I had another post all ready to go, but then last week one of my favorite authors, Tony Hillerman, died at age 83. I had the pleasure of hearing him speak at an authors’ event in Albuquerque many years ago, and he was entertaining, articulate, inspiring, an all-around class act as well as a superlative writer.

I lived in New Mexico as a child and early-teenager, and still visit the state as often as I can. It’s a very special place, one of immense and strange beauty and a great sense of creativity and spirituality that is like nothing else I have ever seen. I was first drawn to Hillerman’s books because of this same deep affinity for the land, which he evokes so perfectly through the very different characters of Leaphorn and Chee. But I stayed for more than that–for his evocative yet unadorned writing style, for his intricate plots and vivid characters, for his beautiful descriptions of Navaho ritual and the vastness of the irresitible landscape.

According to one of the many tributes that came pouring out last week, Hillerman used Chee and Leaphorn to introduce “readers to a landscape of bold physical, intellectual, and spiritual dimensions.”

The first Hillerman I ever read was Skinwalkers, which is still my favorite. I also love Coyote Waits, Talking God, Thief of Time–all of the Leaphorn/Chee mysteries, really. He also has a memoir, Seldom Disappointed, childrens’ books, and some great non-fiction, including The Spell of New Mexico and The Mysterious West.

Jim Benciveng, in one of those tributes, defends Hillerman’s place among the timeless greats of the mystery genre. “First, Hillerman is a master of style. His sentences are lucid, yet subtle, as sunlight in the high desert where Navaho tribal detectives Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee patrol. He creates a vivid, austere sense of place. Second, Hillerman probes the metaphysical implications of crime, religious taboo, and moral weakness in human nature. His point of view is always compassionate. He taps an innate hunger for justice and harmony. Third, Hillerman explores misunderstanding and conflict inherent in cross-cultural mores. This more than anything else sets him apart from mystery writers of his generation.”

Hillerman and his work will be greatly missed. (For an obituary, you can go here; or here for a full bibliography)

Do you read Tony Hillerman’s novels? If so, which is your favorite? And do you also feel like you’ve lost an old friend when a favorite author dies?

Be sure and visit Risky Regencies tomorrow to read about the new Harlequin Historical Undone ebook line! There will be lots of fun and chances to win free downloads of the 4 launch stories. Also, there are lots of updates at my own website, including an excerpt from High Seas Stowaway and some “behind the scenes” research info…

And in case you haven’t noticed (ha!) Election Day is Tuesday. Be sure and vote!!!