The First Eagle (Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee Series #13) [NOOK Book]


When Acting Lt. Jim Chee catches a Hopi poacher huddled over a butchered Navajo Tribal police officer, he has an open-and-shut case--until his former boss, Joe Leaphorn, blows it wide open. Now retired from the Navajo Tribal Police, Leaphorn has been hired to find a hot-headed female biologist hunting for the key to a virulent plague lurking in the Southwest. The scientist disappeared from the same area the same day the Navajo cop was murdered. Is she a suspect or another victim? And what about a report that a ...

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The First Eagle (Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee Series #13)

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When Acting Lt. Jim Chee catches a Hopi poacher huddled over a butchered Navajo Tribal police officer, he has an open-and-shut case--until his former boss, Joe Leaphorn, blows it wide open. Now retired from the Navajo Tribal Police, Leaphorn has been hired to find a hot-headed female biologist hunting for the key to a virulent plague lurking in the Southwest. The scientist disappeared from the same area the same day the Navajo cop was murdered. Is she a suspect or another victim? And what about a report that a skinwalker--a Navajo witch--was seen at the same time and place too? For Leaphorn and Chee, the answers lie buried in a complicated knot of superstition and science, in a place where the worlds of native peoples and outside forces converge and collide.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
The great ones don't just give us stories and characters and plots and locales. The great ones give us worlds, fully imagined, fully detailed. Nero Wolfe's brownstone. Agatha Christie's English village. Raymond Chandler's Southern California. And now, Tony Hillerman's world of Navajo culture.

The opening chapter of the new book is especially noteworthy because it seems to belong in a Robin Cook or Michael Crichton medical thriller — a man is dying of what appears to be the plague known as the Black Death. Hillerman makes the hospital scene, with all its high-tech equipment, even more frightening by adding touches of dour humor. This is a Tony Hillerman novel, a couple of doctors (one a cutting-edge microbiologist) arguing over the wisdom of giving a possibly dangerous corpse an autopsy?

Not to worry. We soon see Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn, our friendly Navajo detectives (albeit, one of them no longer official), and we soon see the familiar daily hassles that make Hillerman's police procedurals so believable. Sexual harassment raises its ugly head. A police secretary gets peeved when she isn't let in on all the secrets. And Hillerman gets in his inevitable dig at Washington, D.C., politics as regards Native Americans: 'Kinsman's grandmother, who spoke only Navajo, had been relocated in Flagstaff where almost nobody speaks Navajo.' And again, Hillerman's wily, deadpan humor: 'By mid-afternoon the next day the Jeep was found. If you discount driving about 200 miles back and forth, and some of it over roads far too primitive even to be listed on Chee's AAAIndianCountry road map, the whole project proved to be remarkably easy.'

The observational details in this new book are quiet but spectacularly realized, such as the unpretentious doctor: '[He] was looking at his black plastic digital [watch] which obviously hadn't been bought to impress the sort of people who are impressed by expensive watches.' Or Navajo wisdom: 'Always liked that about you guys. Four days of grief and mourning for the spirit, and then get on with life. How did we white folks get into this corpse worship business? It's just dead meat, and dangerous to boot.' Or the sly, wry Hillerman humor: 'About a month into his first semester at Arizona State, Leaphorn had overcome the tendency of young Navajos to think that all white people look alike.'

Hillerman has a poet's way with the land. He rightly understands that his entire drama is being played out against a ragged and rugged land that is as much a participant in the drama as Chee and Leaphorn themselves. Without getting corny or patronizing, he's able to convey the Navajo reverence for the land and to differentiate how the white man and the Native American view the planet. He is also wise enough not to depict all white people as know-nothing boobs. Boobism is, alas, something shared by all cultures. There's plenty to go around. Hillerman stage-manages all the various plot points — the brain-dead cop, the missing woman, the possible plague, the violent eagle — skillfully and subtly. None of the seams show. And he does it all with a lively, easygoing style that never calls attention to itself, never jars the reader out of the world he's creating before our eyes.

