He was as spare and elegant in his storytelling as a sunrise over the high desert of New Mexico where his roots ran deep.
The mystery writer Tony Hillerman died Sunday at 83 due to, well, there's a medical name, but I prefer to think of it as a rich and well-lived life that finally reached the last page.
Hillerman, honored by Mystery Writers of America as a Grand Master, transcended the mystery genre with his stories of Leaphorn and Chee and their Navajo environs.
He was, in the words of New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson this morning on the Imus Show, an accessible guy whom Richardson valued for his dedication to the state. And Imus noted that when he wanted to find an early Hillerman mystery, Imus was able to just pick up the phone and give him a call.
Listening to him weave his stories with his thoughts on the writing process at a writers' conference in Santa Fe some years back, I was struck by how in tandem his verbal and his written "voices" were.
His heroes were ordinary law enforcement, doing yeoman's work. Not razzle-dazzle pyrotechnic hot dogs. Just ordinary Joes who knew their value to their communities. There is honor in that.
Honors were many for Hillerman--military as well as literary for the old veteran. The New Mexico flag will fly at half-staff, said Richardson.
But the greatest honor would be if you would pick up a Hillerman mystery and immerse yourself in the stark beauty of his world. I'll bet your library or bookstore has a bunch of 'em just waiting for you.
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