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Tony Hillerman - Navajo Mysteries

Updated on September 3, 2016
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I have had a long standing interest in the Paiute Indians and Native Americans in general. I love reading about them.

Author Anthony "Tony"Grove Hillerman

Tony Hillerman
Tony Hillerman | Source

Anthony “Tony” Grove Hillerman

(March 27, 1925 to October 26, 2008)

I have enjoyed this author’s book for several years. I had never checked into the author himself. The world get really small when you realize that you have lived less than twenty five miles from where he was born. I begin to wonder if I had ever met this person? I checked into it and although we have lived in the same cities such as Oklahoma City, OK and Borger, Texas. We have never been in the same place at the same time.

Sacred Heart, Oklahoma

He was born during the depression years in a city called Sacred Heart, Oklahoma which is a part of Konawa, Oklahoma. He attended a Pottawatomie County all girls school with Native Americans. Through a series of events he fell in love with the Navajo people, their culture, and living in New Mexico he began seeing empty places in the landscape. This love story continues for the next sixty-five years. The love comes through in each book he wrote.

United States Army WWII

He served his country in WWII. He was a mortar man in the Army. He was wounded during duty and received the Silver Star, Bronze Star and Purple Heart.

Author Arthur W. Upfield

Inspiration to Tony Hillerman
Inspiration to Tony Hillerman | Source

Arthur W. Upfield

Tony Hillerman was inspired by the author Arthur W. Upfield who wrote detective stories about the Aborigines of Australia. The fact that Upfield used a people group and culture inspired Hillerman to center his stories on the Navajo and their culture. Mr. Hillerman was an avid reader who was disciplined and had drive. Most evenings you would find him at a desk in his bedroom writing. When he had writers block he would go and visit the area his book was about. A visit to the area would always clear his thoughts and give him inspiration. His weakness for silence and empty places became the places where many of his books are rooted.

Sacred Clowns

Sacred Clowns by Tony Hillerman
Sacred Clowns by Tony Hillerman | Source

Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee

Two characters from his books come to life in the Navajo series; Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee. They work for the Navajo Tribal Police solving crimes. Mr. Hillerman very effectively has Joe and Jim sit silently. He uses these silences to say a thousand things. He based the character Joe Leaphorn after a Sheriff in Hutchinson County, Texas. He introduced Joe Leaphorn in the book “The Blessing Way” and Jim Chee in the book “People of Darkness.” He was well versed in the Navajo spirituality and this knowledge makes his novels come to life. His books are written where you learn about the Navajo and are entertained by the mystery.

Tony Hillerman, the Teacher

I began listening to his books on tape. By listening to them on tape I learned how the words Chee (Ch - hee), and Dinah (Din - nah) were pronounced before I began reading the books. Though I have never had opportunity to go to New Mexico. I feel from his descriptions that I have been to Gallop, New Mexico and the area. In his books introduced me to the area throug the maps and pins used by Joe Leaphorn and by almost making the scenery a character. He wanted to teach us more about the Navajo and their culture and he does a little more in each book.

A Legecy

He wrote thirty books, eighteen of those books are what are called the Navajo series. He was a journalist, teacher and author. His legacy lives on through his books and a yearly author’s conference started by his daughter and son in law. This conference has a writing contest and that gives away $10,000 dollars. It is an inspiration to seasoned writers. An opportunity for beginning writers to get more information about the writing field and a chance to win ten thousand dollars. You can find more information about this conference at or at Tony Hillerman Conferences.

An Inspiration

I am inspired just to think that this great author and I lived in so many of the same areas. Maybe, one of those great book ideas has rubbed off on me.


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    • Canita Pro profile imageAUTHOR

      Canita Prough 

      3 years ago from Texas

      I'm looking into more on Tony Hillerman the man now. Thank you for reading my blog.

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      I am glad to be the first to honor this hub ! Tony Hillerman is one of the finest authors , the Navajo series are my all time favorite and since visiting many of the sights of his inspirational places . I have fallen in love with Arizona too ! Thank you for this - I must read his short stories too +++++............:-}


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