There's a simple reason for Tony Hillerman's popularity. He's one of the best mystery writers who ever lived. — Ed Gorman

USA Today
Hillerman at his best.
San Francisco Chronicle
A crackerjack thriller.
New York Times Book Review
Tony Hillerman is a wonderful storyteller!
Washington Post Book World
The First Eagle displays all the strengths of Hillerman's writing: a vivid sense of placenuanced charactersand a complexengrossing plot.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The modern resurgence of the black death animates Hillerman's 14th tale featuring retired widower Navajo Tribal Police Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn and Acting Lieutenant Jim Chee. Bubonic plague has survived for centuries in the prairie-dog villages of the Southwest, where its continuing adaptation to modern antibiotics has increased its potential for mass destruction. Leaphorn is hired by a wealthy Santa Fe woman to search for her granddaughter, biologist Catherine Pollard, who has disappeared during her field work as a "flea catcher," collecting plague-carrying specimens from desert rodents. At the same time, Jim Chee arrests Robert Jano, a young Hopi man and known poacher of eagles, in the bludgeoning death of another Navajo Police officer at a site where the biologist was seen working. As Leaphorn learns more about Pollard's work from her boss in the Indian Health Service and an epidemiologist with ties to a pharmaceutical company, the U.S. Attorney's office decides to seek the death penalty against Jano, who is being represented by Chee's former fiancee, Janet Pete, recently returned from Washington, D.C. Hillerman's trademark melding of Navajo tradition and modern culture is captured with crystal clarity in this tale of an ancient scourge's resurgence in today's world. The uneasy mix of old ways and new is articulated with resonant depth as Chee, an aspiring shaman, is driven to choose between his career and his commitment to the ways of his people, and Leaphorn moves into a deeper friendship with ethnology professor, Louisa Bourebonette.
Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Mag
If there's anyone out there who hasn't discovered this outstanding to your nearest bookstore and load up. Hillerman has been entertaining readers with more than a dozen books in his award-winning series, and he certainly hasn't lost his touch.
Suzette Lalime Davidson
The best surprise about The First Eagle, Tony Hillerman's smart new crime novel, is that there aren't many surprises. Hillerman brings back his stalwart Navajo Tribal policemen -- Acting Lieutenant Jim Chee and retired Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn -- and sets the book's action in the Four Corners area of the Southwest, where several states, as well as several Indian reservations and a number of Indian and white cultures, meet. The result is a thriller that's full of insight and subtle humor, one that easily transcends the genre.

Before he turned to fiction, Hillerman covered the crime beat for a number of newspapers, and his books have the kind of verisimilitude that can't be faked. Even his dialogue has a sturdy rhythm; you feel you're eavesdropping on actual conversations and jokes. In The First Eagle, he alternates between two cases: Chee's investigation of the death of Benjamin Kinsmen, a fellow Navajo policeman, and Leaphorn's search for missing biologist Catherine Pollard, who's studying the spread of bubonic plague on the reservation.

In his search for Pollard, Leaphorn employs both conventional and unconventional methods: He seeks out not only biologists who have worked with the woman, but also a local trader who's heard talk of witchcraft. Meanwhile, Chee must deal with a Hopi man caught at a murder scene on land shared by both the Navajo and the Hopi. After seeking advice from his mentor and great uncle, he employs a traditional hunting ritual (among other things) in an attempt to prove that the man is innocent.

For Hillerman's longtime readers, the nuances of his characters' lives are as interesting as anything in his plots. And while Leaphorn's and Chee's work is informed by a traditional Navajo understanding of "beauty" and "harmony," Hillerman doesn't lionize this pair -- they're not flawless and noble. Each seems to be at a crossroads: Leaphorn's wife has died of cancer, and that experience haunts him throughout this story. (What's more, he can't seem to give up police work, despite being officially retired.) For his part, Chee is ambivalent about a possible promotion because it might force him to leave the reservation. His romantic relationships are just as tortured.

