-X
- Buster Mesquite's Cowboy Band (for children) (1973) ISBN 0-914001-11-6
Other books by Hillerman (memoirs, non-fiction, anthologies) 
- Seldom Disappointed: A Memoir by Tony Hillerman (2001) ISBN 0-06-019445-6
- The Great Taos Bank Robbery (1973) ISBN 0-8263-0306-4
- The Spell of New Mexico (1976) ISBN 0-8263-0420-6
- Indian Country (1987) ISBN 0-87358-432-5
- Talking Mysteries (with Ernie Bulow) (1991) ISBN 0-8263-1279-9
- The Tony Hillerman Companion: A Comprehensive Guide to His Life and Work by Hillerman, Martin Greenberg (1994) ISBN 0-06-017034-4
- The Oxford book of American Detective Stories (1996) ISBN 0-19-508581-7
- Canyon De Chelly (1998) ISBN 1-893205-25-8
- Best American Mysteries of the Century (2000) ISBN 0-618-06757-4
- Best of the Western anthology of classic writing from the America West (1991) ISBN 0-06-016664-9
- New Omnibus of Crime (2005) ISBN 0-19-518214-6
- The Mysterious West (1995) ISBN 0-06-017785-3
About Hillerman, non-fiction, by others 
- Tony Hillerman's Navajoland: Hideouts, Haunts and Havens in the Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee Mysteries by Laurance D. Linford, Tony Hillerman (2001) ISBN 0-87480-698-4; Expanded Third Edition (2011) ISBN 978-1-60781-137-4.
- Tony Hillerman's Indian Country Map & Guide, first edition by Time Traveler Maps by Tony Hillerman (1998) ISBN 1-892040-01-8
- Tony Hillerman's Indian Country Map & Guide, second edition by Time Traveler Maps by Tony Hillerman (2003) ISBN 1-892040-10-7
- The Ethnic Detective: Chester Himes, Harry Kemelman, Tony Hillerman by Peter Freese – including a detailed analysis of Listening Woman ISBN 978-3-892-06502-9
- Tony Hillerman: A Critical Companion (Critical Companions to Popular Contemporary Writers) by John M. Reilly (1996) ISBN 978-0-313-29416-7
Books of photos 
- Kilroy Was There (2004) ISBN 0-87338-807-0
- Hillerman Country (1991) ISBN 0-06-016400-X
- Indian Country: America's Sacred Land Bela Kalman (text by Hillerman) (1987) ISBN 0-87358-432-5
- Rio Grande Robert Reynolds (text by Hillerman) (1975) ISBN 0-912856-18-1
- New Mexico Photography by David Muench (text by Hillerman) (1975) ISBN 0-912856-14-9
Hillerman has both won and been nominated for numerous awards for his work.
His first nomination came in 1972, with his novel The Fly on the Wall being nominated for an Edgar Award in the "Best Mystery Novel" category; his first award win came two years later, when his novel Dance Hall of the Dead won this same award. He was again nominated for the "Best Mystery Novel" Edgar Award in 1979 for Listening Woman and lastly in 1989 for A Thief of Time. Hillerman's non-fictional work Talking Mysteries was nominated in 1992 for the Edgar Award in the "Best Critical or Biographical" category.
Hillerman has also been successful at the annual Anthony Awards. His novel Skinwalkers won the 1988 Anthony Award for "Best Novel" and this was followed the following year when A Thief of Time was nominated for the 1989 Anthony Award in the same category. His next nomination was for his Talking Mysteries non-fictional work which was nominated at the 1992 Anthony Awards. His novel Sacred Clowns received a "Best Novel" nomination at the 1994 Anthony Awards; and the following year his short-story collection The Mysterious West won the 1995 Anthony Award in the "Best Anthology / Short Story Collection" category. His last win came at the 2002 Anthony Awards at which he won the "Best Non-fiction / Critical Work" award for his memoir Seldom Disappointed.
At the Macavity Awards Hillerman also proved somewhat successful. A Thief of Time won the "Best Novel" award in 1989 and Talking Mysteries won the "Best Critical / Biographical" award in 1992. Seldom Disappointed also received a nomination in the "Best Biographical / Critical Mystery Work" category in 2002.
- The Dark Wind (1991)
- Skinwalkers (2002)
- Coyote Waits (2003)
- A Thief of Time (2004)
- Skinning the Night: American Mystery (DVD)
- "KOB Television News". Kob.com. Retrieved March 7, 2012.
- Stasio, Marilyn (October 27, 2008). "Tony Hillerman, Novelist, Dies at 83". The New York Times. Retrieved October 29, 2010.
- Barrett, W.P. "The 25 Richest People in New Mexico", Crossroads, October 1996.
- Holley, Joe. "Tony Hillerman, 83; Penned Navajo Series". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 25, 2010.
- "Tony Hillerman: About Hillerman/Bibliography". tonyhillermanbooks.com. n.d. Retrieved February 19, 2007.
- "Best Mystery Novel Edgar Award Winners and Nominees - Complete Lists". Mysterynet.com. Retrieved March 7, 2012.
- "Best Critical or Biographical Edgar Award Winners and Nominees - Complete Lists". Mysterynet.com. Retrieved March 7, 2012.
- "Bouchercon World Mystery Convention : Anthony Awards Nominees". Bouchercon.info. October 2, 2003. Retrieved March 7, 2012.
- "Mystery Readers International's Macavity Awards". Mysteryreaders.org. Retrieved March 7, 2012.
- Unofficial homepage
- Obituary in Chicago Sun-Times
- Inventory of the Tony Hillerman Papers, 1964–1996, University of New Mexico, University Libraries, Center for Southwest Research