Tony Hillerman

Here’s a good post at Black Gate about Tony Hillerman’s mystery-writing career.


I read this whole series when I actually had access to a library and was working my way through it. I didn’t read them in order of publication — they weren’t shelved in order, as I recall, and I just went down the shelf. I don’t mind jumping back and forth in a long mystery series, usually, and I think these can be read in any order, probably.

As always with mysteries, I read ’em for character and setting, both of which are really well done. I felt at the time that Hillerman had to be getting the Navajo pretty much right — his characters and setting *felt* right to me. Now I can see why, considering Hillerman’s background.

The most amazing detail: Hillerman apparently found that outlining didn’t work for him. He wrote mysteries without outlines. Honestly, of all genres in the world, I would have thought that mysteries required outlines. Huh. I guess you can write anything by the seat of your pants if you have to.

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2 thoughts on “Tony Hillerman”

  1. I grew up in New Mexico, and Tony Hillerman’s books were practically required reading. He does a really good job of capturing both the place and the cultures. I had no idea he didn’t use outlines, though. Huh.

    In our previous RPG with Craig, we tried out a new system that allows every player to interject plot elements at will. That game included some mystery elements. To everyone’s surprise, the game ended up gelling at the end and wrapping up all the plot threads quite nicely. I’m not sure it’s a repeatable experiment, but it did convince me that writing by the seat of your pants, and even by committee without the option of rewrites, can be surprisingly effective.

  2. Allen, it’s kind of amazing that you could pull all the threads together neatly at the end. I wonder if that will in fact happen again if you go through another game with the same freedom to inject elements?

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