Hillerman was referring to the Native American writers Leslie Marmon Silko and M. Scott Momaday when he once said, "They are artists. I am a storyteller." He's being modest. Hillerman's storytelling is its own kind of folk art; few writers in any genre are as adept at creating such textured environments while also keeping us glued to our seats. Salon| Oct. 5, 1998

Kirkus Reviews
The day that Acting Lt. Jim Chee, of the Navajo Tribal Police, is called to Yells Back Butte by Officer Benny Kinsman, only to find Hopi eagle poacher Robert Jano standing over Kinsman's bleeding body, is the same day that Catherine Pollard, a vector analyst from the Arizona Health Department, vanishes from Yells Back (along with her Jeep) while she's looking for fleas, particularly the fleas that may have carried the antibiotic-resistant plague germs that killed Anderson Nez. So even though ex-Lt. Joe Leaphorn has retired from the Tribal Police (The Fallen Man, 1996), he's back on the job, looking for Pollard at the request of her wealthy aunt. The murder case couldn't seem simpler; Jano's even gotten his blood obligingly mixed with his victim's on both their clothing, and his claim that they were both nipped by an eagle isn't borne out by the eagle on the scene, which doesn't show a trace of blood itself. But Jano's public defender, who just happens to be Chee's off-again fiancee Janet Pete, returned from hobnobbing in Washington, D.C., to the Rez, but not to Chee's arms, insists that her client is innocent; Leaphorn's crisscrossing investigation keeps turning up evidence that the murder and the disappearance are two sides of the same coin; and an ambitious prosecutor is so eager for a capital conviction that there's got to be something funny. Chee brings it all, including his relationship with Janet, to a climax with a theatrical coup that would put a lesser writer on the map all by itself and that reminds you, in case you've forgotten, that Hillerman's mysteries are in a class of their own.
Boston Globe
“Hillerman soars.”
New York Times Book Review
“Tony Hillerman is a wonderful storyteller...Surrendering to Hillerman’s strong narrative voice and supple storytelling techniques, we come to see that ancient cultures and modern sciences are simply different mythologies for the same reality.”
Dallas Morning News
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061743665
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 3/17/2009
  • Series: Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee Series , #13
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 46,748
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

Tony Hillerman

Tony Hillerman (1925–2008), an Albuquerque, New Mexico, resident since 1963, was the author of 29 books, including the popular 18-book mystery series featuring Navajo police officers Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn, two non-series novels, two children’s books, and nonfiction works. He had received every major honor for mystery fiction; awards ranging from the Navajo Tribal Council's commendation to France 's esteemed Grand prix de litterature policiere. Western Writers of America honored him with the Wister Award for Lifetime achievement in 2008. He served as president of the prestigious Mystery Writers of America, and was honored with that group’s Edgar Award and as one of mystery fiction’s Grand Masters. In 2001, his memoir, Seldom Disappointed, won both the Anthony and Agatha Awards for best nonfiction.


Tony Hillerman (1925-2008), an Albuquerque, New Mexico, resident since 1963, was the author of 29 books, including the popular 17-mystery series featuring Navajo police officers Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn, two non-series novels, two children's books, and nonfiction works. He had received every major honor for mystery fiction; awards ranging from the Navajo Tribal Council's commendation to France's esteemed Grand prix de litterature policiere. Western Writers of America honored him with the Wister Award for Lifetime achievement in 2008. He served as president of the prestigious Mystery Writers of America, and was honored with that group's Edgar Award and as one of mystery fiction's Grand Masters. In 2001, his memoir, Seldom Disappointed, won both the Anthony and Agatha Awards for best nonfiction.

Author biography courtesy of HarperCollins.

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    1. Hometown:
      Albuquerque, New Mexico
    1. Date of Birth:
      May 27, 1925
    2. Place of Birth:
      Sacred Heart, Oklahoma
    1. Date of Death:
      October 26, 2008
    2. Place of Death:
      Albuquerque, New Mexico

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

The body of Anderson Nez lay under a sheet on the gurney, waiting.

