Monday, October 27, 2008

Tony Hillerman

I lived in Arizona for a year when I was young, and what I remember most about it was the air - dry, warm, baked on the terracotta mesas beneath cut diamond skies. And sometimes in the distance, you saw falling in the distance that never hit the earth, evaporating before it strikes.

That is called a "male rain", and I learned about it years later, when I read the mystery novels of Tony Hillerman, who has passed on at age 83.

Hillerman created a beautiful series of books the evoked the loneliness of the land, the culture of the Navajos, and the rural poverty of New Mexico. His heroes, first Joe Leaphorn, and later John Chee, live in both western world and in that of the Diné, and Hillerman found a deep well from which to draw. His novels, always strongly paced and with grounded characters, rose above genre to produce work that has stayed with me.

Farewell to Mr. Hillerman, and to Lts. Leaphorn and Chee.