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James McGrath Morris. Tony Hillerman: A Life (University of Oklahoma Press, $29.95 Signed).
The author of eighteen spellbinding detective novels set on the Navajo Nation, Tony Hillerman simultaneously transformed a traditional genre and unlocked the mysteries of the Navajo culture to an audience of millions. His best-selling novels added Navajo Tribal Police detectives Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee to the pantheon of American fictional detectives.Morris offers a balanced portrait of Hillerman’s personal and professional life and provides a timely appreciation of his work. In intimate detail, Morris captures the author’s early years in Depression-era Oklahoma; his near-death experience in World War II; his sixty-year marriage to Marie; his family life, including six children, five of them adopted; his work in the trenches of journalism; his affliction with PTSD and its connection to his enchantment with Navajo spirituality; and his ascension as one of America’s best-known writers of mysteries. Further, Morris uncovers the almost accidental invention of Hillerman’s iconic detective Joe Leaphorn and the circumstances that led to the addition of Jim Chee as his partner.Hillerman’s novels were not without controversy. Morris examines the charges of cultural appropriation leveled at the author toward the end of his life. Yet, for many readers, including many Native Americans, Hillerman deserves critical acclaim for his knowledgeable and sensitive portrayal of Diné (Navajo) history, culture, and identity.At the time of Hillerman’s death, more than 20 million copies of his books were in print, and his novels inspired Robert Redford to adapt several of them to film. In weaving together all the elements of Hillerman’s life, Morris drew on the untapped collection of the author’s papers, extensive archival research, interviews with friends, colleagues, and family, as well as travel in the Navajo Nation. Filled with never-before-told anecdotes and fresh insights, Tony Hillerman will thrill the author’s fans and awaken new interest in his life and literary legacy.
James McGrath Morris a biographer and writer of narrative non-fiction. His newest book Tony Hillerman: A Life will be published in October.
Aside from his last book The Ambulance Drivers: Hemingway, Dos Passos, and A Friendship Made and Lost in War, Morris’s books include the New York Times Bestselling Eye on the Struggle: Ethel Payne, The First Lady of the Black Press, which was awarded the Benjamin Hooks National Book Prize; Pulitzer: A Life in Politics, Print, and Power—which the Wall Street Journal deemed was one of the five best books on American moguls and Booklist placed on its 2010 list of the ten best biographies; The Rose Man of Sing Sing: A True Tale of Life, Murder, and Redemption in the Age of Yellow Journalism—a Washington Post Best Book of the Year; and, Jailhouse Journalism: The Four Estate Behind Bars.
He is also the author of the Kindle Singles Revolution by Murder: Emma Goldman, Alexander Berkman, and the Plot to Kill Henry Clay Frick. and The Radio Operator: Robert Ford’s Last Stand in the Fight to Save Tibet.
Morris has written extensively for newspapers and magazines, as well as some academic journals. Prior to becoming a full-time writer, he spent a decade as a journalist, a decade working in the book and magazine business, and a decade as a high school teacher.
He is the former president of Biographers International Organization, of which he was among the original founders. In 2019 he received the BIO Award, which is given to a writer who has made a major contribution to the advancement of the art and craft of biography. Previous winners, among others, include: Jean Strouse, Robert Caro, Arnold Rampersad, Ron Chernow, Stacy Schiff, Taylor Branch, and Candice Millard.
Morris earned his bachelor’s degree from American University and his master’s from George Washington University.
Morris lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico with his wife Patty McGrath Morris.