From the viewpoint of Shirley Ahkeah, sitting at her desk in the IntensiveCare Unit nursing station of the Northern Arizona Medical Center in Flagstaff,the white shape formed by the corpse of Mr. Nez reminded her of SleepingUte Mountain as seen from her aunt's hogan near Teec Nos Pos. Nez's feet,only a couple of yards from her eyes, pushed the sheet up to form the mountain'speak. Perspective caused the rest of the sheet to slope away in humps andridges, as the mountain seemed to do under its winter snow when she wasa child. Shirley had given up on finishing her night shift paperwork. Hermind kept drifting away to what had happened to Mr. Nez and trying to calculatewhether he fit into the Bitter Water clan Nez family with the grazing leaseadjoining her grandmother's place at Short Mountain. And then there wasthe question of whether his family would allow an autopsy. She rememberedthem as sheep camp traditionals, but Dr. Woody, the one who'd brought Nezin, insisted he had the family's permission.

At that moment Dr. Woody was looking at his watch, a black plastic digitaljob that obviously hadn't been bought to impress the sort of people whoare impressed by expensive watches.

"Now," Woody said, "I need to know the time the man died."

"It was early this morning," Dr. Delano said, looking surprised.It surprised Shirley, too, because Woody already knew the answer.

"No. No. No," Woody said. "I mean exactly when."

"Probably about two a.m.," Dr. Delano said, with his expressionsaying that he wasn't used to being addressed in that impatient tone. Heshrugged. "Something likethat."

Woody shook his head, grimaced. "Who would know? I mean, who wouldknow within a few minutes?" He looked up and down the hospital corridor,then pointed at Shirley. "Surely somebody would be on duty. The manwas terminal. I know the time he was infected, and the time he began registeringa fever. Now I need to know how fast it killed him. I need every bit ofinformation I can get on processes in that terminal period. What was happeningwith various vital functions? I need all that data I ordered kept when Ichecked him in. Everything."

Odd, Shirley thought. If Woody knew all that, why hadn't Nez been broughtto the hospital while there was still some hope of saving him? When Nezwas brought in yesterday he was burning with fever and dying fast.

"I'm sure it's all there," Delano said, nodding toward the clipboardWoody was holding. "You'll find it there in his chart."

Now Shirley grimaced. All that information wasn't in Nez's chart. Not yet.It should have been, and would have been even on this unusually hectic shiftif Woody hadn't rushed in demanding an autopsy, and not just an autopsybut a lot of special stuff. And that had caused Delano to be summoned, lookingsleepy and out of sorts, in his role as assistant medical superintendent,and Delano to call in Dr. Howe, who had handled the Nez case in ICU. Howe,she noticed, wasn't letting Woody bother him. He was too old a hand forthat. Howe took every case as his personal mano-a-mano battle against death.But when death won, as it often did in ICU units, he racked up a loss andforgot it. A few hours ago he had worried about Nez, hovered over him. Nowhe was simply another of the battles he'd been fated to lose.

So why was Dr. Woody causing all this excitement? Why did Woody insist onthe autopsy? And insist on sitting in on it with the pathologist? The causeof death was clearly the plague. Nez had been sent to the Intensive CareUnit on admission. Even then the infected lymph glands were swollen, andsubcutaneous hemorrhages were forming their splotches on his abdomen andlegs, the discolorations that had given the disease its "Black Death"name when it swept through Europe in the Middle Ages, killing tens of millions.

Like most medical personnel in the Four Corners country, Shirley Ahkeahhad seen Black Death before. There'd been no cases on the Big Reservationfor three or four years, but there were three already this year. One ofthe others had been on the New Mexico side of the Rez and hadn't come here.But it, too, had been fatal, and the word was that this was a vintage yearfor the old-fashioned bacteria--that it had flared up in an unusually virulentform.

It certainly had been virulent with Nez. The disease had gone quickly fromthe common glandular form into plague pneumonia. The Nez sputum, as wellas his blood, swarmed with the bacteria, and no one went into his room withoutdonning a filtration mask.

