Hillerman“Spider Woman’s Daughter – A Leaphorn & Chee Novel” by Anne Hillerman

Harper, $26.99, 320 pp.

Anne Hillerman discusses “Spider Woman’s Daughter” at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 1 at the KiMo Theatre, Fifth and Central NW. The talk is a benefit for the Albuquerque Public Library Foundation. $7 at the door. Hillerman will also give a talk at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 2 at the Inn at Loretto, 211 Old Santa Fe Trail Santa Fe. That talk/reading is part of the Friends of the Santa Fe Public Library’s October author series.

She will also sign copies of her novel at 5 p.m. Friday, Oct. 4 in the University of New Mexico Law School gallery. The signing is in conjunction with an exhibit of photographs by Don Strel(cq) from the book “Tony Hillerman’s Landscape.”

By David Steinberg

A recent incident reminded me that the Tony Hillerman legacy lives on.  And his daughter, Anne, is wise to take advantage of it.

I was sitting in a doctor’s waiting room reading an advanced reader’s copy of Anne Hillerman’s debut novel “Spider Woman’s Daughter” when a woman walking by stopped to stare at the front cover of the book I was holding.

She asked if Hillerman’s widow had written the book. No, I told her, Hillerman’s daughter had. I told her the title.

“I’ll have to get a copy,” she said excitedly.

“It’s not out yet. But it will be soon,” I said.  (It officially hits the streets Tuesday, Oct. 1)

I’ll bet the woman  won’t be disappointed with Anne Hillerman’s mystery. Well-written and well-plotted, it’s set mostly on the Navajo reservation and carries the subtitle “A Leaphorn & Chee Novel.”

The book grew out of several strands. After her father died, she and her husband Don Strel traveled a lot to promote their book “Tony Hillerman’s Landscape: On the Road with Chee and Leaphorn.” Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn are Navajo policemen in many of her father’s novels. Both are in “Spider Woman’s Daughter.” In fact Chee is married to the heroine, Bernie Manuelito.

“Inevitably people would say, ‘Did your father have another book in his desk drawer?’ I would say no. They’d say that they love those characters and that they were going to miss them,” Hillerman said in a phone interview.

“I miss these characters, too.”

She recalled a dinner conversation with her father after his “Skeleton Man” was published. In that book, Bernie Manuelito almost gets to act like a police officer and solves the crime.

“I said, ‘Dad, why don’t  you let Bernie act like a real detective? He said if he were going to write four or five more in this series he would,” Hillerman said.

Well, that’s just what she’s done.

“I thought this gal deserves a moment in the sun. I said to myself, ‘I want to see if I can write one of these.’ Then I talked to my mom. She said, ‘I think your dad would be happy (with Manuelito).’ I called my dad’s editor. I asked if there were any legal issues if I continue with the series. She said, ‘No, take a crack at it. I’d be willing to see what you put together,'” Hillerman recalled.

She wrote, and wrote some more. Hillerman said the editor called her soon after she submitted the manuscript: “The editor said, ‘I love it and I want to buy it.’ I said, ‘Whoa. Just writing it through from beginning to end was an accomplishment.”

The publisher, Harper, contracted with Hillerman for two novels. She’s working on the sequel. It will probably have Manuelito as lead investigator.

Hillerman and Strel are staying busy as guides for an organization called Road Scholar. The group hired them to be tour guides on bus tours of the reservation

“I talk about my dad, how he used sites (n the novels) and Don gives them advice on how to take pictures. It’s helpful in writing about the landscape. Nothing can take the place of actually being there,” she said.

For more information, go to http://www.annehillerman.com

The book launch for “Spider Woman’s Daughter” is Tuesday, Oct. 1 at the KiMo Theatre. The event is a benefit for the Albuquerque Public Library Foundation.

According to a city government news release, the  foundation was founded by several long-time library volunteers who envisioned more opportunities for the library system than was is provided by bond issues and other public monies. The volunteers particularly wanted to improve Albuquerque’s poor ranking among cities of comparable size for per capita library expenditures. The Foundation wants to help the libraries by accepting donations to benefit of the library system; by reducing gaps in services caused by shortages in public funding; by providing resources to meet the needs of a changing economy, diverse workforce and growing community; by implementing programs to introduce families to libraries; and funding opportunities to encourage the public’s pursuit of knowledge.

For more information on the foundation, visit http://www.abqlibraryfoundation.org