PHOENIX, Arizona (AP) — Tony Hillerman, author of the acclaimed Navajo Tribal Police mystery novels and creator of two of the unlikeliest of literary heroes — Navajo police officers Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee — died Sunday of pulmonary failure. He was 83.
Tony Hillerman poses for an undated photo provided by HarperCollins Publishers.
Hillerman’s daughter, Anne Hillerman, said her father’s health had been declining in the last couple years and that he was at Presbyterian Hospital in Albuquerque when he died at about 3 p.m.
I haven’t read many of his books, but I share his love for the Southwest. I was only able to spend a scarce few days there a handful of years ago, but it gripped me like no place I’ve been before, or since. I was in Santa Fe and the surrounding areas, hiked in Bandelier National Monument, spent some time sitting on a rock in the sun, listening to the wind through a canyon. I did the obligatory touristy thing shopping at the Palace of the Governors Saturday market, admiring the beautiful work of the Native American artists (who were just delighted to talk about their work, I could have stayed and chatted with them all day). There is a compelling energy to the area that is hard to describe. I never expected to like it, but I understand Mr. Hillerman’s love for the place even after such a short stay. Perhaps I lived there in another life.
Godspeed, Mr. Hillerman.