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Tony Hillerman Papers, Center for Southwest Research

Collection Profile

…the details must be exactly accurate—from the way a Hogan is built, to the way a sweat bath is taken to the way it looks, and sounds, and smells at an Enemy Way Ceremonial at 2 am on a wintry morning.

—Tony Hillerman

Tony Hillerman, writer and teacher, was born May 27, 1925, in Sacred Heart, Oklahoma. He grew up in the rural community and attended the only local grade school, a Catholic school for girls. When the United States entered World War II, Hillerman joined the army and served for two years in Europe. He returned to Oklahoma and received a BA from the University of Oklahoma in 1946. He worked as a newspaper reporter in Texas and Oklahoma until he became UPI's Santa Fe Bureau Manager in 1952. In 1954 he joined the staff of the New Mexican as a political reporter and later became an editor. He came to the University of New Mexico as a graduate student in English in 1962. Hillerman received his MA in 1966 and became a professor of journalism, serving as department chair. He retired from teaching in 1986.

Hillerman's journalism career influenced his later writing. His style, clear and direct, produced beautiful and vivid descriptions of the stark Southwestern landscape. His first novel, The Blessing Way, was published by Harper & Row in 1970. The University of New Mexico Press published a collection of stories, five of them from Hillerman's master's thesis, under the title, The Great Taos Bank Robbery (1972). In addition to the popular and successful Navajo mystery series of novels, Hillerman has written texts for photography and travel books on New Mexico and the Southwest. Articles by Hillerman have appeared in New Mexico Quarterly, New Mexico Magazine, National Geographic Traveler, Arizona Highways, and other magazines.

The Tony Hillerman Papers consist of literary manuscripts, correspondence, published materials, and lecture notes. His literary manuscripts include drafts, revisions, and edited manuscripts for all of Hillerman's published novels, as well as page proofs and screenplays for some titles. Related research materials and correspondence with agents and publishers regarding revisions and editing are located with the respective manuscripts. The collection also contains letters from agents and publishers concerning contracts and various publishing projects; requests for appearances, book signings, conference participation, and lectures; and a considerable amount of fan mail. Tony Hillerman continues to add materials to his collection. These additional materials reflect his changing writing interests.

A finding aid to the Hillerman Papers is available online as part of the On-Line Archives of New Mexico. Tony Hillerman's collection is used extensively by students and researchers in creative writing, Southwest studies, history, and anthropology. On occasion Tony will visit the Center for Southwest Research and informally talk with students using his papers, sharing advice and stories. Each year many fans come to Special Collections during the Tony Hillerman Mystery Writers Conference held in Albuquerque.

Tony Hillerman's Papers, much like Tony himself, are Southwest treasures to be researched and enjoyed by anyone interested in good storytelling.

Collection Profile and Overview: Kathlene Ferris and Michael Kelly
Illustrations: Teresa Eckmann

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