Seldom Disappointed by Tony Hillerman
A Memoir

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Synopsis

When Tony Hillerman looks back at seventy-six years spent getting from hardtimes farm boy to bestselling author, he sees lots of evidence that Providence was poking him along. For example, when an absentminded Army clerk left him off the hospital ship taking the wounded home from France, the mishap put him on a collision course with a curing ceremony held for two Navajo Marines, thereby providing the grist for a writing career that now sees his books published in sixteen languages around the world and often on bestseller lists. Or, for example, when his agent told him his first novel was so bad that it would hurt both of their reputations, he nonetheless sent it to an editor, and that editor happened to like the Navajo stuff.

In this wry and whimsical memoir, Hillerman offers frequent backward glances at where he found ideas for plots of his books and the characters that inhabit them. He takes us with him to death row, where he interviews a man about to die in the gas chamber and details how this murderer became Colton Wolf in one of his novels. He relates how flushing a solitary heron from a sandbar caused him to convert Joe Leaphorn from husband to widower, and how his self-confessed bias against the social elite solved the key plot problem in A Thief of Time.

No child abuse stories here: The worst Hillerman can recall is being sent off to first grade (in a boarding school for Indian girls) clad in cute blue coveralls instead of the manly overalls his farm-boy peers all wore. Instead we get a good-natured trip through hard times in college; an infantry career in which he "rose twice to Private First Class" and also won a Silver Star, Bronze Star, and Purple Heart; and, afterward, work as a truck driver, chain dragger, journalist, professor, and "doer of undignified deeds" for two university presidents. All this is colored by a love affair (now in its fifty-fourth year) with Marie, which involved raising six children, most of them adopted. Using the gifts of a talented novelist and reporter, seventy-six-year-old Tony Hillerman draws a brilliant portrait not just of his life but of the world around him.

 

About Tony Hillerman

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Tony Hillerman (1925–2008) was an award-winning author and newspaperman, best known for his mystery novels set on the Navajo Nation. Don Strel, a photographer, has been published in numerous books and magazines. He has taught art and design at the university level and has served as the director of the Museum of Fine Arts, Museum of New Mexico. He is currently the director of the Southwest Assignments photography, design and public relations agency, which he founded in 1991. Anne Hillerman is the founding director of Wordharvest Writers’ Workshops, a journalist, and author whose books include Tony Hillerman’s Landscape: On the Road with Chee and Leaphorn. She is Tony Hillerman’s eldest daughter.
 
Published October 1, 2002 by Paperback. 368 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Education & Reference, Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, Literature & Fiction. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Seldom Disappointed

Kirkus Reviews

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virtually nothing on the 1980s or the wife he obviously adores, but some shrewd analysis of his own fiction, some of it tucked into an Addendum), and incapable, for better or worse, of saying an unkind word about anybody, even corporate bodies, without changing their names (though his account of ...

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Publishers Weekly

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Correction: Due to an editing error, our review of Tony Hillerman's Seldom Disappointed (Forecasts, Sept. 24) erroneously stated that Hillerman's brother, Barry, died in WWII. In fact, he survived

Oct 01 2001 | Read Full Review of Seldom Disappointed: A Memoir

The New York Times

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In 1970, when he was already past 40, Tony Hillerman published the first of his famously successful series of Navajo crime novels, sleuthing done courtesy of tribal police officers Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn.

Oct 28 2001 | Read Full Review of Seldom Disappointed: A Memoir

BookPage

Taking the advice to heart, Hillerman holds no grudges against those who have done him wrong, even the literary agent who suggested he get rid of the Indian stuff if he ever hoped to get a mystery novel published.

Nov 10 2014 | Read Full Review of Seldom Disappointed: A Memoir

Reviewing the Evidence

He talks about his efforts to write The Great American Novel (which was A Fly on the Wall, which he admits liking but knowing was not TGAN), and discusses the story we've all heard about "like the book, but take out the Indian stuff".

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