Delano, Howe, and Woody had drifted down the hall beyond Shirley's eavesdroppingrange, but the tone of the conversation suggested an agreement of some sorthad been reached. More work for her, probably. She stared at the sheet coveringNez, remembering the man under it racked by sickness and wishing they'dmove the body away. She'd been born in Farmington, daughter of an elementaryschoolteacher who had converted to Catholicism. Thus she saw the Navajo"corpse avoidance" teaching as akin to the Jewish dietary prohibitions--asmart way to prevent the spread of illnesses. But even without believingin the evil chindi that traditional Navajos knew would attend the corpseof Nez for four days, the body under the sheet provoked unhappy thoughtsof human mortality and the sorrow death causes.

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Table of Contents

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Interviews & Essays

On Thursday, August 13th, welcomed Tony Hillerman to discuss THE FIRST EAGLE.

Moderator: Good evening, and welcome to the Auditorium, Tony Hillerman! We are so thrilled that you could join us this evening to chat about THE FIRST EAGLE. Is this your first online interview?

Tony Hillerman: My very first!

Paul Kuzel from Nashville, TN: Are Leaphorn and Chee based on real people you've met or read about? How did these characters evolve?

Tony Hillerman: Leap Hornhorn is based particularly on a young sheriff I got acquainted with in Texas when I was a police reporter, and then he is a meld of that man and various Navajos that I knew. Chee is a fellow I came to need later on in my fourth or fifth book when it occurred to me I needed a fellow who was younger and less assimilated. This was in a book called PEOPLE OF DARKNESS. Since he is younger I gave him characteristics of the students I knew (I was teaching at the university then).

Emily Stammitti from Lorain, OH: What gave you the inspiration to write the books that you do, and what advice would you give to young writers/journalists?

Tony Hillerman: It is hard to say. My father was a great storyteller, and I grew up having stories told to me, and I admired the business of it. To a young person who writes -- I would say they have to find their own particular way to do it. I thought I could find a formula, and I read everything about how writers write, and I still had to figure out my own technique, which is, I might say, floundering around until I get it down.

Claire from Boston, MA: Lt. Joe Leaphorn is a very modern Indian, while Officer Jim Chee, though younger, is more traditional in his outlook. Do you see this is as a trend in today's youth in the Native American community? Are many looking for their roots in old customs and traditions?

Tony Hillerman: I see it more as a kind of an aberration. The Navajos, and in fact many Indians of the Leaphorn generation, were educated in boarding schools. That is, they were taken away from their family and communities in the Hogan at the age when they were learning their language and customs. And those in the Jim Chee age group -- by then the boarding school system had been abandoned, so they stayed with their families and learned more of their traditions.

Larry from San Diego, CA: What do you see as the greatest challenge in writing mysteries? Is it generating the intricate plots? Thanks for the hours of entertainment!

Tony Hillerman: I think a mystery writer has to recognize that his first job is to entertain the people who buy his books. But since I have the pulpit, I like to use the opportunity also to do some ax grinding and education -- i.e., to show my high regard for the Navajo people and give a glimpse of the Indian cultures which I have high respect for. But definitely your first job as a mystery writer is to entertain.

Bob Diehl from Erie, PA: Tony, How did you get your start writing mystery novels? I really want to write but always find a reason not to. Any tips?

Tony Hillerman: Well, I started, I guess, by spending years as a newswriter and as a journalist. That taught me how to deal with the language, narrative, etc. I had written six million words literally for hire before I wrote fiction. I also think you learn by studying the authors that you admire for the way that they write, and then you go back and check the way they make transitions from scenes, how they develop characters, handle dialogue, etc. You look at all of this and learn from it.

John Walters from Durango, CO: Do you plan to write of your combat experiences in World War II? Are many people are interested?

