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Take a visual tour of Tony Hillerman’s stories

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By Kirsten Laskey

When reading, images are conjured in a reader’s mind. They wonder, what does a character look like? What the appearance of a setting? With a new book by Anne Hillerman and Don Strel, these questions can be answered.

Their book, “Tony Hillerman’s Landscape: On the Road with Leaphorn and Chee,” takes a visual tour of the settings featured in the mystery writer’s books.

Hillerman and Strel are inviting Los Alamos to journey through these landscapes captured in literature during a presentation at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Fuller Lodge. The talk is part of the Los Alamos Historical Society’s lecture series.

The idea for the book, Hillerman said, took seed during a mystery conference. She explained she thought it would great to see photographs of areas featured in author Michael McGarrity’s books. So as McGarrity spoke about her work, a slide show of photos were played. Hillerman said Tony, her father, thought it was a great idea and asked if she could do something similar for his books.

Tony passed away last year so the book, which not only features photos but synopses of his novels, his own comments and narrative information, preserves the author’s memory and work.

Hillerman said she is happy with the results. “I’m really well pleased with it,” she said. “I thought the publication did a fine job.”

The book, Hillerman explained, strives to “put the reader in the car with Jim Chee and Leaphorn as they drive around the reservation solving crime.”

The photographs cover different locations on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona, Utah, New Mexico as well as Zuni and Hopi tribal lands.

While Hillerman said she has visited some of these sites in the past, a few she visited for the first time. One discovery, she added, was how accurately her father described the different sites.

“I was really pleased to see his descriptions were spot-on,” Hillerman said.

“I thought his writing held up really well,” she added.

Her father is not the only one to shine in the literary spotlight. Hillerman has written for the United Press International, worked as an editor for The Santa Fe New Mexican, as well as an editor and columnist at the Albuquerque Journal.

Her writing has earned her honors at the National Federation of Press Women and the New Mexico Press Association.

She published her first book, “Children’s Guide to Santa Fe,” in 1983. Recently, she published “Santa Fe Flavors.” She participated in a book signing for the book earlier this year at the Los Alamos Historical Museum.

It was an enjoyable experience, Hillerman said.

“They treated me like royalty – the people at the Historical Society,” she said.

“I’m thrilled to have another chance to speak up there,” Hillerman added.

Strel, the photographer for the book and Hillerman’s husband, is the director and founder of Southwest Assignments. This business is a design and public relations agency.

Hillerman said she and her father were close, but putting this book together gave her a new appreciation for her father’s writing.

She explained when she first read his novels, she focused on who did it and how the detectives solved the mystery. Re-reading the stories, Hillerman said she was impressed by how skillfully the stories were put together.

“It was a real pleasure to discover that,” Hillerman said.