Thursday, October 30, 2008

Remembering Tony Hillerman

I can't remember when I read my first Tony Hillerman novel, but I was hooked and read every one as soon as it came out. I'm proud to say that I even have two autographed books of his. Thanks to him, I know so much more about the Southwest and its cultures than I would have merely driving through. He wrote good stories with characters I care about and taught me about my neighbors' ways.

In spite of all his acclaim
and failing health in later years, he continued to help new writers and was always a gentleman.

My former workplace, an academic library, celebrated his 80th birthday with a special display in the foyer. We had a card at the check-out desk for people to sign. One student wrote that Hillerman had saved his grandfather's life back in WWII. We sent the card to Hillerman's publisher and soon after received a reply. Hillerman remembered the incident differently. In his typical, humble way, he refused hero status and thought maybe it was the student's grandfather who had saved Hillerman.

A friend who worked in Oklahoma when Hillerman was beginning his career says proudly, "I knew Tony Hillerman before he was Tony Hillerman!"

Though the world will miss Tony Hillerman's physical presence, I'm thankful that his view of life and love of the Southwest will live on in his books.

Read the New York Times' story here, the University of New Mexico story here, and a story from the LA Times Book section here.

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