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Tony Hillerman biography

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Tony Hillerman
Photo credit: Kelly Campbell

Tony Hillerman

Tony Hillerman Biography

Tony Hillerman, author of many novels including the Leaphorn/Chee mystery series, died in October 2008 at the age of 83.

A past president of the Mystery Writers of America and recipient of their Edgar and Grand Master Awards, his other honors include the Center for the American Indian's Ambassador Award, the Silver Spur Award for the best novel set in the West, the Navajo Tribe's Special Friend Award, the National Media Award from the American Anthropological Association, the Public Service Award from the U.S. Department of the Interior, the Nero Wolfe Award, the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Oklahoma Center for the Book, an honorary life membership in the Western Literature Association, and the Grand Prix de Littérature Policiére.

In addition to his election to Phi Beta Kappa, Tony Hillerman was named Doctor of Humane Letters at Arizona State University and at Oregon's Portland State University.

He lived with his wife, Marie, in Albuquerque, New Mexico up until his death.  He is survived by Marie and six children.



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Interview

Tony Hillerman discusses many aspects of his work, including the genesis of his characters, Leaphorn and Chee, and his nonfiction collection, The Great Taos Bank Robbery.

In your novels, how are elements of Navajo cultural lore woven into the mystery plot?
I always have one or two, sometimes more, Navajo (or other tribes') cultural elements in mind when I start a plot. Sometimes some of them don't work or fade out. In Thief of Time, for example, I wanted to make readers aware of Navajo attitude toward the dead, respect for burial sites, etc.

What part does setting play?
I always try to make the setting fit the story I have in mind. In Hunting Badger, for example, I needed an abandoned mine shaft on the margins of the Navajo-Southern Ute territories because I wanted to revive memories of the troubles between those two tribes and the legend of a Ute warrior who raided the Navajos and how he was finally disposed of. I got a lot of help from the U.S. Geological Survey on that one, and spent a lot of time driving over very bad roads on the Arizona-Utah borders. I have always felt that making the reader away of the vast emptiness of our high desert is important to making the story work.

What are the origins of your beloved characters, Leaphorn and Chee?
Leaphorn began in my first novel effort (The Blessing Way) ...

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Books by this Author

Books by Tony Hillerman at BookBrowse
The Shape Shifter jacket Skeleton Man jacket The Sinister Pig jacket Hunting Badger jacket
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All the books below are recommended as readalikes for Tony Hillerman but some maybe more relevant to you than others depending on which books by the author you have read and enjoyed. So look for the suggested read-alikes by title linked on the right.
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    If you enjoyed:
    Hunting Badger

    Try:
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  • C.J. Box

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    If you enjoyed:
    The First Eagle

    Try:
    Winterkill: A Joe Pickett Novel
    by C.J. Box

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