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Publisher's Summary

The author of 18 spellbinding detective novels set on the Navajo Nation, Tony Hillerman simultaneously transformed a traditional genre and unlocked the mysteries of the Navajo culture to an audience of millions. His best-selling novels added Navajo Tribal Police detectives Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee to the pantheon of American fictional detectives.  

Morris offers a balanced portrait of Hillerman’s personal and professional life and provides a timely appreciation of his work. In intimate detail, Morris captures the author’s early years in Depression-era Oklahoma; his near-death experience in World War II; his 60-year marriage to Marie; his family life, including six children, five of them adopted; his work in the trenches of journalism; his affliction with PTSD and its connection to his enchantment with Navajo spirituality; and his ascension as one of America’s best-known writers of mysteries. Further, Morris uncovers the almost accidental invention of Hillerman’s iconic detective Joe Leaphorn and the circumstances that led to the addition of Jim Chee as his partner.  

Hillerman’s novels were not without controversy. Morris examines the charges of cultural appropriation leveled at the author toward the end of his life. Yet, for many fans, including many Native Americans, Hillerman deserves critical acclaim for his knowledgeable and sensitive portrayal of Diné (Navajo) history, culture, and identity.  

At the time of Hillerman’s death, more than 20 million copies of his books were in print, and his novels inspired Robert Redford to adapt several of them to film. In weaving together all the elements of Hillerman’s life, Morris drew on the untapped collection of the author’s papers, extensive archival research, interviews with friends, colleagues, and family, as well as travel in the Navajo Nation. Filled with never-before-told anecdotes and fresh insights, Tony Hillerman will thrill the author’s fans and awaken new interest in his life and literary legacy.

©2021 James McGrath Morris (P)2021 Recorded Books

What listeners say about Tony Hillerman

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Well written biography of an American legend.

I loved book and narrator. nothing like it. I like knowing what goes on behind the curtain.

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A Writer’s Life

More than simply a biography of Hillerman, this exceptionally researched work is a portrait of the writing life as it changes and evolves over time. Certainly a must-read for Hillerman fans but engaging for those, like myself, who aspire to the writing life or those interested in the Southwest.

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You can always count on Morris to deliver...

...an interesting bio.

As someone who picks up random bios about people I often know nothing about, I can always count on Morris to deliver an interesting story.

In this case, I do know something about Hillerman--or rather, his mysteries. I plucked one off my Mom's nightstand when I was 17, many years ago, and went on to read more.

This bio I think has wide appeal for anyone interested in Hillerman (the man and author), NM, OK, the indigenous peoples of NM & OK, writers, those who love his mysteries, journalism, war, etc. Seriously--something for everybody.

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