Just about as sad as you can get. Tony Hillerman died...He was 83 years old and been in declining health for the past couple of years. But still. He was one of my favorite authors. He hadn't written much in the past few years...but every one was a jewel. If you haven't read anything by him, you should. He wrote about New Mexico and the four corners area. Lt. Joe Leaphorn was introduced in The Blessing Way in 1970. He was an experienced police officer who understood, but did not share, his people's traditional belief in a rich spirit world. Officer Jim Chee, introduced in People of Darkness in 1978, was a younger officer studying to become a "hathaali"- Navajo for shaman.
Together, they struggled daily to bridge the cultural divide between the dominant Anglo society and the impoverished people who call themselves the Dineh. (think it means the people)
Mr. Hillerman's commercial breakthrough was Skinwalkers, published in 1987, the first time he put both characters and their divergent worldviews in the same book. It sold 430,000 hardcovers copies, paving the way for A Thief Of Time, which made several best seller lists. In all, he wrote 18 books in the Navajo series, the most recent titled The Shape Shifters. (I read every single one of them.)
Each is characterized by an unadorned writing style, intricate plotting, memorable characterization and vivid descriptions of Indian rituals and of the vast plateau of the Navajo reservation in the Four Corners region of the Southwest.
He is survived by his wife Marie and their six children.
I hope he had one last book in the works and can be finished and put out. I don't like the thought of not being able to read any more about Leaphorn and Chee.
If you haven't read any books by him, you need to. I have a greater understanding of the Navajo, Hopi, Zuni and Apache Indians because of his books. Each book is not only a great mystery, it's a learning experience. Sigh*...so long Tony, you will really be missed.