Tony Hillerman has delighted a generation of mystery readers with books that offer not only the usual crime fiction thrills but also enlightening glimpses of the Navajo people and their culture. With the publication this month of his memoir, Seldom Disappointed, this great storyteller proves that his own life story is one well worth telling. Self-effacing, unflappable and eminently likeable, Hillerman has the same qualities as the Navajo heroes in his mysteries Lt. Joe Leaphorn and Sgt. Jim Chee. Starting with The Blessing Way in 1970, the Navajo series has grown in popularity through the years, with 14 entries, including the most recent bestseller, Hunting Badger (1999).

An Oklahoma native, Hillerman traces his interest in Native Americans to the years he attended an Indian school in his hometown of Sacred Heart. He left Oklahoma as a teenager to serve in a rifle company during World War II, and his account of infantry action in Europe rivals any in The Greatest Generation. His service ended when he stepped on a mine and landed in an Army hospital in a full body cast. After his recovery, Hillerman went on to a career as a newspaper reporter and journalism professor, not turning to fiction until he was well into his 40s.

The title of the book comes from a piece of advice Hillerman's beloved mother offered her young son: Blessed are those who expect little. They are seldom disappointed. Taking the advice to heart, Hillerman holds no grudges against those who have done him wrong, even the literary agent who suggested he get rid of the Indian stuff if he ever hoped to get a mystery novel published.

 

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