Tony Hillerman: My publisher, HarperCollins, is talking to me about writing a memoir, and in our conversations they are very interested in the way I personally won World War II [laughs] and in having me put down these stories and how I twice attained the rank of private first class (you get $5.00 more a year as a private!). It was an interesting experience, and I think I will write it, but it will be a long time until it is published.

Bonn Bass from Borrego Springs, CA: How do the Navajo react to the stories? Do they want input on upcoming tales?

Tony Hillerman: I was very nervous, frankly, on how they would react, but they have reacted very well. After my third book, PEOPLE OF DARKNESS, came out, I got an invitation to come to a Navajo tribal fair, and I rode in their parade and I got a special plaque dedicated to me for being a "friend of the Navejos" because of my authentic depiction of their character. They also use many of my books in their schools for reading assignments, and I am very pleased by that. I once asked a Navajo teenager if he had read any of my books, and he said, "Mr. Hillerman, we either have to read your books or drop out of school."

Bobbi from Salem, OH: I've read all of your books...Bravo! With Leaphorn's retirement, do you foresee a problem keeping him in future novels? Or might you introduce a new character (not to replace him, for he's irreplaceable) but to give Chee another foil? Thank you!

Tony Hillerman: I intend to keep him in retirement at work. I think he will be very bored sitting around and with all of his contacts with the police. I intend him to be doing all sorts of odd jobs in future books.

Melissa Ryan from Pennsylvania: Do you think writing about the native peoples of the Southwest opens up new windows of possibility for your plots than you would have in a "traditional" mystery?

Tony Hillerman: Yes, I do. More important than that, it gives me a way to drag the reader -- whether he likes it or not -- into the Navajo culture where knowledge of the Hopi or Zuni culture is necessary for what is going on.

Mike Smith from Rochester, NY: Will Joe Leaphorn be getting into the private detective business in future books?

Tony Hillerman: Joe Leaphorn is going to, even thought he feels a little unease for it -- but he will think of the people he works for as clients and as accepting assignments from them -- as he does incidentally in THE FIRST EAGLE.

Fred Walski from Chicago, IL: Tony we would love to hear more audiobooks in your own voice. Do you plan on reading any future books?

Tony Hillerman: I think the guy that reads them now is a lot better than me. I tend to pronounce things like helicopter as "heliocopter" and "far" as "faar" and "waare" for wire -- which is wrong! The audios are recorded in New York and Boston studios, and they want me to use the East Coast accent. I can't use my genuine Middle American accent. In fact I haven't really been invited to read any more of them lately.

Bill and Sharon from Lady's Island, SC: We've read and loved all your books. Keep up the good work. Especially like the fact that you have not succumbed to four-letter words (like so many other authors) that do nothing to advance the story and are only used to hook younger readers. Will Chee and Janet ever get married? How about more middle-age romance for Leaphorn?

Tony Hillerman: I might say that the answer to will Chee and Janet ever get married is probably answered in THE FIRST EAGLE, and I don't want to give it away. Leaphorn has found a real friend in Elisa, the mythology professor. I appreciate your comments. One of my friends recently accused me of drifting off into eroticism because I had two of those characters shaking hands.

Elaine from Malvern, NY: Have you ever done anything using your own childhood experiences with Indians during the '30s?

Tony Hillerman: No, I haven't. I may if I actually do write this proposed memoir. I would discuss the cowboy-and-Indian games that I played with my Seminole and Potawatomi friends. I might add that the Potawatomi -- knowing who won out West -- wanted to be the cowboys, and we had to be the Indians [laughs].

Alexa from Washington, D.C.: Are there any special charities that directly support the Navajo that you would recommend we make donations to?

Tony Hillerman: Maria, my wife, and I support the St. Bonaventure at Crown Point, New Mexico. They run school buses and water trucks that take water out to hogans on the reservations. This is an extremely important service because water is a problem in the desert, as you might imagine. There is also another good one, another charity that is extremely effective called the Gathering Place, also at Crown Point, NM. They help the Navajos develop their skills -- many are excellent craftsmen -- and market these talents. Maria and I support both of these.

