Mystery Readers Journal
The Mysterious Westby Tony Hillerman
Edited by Tony Hillerman, the Southwest's foremost suspense writer, this first-ever collection of mystery stories set in the West contains 20 original entries by such luminary mystery writers as Marcia Muller, Susan Dunlap, and Robert Campbell. See more details below
Edited by Tony Hillerman, the Southwest's foremost suspense writer, this first-ever collection of mystery stories set in the West contains 20 original entries by such luminary mystery writers as Marcia Muller, Susan Dunlap, and Robert Campbell.
Mystery Readers Journal
- HarperCollins Publishers
- Publication date:
- Edition description:
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- Product dimensions:
- 6.74(w) x 10.92(h) x 1.24(d)
Read an Excerpt
deserved recognition as the true creator of
the modern female private detective.
In such memorable novels as There's
Something in a Sunday and Wolf in the
Shadows, Muller shows us how serious --
and truly entertaining -- the modern
mystery story can be.
The following story, by turns
melancholy, amusing, and suspenseful,
tells of a southern California woman -- one
Ashley Heikkinen, no less -- who tries to
go home again.
All the years that I was growing up in a poor suburb of Los Angeles, my mother would tell me stories of the days I couldn't remember when we lived with my father on the wild north coast. She'd tell of a gray, misty land suddenly made brilliant by quicksilver flashes off the sea; of whitesand beaches that would disappear in a storm, then emerge strewn with driftwood and treasures from foreign shores; of a deeply forested ridge of hills where, so the Pomo Indians claimed, spirits walked by night.
Our cabin nestled on that ridge, high above the little town of Camel Rock and the humpbacked offshore mass that inspired its name. The cabin, built to last by my handyman father, was of local redwood, its foundation sunk deep in bedrock. There was a woodstove and homewoven curtains. There were stained-glass windows and a sleeping loft; there was ...
Although I had no recollection of the place we'd left when I was two, it somehow seemed more real to me than our shabby pink bungalow with the cracked sidewalk out frontand the packed-dirt yard out back. I'd lie in bed late at night feeling the heat from the woodstove, watching the light as it filtered through the stained-glass panels, listening to the wind buffet our secure aerie. I was sure I could smell my mother's baking bread, hear the deep rumble of my father's voice. But no matter how hard I tried, I could not call up the image of my father's face, even though a stiff and formal studio portrait of him sat on our coffee table.
When I asked my mother why she and I had left a lace of quicksilver days and night-walking spirits, she'd row quiet. When I asked where my father was now, she'd turn away. As I grew older I realized there were shadows over our departure-shadows in which forbidden things stood still and silent.
Is it any wonder that when my mother died -- young, at forty-nine, but life hadn't been kind to her and heart trouble ran in the family -- is it any wonder that I packed everything I cared about and went back to the place of my birth to confront those forbidden things?
I'd located Camel Rock on the map when I was nine, tracing the coast highway with my finger until it reached a jutting point of land north of Fort Bragg. Once this had been logging country -- hardy men working the crosscut saw and jackscrew in the forests, bull teams dragging their heavy loads to the coast, fresh-cut logs thundering down the chutes to schooners that lay at anchor in the coves below. But by the time I was born, lumbering was an endangered industry. Today, I knew, the voice of the chain saw was stilled and few logging trucks rumbled along the highway. Legislation to protect the environment, coupled with a severe construction slump, had all but killed the old economy. Instead new enterprises had sprung up: wineries; mushroom, garlic, and herb farms; tourist shops and bed-and-breakfasts. These were only marginally profitable, however; the north coast was financially strapped.
I decided to go anyway.
It was a good time for me to leave southern California. Two failed attempts at college, a ruined love affair, a series of slipping-down jobs -- all argued for radical change. I'd had no family except my mother; even my cat had died the previous October. As I gave notice at the coffee shop where I'd been waitressing, disposed of the contents of the bungalow, and turned the keys back to the landlord, I said no goodbyes. Yet I left with hope of a welcome. Maybe there would be a place for me in Camel Rock. Maybe someone would even remember my family and fill in the gaps in my early life.
I know now that I was really hoping for a reunion with my father.
Mist blanketed the coast the afternoon I drove my old Pinto over the bridge spanning the mouth of the Deer River and into Camel Rock. Beyond sandstone cliffs the sea lay flat and seemingly motionless. The town -- a strip of buildings on either side of the highway, with dirt lanes straggling up toward the hills -- looked deserted. A few drifting columns of wood smoke, some lighted signs in shop windows, a hunched and bundled figure walking along the shoulder -- these were the only signs of life. I drove slowly, taking it all in: a supermarket, some bars, a little mall full of tourist shops. Post office, laundromat, defunct real estate agency, old sagging hotel that looked to be the only lodging place. When I'd gone four blocks and passed the last gas station and the cable TV company, I ran out of town; I U-turned, went back to the hotel, and parked my car between two pickups out front.
For a moment I sat behind the wheel, feeling flat. The town didn't look like the magical place my mother had described; if anything, it was seedier than the suburb I'd left yesterday. I had to force myself to get out, and when I did, I stood beside the Pinto, staring up at the hotel. Pale green with once white trim, all of it blasted and faded by the elements...
The Mysterious West. Copyright © by Tony Hillerman. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Meet the Author
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.
- Albuquerque, New Mexico
- Date of Birth:
- May 27, 1925
- Date of Death:
- October 26, 2008
- Place of Birth:
- Sacred Heart, Oklahoma
- Place of Death:
- Albuquerque, New Mexico
- B.A., University of Oklahoma, 1946; M.A., University of New Mexico, 1966
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