Drive Through Indian Country

Happy 1-11-11. The Giveaway today moves over to another Blog….read on….

The book cover

Destination: Diné Bikeyah (Navajo Country)

Book: Tony Hillerman’s Landscape: On the Road with Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn, by Anne Hillerman, with Photographs by Don Strel (Nov. 2009)

No book can be THE PERFECT BOOK, I suppose, but this one comes darned close for a lover of the Southwestern U.S.

If you love the Southwest, you know that some of the most dramatic scenery lies inside Diné Bikeyah, the native name for Navajo Country that sprawls across Arizona and New Mexico and laps over into southern Colorado.

If you love Navajo Country, you love to read Tony Hillerman mystery novels, featuring Detectives Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn of the Navajo police. Hillerman’s books not only provide a vivid guidebook for Arizona and New Mexico, but they sensitively portray the Navajo myths and life so accurately that if you read enough of them, you will feel you’ve been to school, majoring in Navajo culture.

And if you love Hillerman books, you will revel in the opportunity to see these haunting photographs of the settings of his stories.

Canyon de Chelly, photograph by Charnell Havens

Hillerman’s daughter, Anne Hillerman, became a writer too, and with her photographer husband, Don Strel, she took to the road through Navajo country, seeking the scenes from the books.They have created a gorgeous book that started out as a photographic journey through Navajo land. When Tony Hillerman died in October 2008, the book also became a memoir of life with Anne’s father.

The book is divided into sections corresponding to the settings of the mystery novels, and Anne reminds us of the basic plot line of each book as she explains how the setting fit into the story, and tells us something about how her father worked.

Tony Hillerman was a teacher as well as writer, who lived in Albuquerque, and taught at the University of New Mexico. He was a generous mentor to other writers, and I regret that he will not be able to see the book that Charnell Havens and I are launching this spring, Quincy Tahoma: The Life and Legacy of a Navajo Artist. I met him once when he spoke at a writer’s conference in Tucson. In the afternoon, he headed for the patio, trailed by an army of fans, and sat and talked with anyone who wanted to talk about writing.

Book Cover, Quincy Tahoma

If the Hillerman  book sounds good to you, this may be your lucky day, because we are going to (reluctantly) give it away. Charnell and I announce today at the Quincy Tahoma Blog that we are sponsoring a contest with the Hillerman book, and a gorgeous mousepad imprinted with one of Tahoma’s powerful paintings of  horses will go to two lucky people.  You have three chances to win, by “liking” our Facebook Fan Page, Subscribing to our blog, or subscribing to our new e-newsletter.  You’ll have to click over to the Quincy Tahoma Blog to see an illustration of Two Horses Prancing mouse pad and the rules for the contest. (If it isn’t there yet, please be patient and try a little later. This blog will post before the Tahoma blog does.)

The publisher furnished this book for a review and giveaway. The Hillerman book cover comes from Anne Hillerman’s web page, and Charnell Havens has copyright on the photo of Canyon de Chelly.

Because of this special event at my sister blog, there is no giveaway at A Traveler’s Library today, but I would still like to hear your comments. Have you traveled through Navajo country in Arizona and New Mexico? What was your favorite sight? Have you read Hillerman’s mysteries with Chee and Leaphorn? Tell us about them, too.

Tomorrow your comments on our road trip to Idaho book will put you in the running to win Alain de Botton’s A Week at the Airport. Friday I’ll be giving away a brand new book set in Africa, and a bonus book set in Japan.

A freelance writer who loves to travel. When she is not traveling she is reading about travel. When she is not reading or traveling, she is sharing with the readers of A Traveler’s Library, recreating her family’s past at Ancestors In Aprons. She writes frequently for Reel Life With Jane and other websites. Also co-author of a biography, Quincy Tahoma, The Life and Legacy of a Navajo Artist. Contact Vera Marie by e-mail.

Vera Marie Badertscher – who has written posts on A Traveler's Library.


About Vera Marie Badertscher

A freelance writer who loves to travel. When she is not traveling she is reading about travel. When she is not reading or traveling, she is sharing with the readers of A Traveler's Library, recreating her family's past at Ancestors In Aprons. She writes frequently for Reel Life With Jane and other websites. Also co-author of a biography, Quincy Tahoma, The Life and Legacy of a Navajo Artist. Contact Vera Marie by e-mail.

20 thoughts on “Drive Through Indian Country

    1. Thanks so much, Connie. And you realized, I’m sure that the front cover is a painting by Tahoma. We’re hoping he’ll sell a lot of books for us!

  1. Yes, I have driven through Navajo country. I was stuck by all the pick-ups and disgruntled native Americans. The scenery was so amazing. Would love this book. Cannot wait for yours. And, the mousepad, AWESOME!

    1. Sorry you met up with disgruntled people. I’ve been meeting cheerful and delightful folks. Navajos have a particularly keen sense of humor! If you ever venture on the back roads you’ll understand why you see so many pick-ups and 4-wheel drives on the Rez.
      Good luck, Alexandra. Maybe you’ll be the lucky winner of the Mousepad.

    1. Bad, Kris, Bad. Go to your room and read a Tony Hillerman novel! (Kidding of course, but you will enjoy it when you get around to reading about Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee.) Is there a mystery writer in Hawaii who does the scene as well as Hillerman does for the Navajo rez?

  2. Even today, years later the image of driving through Indian Country recalls for me of the special feeling of awakening that I would get when we still lived in NY and only dreamed of visiting the Southwest. Thank you for reminding me of these sweet feelings. Reading Tony Hillerman’s books also played a big part in that longing.

  3. What a beautiful part of the country, made even better (if you can’t visit in person) by these photographs. I need to get to New Mexico – soon~! Love Arizona and Colorado, but there IS a missing piece…

  4. I spent six years living in New Mexico, and the scenery is beautiful–unlike anything you’ll see in other parts of the country.

    1. I did not know that you once lived in the Southwest. Quite a difference from your present surroundings! But I must say that you can include Arizona in that unique scenery–very similar geography.

  5. Years ago I gave a Hillerman mystery to my philosopher brother, who at that point did not read much fiction and certainly not mysteries. He was intrigued and impressed, and became a follower of the series. Now I know what to give him for his next birthday. Thank you!

  6. My mom’s a big Hillerman reader, and I read one of his books ages ago. Thanks for the reminder to get back to him!

    1. And Robert Redford did at least one Hillerman on film, but it was only shown on TV. I’ve never understood why his wonderful books have not made it onto the big screen. Any thoughts??

  7. I grew up reading Hillerman and even went out of my way on a trip just so I could see Shiprock. I hadn’t heard about this book, but now I’m going to check it out.

    1. A few years back I found a road map that showed all the Hillerman scenes. I wish I knew what happened to it, although I suppose I could find it on E-Bay. So many of his stories take place in remote corners, that although I’ve traveled a lot in that general area, I’ve never made it to all the settings. Glad you got to Shiprock, anyhow.

  8. I have long been a Tony Hillerman fan, and have explored some of the universe of the Chee/Leaphorn books — chasing petroglyphs in the four corners. And I have a warm memory of introducing his books to my grandfather, who ate them up! Thanks for sharing. -r

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