Joe Villagrana from Manassas, VA: We've met twice some time ago in Albuquerque, though you may not remember me. At one time I lived in Gallup. Of course I love your stories about the reservations. My question is: When you come down to the D.C. area on September 15th, will you sign my other books? I'm not sure of what is allowed. I also keep tabs on Nathan Stone, he was the monument director at Coronado. He's now at Ft. Shelton. Thanks.

Tony Hillerman: The answer is yes! I will sign your books!

Ann Schultz from Chicago, IL: How long have you been writing Leaphorn/Chee books?

Tony Hillerman: I started in 1968, and I finished my first in 1970, when it was published. So it has been a long time! Thirty years!

Brad Cameron from Wilkesboro, NC: Do you have a favorite among the books you have written?

Tony Hillerman: I have favorite spots in all of them. Everyone of them has something wrong with them I want to fix. They are never as good as you hoped they would be. I guess it would be A THIEF OF TIME. Maybe this new one. It takes a while to like a book right after you finish because you are sick of it, but I think THE FIRST EAGLE will come out high on the list.

Bonn Bass from Borrego Springs, CA: Have you encountered any resistance to your depictions of sacred ceremonies and practices?

Tony Hillerman: The one reason I like to write about the Navajos is that their ceremonies are not secret. They are "curing ceremonies," almost like an Irish wake. The Navajos do this to restore a person to harmony and health. If you are a friend, you can join in to give your good wishes. DANCE HALL OF THE DEAD takes place on a Navajo reservation and depicts these ceremonies. The Zunis adopted my books in their school system. The kids at one school even asked me to be their commencement speaker. I was called in to see their school principal, and he cross-examined me about some of the references in my books to their practices. When I explained that all of my research came from Ph.D. theses and scholarly books, they were content. That is the only trouble I have had in that respect, but that wasn't even that bad.

Becky from Long Island, NY: Do you see Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee going on into the future, or is there a future detective in mind?

Tony Hillerman: No, I can't imagine writing a mystery without them in it!

Marilyn from New Hampshire: Janet Pete is back. Can't Chee find someone more compatible? He's such a nice guy!

Tony Hillerman: See the concluding chapter of THE FIRST EAGLE!

Larry Mickey from Westfield, NC: Are you a reader of Louis L'Amour? You both have the gift of describing the natural environment surrounding your stories so well.

Tony Hillerman: I read only one of his books. Just before he died, my wife and I were invited to a barbecue at his ranch. We were away, so I didnt get to go. I only have one bone to pick with him. Once when I was cross-examining my older son, Tony Hillerman Jr., about whether he had read any of my books, he said, "Oh, Dad, why don't you write more like Louis L'Amour?" [laughs]

Bobbi Hahn from Salem, OH: You write so knowledgeably and in depth on the Navajo culture. Are there certain traditions/rituals that you will not reveal in your books because they are sacred and/or telling would be disrespectful? Thank you.

Tony Hillerman: No, because the Navajos do not have that tradition. Their rituals are curing ceremonies, and they invite friends and family. Some Indian tribes do have their secrecy, and I won't infringe on that privacy.

Rose Marie Wiley from Long Island, NY: Have any of your books been made into motion pictures?

Tony Hillerman: Yes. Robert Redford has all of them optioned, and he hired Errol Morris to direct them (he is a famous documentary maker who did "The Thin Blue Line"). Redford made a movie of my book THE DARK WIND. When he got back from Cuba, he contacted me and wanted me to see it and asked me if I wanted my name taken off of it. I have to say that I have seen worse movies, but it wasn't very good. It wasn't released in the U.S. You can rent it in video stores, though, if you are hard up for something to see. Fred Ward plays Leaphorn, and Lou Diamond Philips plays Chee in the movie. Redford has a script based on SKINWALKERS, but I don't know what the plans are.

Julia from Westchester, IL: You're my first chat room experience. You've got a fantastic sense of humor! Which of your characters best reflects your own lighthearted outlook? Can't wait to read the memoir you're considering. Do give it some thought.

