Tony Hillerman, R.I.P.

Tony Hillerman, who died Sunday of pulmonary failure, was the keynote speaker at a Popular Culture Association conference I attended in Albuquerque in 2002. He was a very kind, gracious man who patiently responded to the comments, questions and praise of academics with dry, bemused humor. He spoke, as I recall, about the importance of place to his work, and as his talk unfurled, you could imagine the landscapes he was describing, feel the sun on your neck, taste the dust and the wind in your mouth. He was also quietly, humbly, but forcefully articulate about the role that race played in his books, the importance to him of using popular genres to explore Native American culture and cross-cultural exchange.

I liked him a lot, and regretted I'd never read one of his novels. Maybe now is a good time to start.


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