Tony Hillerman: Thanks! I am trying to remember which of my characters is lighthearted and I cant, but the character that most resembles me is Leaphorn. He is more my age and my type of guy.

Susan J. from New York City: I love all of your books, and I am interested to know who some of your favorite authors are.

Tony Hillerman: I read Elmore Leonard, Norman Zollinger (a historical novelist -- he is a very good writer), Raymond Chandler, and E. B. White.

Bobbi Hahn from Salem, OH: I'm about halfway through THE FIRST EAGLE and am enjoying it immensely, as I do all of your books. One of the things I like best is the way you describe the Southwest -- I can really "see" it, which was marvelous in the years preceding my first trip out there. I must confess I left part of my soul there, and I return as often as possible, which is never often enough. My question -- how did you come up with the idea of using the plague in this book? I know it's a serious problem in that area, but I admire the author's mind in finding a way to incorporate it! Thank you.

Tony Hillerman: About 40 years ago I wrote an article for a magazine about a man named Brian Miller and how he tracked down the source of the bubonic plague in the 1950s. It always stuck in my mind as a good idea for fiction. We have the bubonic plague in the Four Corners area every foru or five years, also.

Jerry from San Diego, CA: Is it true that you attended an all-girls school, and how does that affect your writing?

Tony Hillerman: I attended the first eight grades at a boarding school for Indian girls. It taught me that girls are very different from me -- but that Indian boys are just the same as me. This is an important lesson if you are going to write about them.

Brad Cameron from Wilkesboro, NC: The books I have read give a good geography lesson of the Southwest. You currently live in New Mexico. Did you grow up in that area or move there later in life?

Tony Hillerman: I grew up in Oklahoma and got to New Mexico for the first time in 1945, and I have lived in New Mexico since '52, which makes me what we call a semi-native.

Bonn Bass from Borrego Springs, CA: Do you have a favorite mystery by another author?

Tony Hillerman: I think maybe the best mystery I ever read is A COFFIN FOR DIMITRIOS by Eric Ambler (one of his first novels) or Raymond Chandler's THE LITTLE SISTER.

2 Dogs from Dallas: Yatahe, brother!

Tony Hillerman: Well, Yatahe!

Moderator: Thank you so much for joining us tonight, Tony Hillerman, and best of luck to you. Before you go, tell us -- how was your first online chat experience?

Tony Hillerman: It was great, aside from me being down in the lobby when I should have been on the telephone at first -- everything was smoothly done and I enjoyed it. A lot of good astute questions.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 18 of 15 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 23, 2012

    Too expensive for what you get

    I love Tony Hillerman and it saddened me when he died to think there would be no further adventures with Chee and Leaphorn however, this book had 26 pages of introductory notes and 5 empty pages at the end. This one should have been deeply discounted.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 11, 2012

    frustrating Frustrating read

    Many misspellings interrrupt smooth reading, and plot repeated often; weak conclusion and not as gripping as earlier works.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 22, 2001

    Fabulous, of course.

    Tony Hillerman is my favorite author. Every book is unique. 'The First Eagle' was a gripping novel--I read it in one sitting! If there is anyone out there who has not yet read a Hillerman novel, you are truly missing out. His novels are very symbolic and they way he writes allows the reader to picture the story he tells. He really dives into the culture and customs of the Navajo Way. I love reading books that are both entertaining and educational. His books offer a challenging alternative to the other novels on the market today. I can't wait for the next one!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 11, 2012

    I am an old New Mexico boy and I have been to the places Mr. Hil

    I am an old New Mexico boy and I have been to the places Mr. Hillerman writes about. His knowledge of the history, customs and traditions of the Navajo People is right on. I find his ability to weave a fictitious mystery through these customs and traditions a wonderful art. I have read all that he has written and each in it's own way takes me on a remarkable journey that no other author has shown me. Thank you Mr. Hillerman, I will miss you.

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