Tony Hillerman died yesterday at age 83.
I never met him though I saw him at a couple of events. I feel sad that he’s gone, because I would have welcomed another of his stories, long or short, about Jim Chee, Joe Leaphorn and their world. The last time I felt this way was when I heard that Michael Gilbert died, and before that when I learned of the untimely death of Anne George.
At times like this I think: There ought to be a special physical immortality for our master storytellers. They should be given extra-strong hearts, forever supple hands, clear voices never scratched up by passing decades, and the eyes and ears of young wild critters.
But of course the best of our storytellers? Wouldn’t take that if offered on a platinum platter. Because they are human and understand so much about that condition, and the difference between humans and God, and the perils of hubris.
I’ve lost my mind. Next Saturday I am going to embark on an impractical, time-consuming and totally unnecessary project that will last for exactly one month. I am going to write a novel. OK, the first draft of a novel.
And the really scary thing?
I’m not in this alone. It’s been done by thousands of people, 9 times before this. This is the tenth time.
Seriously, run don’t walk to your bookstore or library and get hold of No Plot, No Problem. Which is fun and joyous and very well-written. Well, I’m sure the first half of it is anyway, because I’ve read it at least twice. The second half is to be read in installments corresponding to the weeks of November, and for once I’m not reading ahead in a book. Instead I’m making all kinds of notes in my little notebook, in anticipation of November 1.
Until November 30, my middle name is Exuberant Imperfection.
A little piece in today’s newspaper led me to this blog. The short version: photographer finds excellent photographs from the 1930’s and 40’s among the other offerings at an estate sale and buys as many as she can. Then she follows up and finds that they were taken by Ellet N. Shepherd (1901 – 1965), Denver lawyer and judge. She gets the rest of the unsold photographs and has shared several of them with the rest of us on a blog.
On reading the article I clipped it out, grabbed my coffee and moved into the study to visit the blog. And I’ve been somewhere else for the last half hour as I look at the pictures and read some of the newspaper articles about Ellet Shepherd’s time as a prosecutor and a judge.
I’m visiting a Denver I have often wished I knew, a much smaller town that I might not have liked but suspect I would. It is I’m sure a longing driven by the desire for simplicity and certainty.
I have visited that place before, often by way of some of Sandra Dallas‘ novels – especially New Mercies. And I pored over the details of the town and people in Mainliner Denver (heck, I even met one of the lawyers in that case, who was still around many years later when I moved here fresh out of law school and passed the bar).
Honestly? One of these days I may just go down to the public library and read old local newspapers on microfilm or however they are stored now, just for the heck of it and not in search of anything special.
In the meantime, I am engaged with Judge Shepherd’s pictures, and the places I go when I look at them.
I just read a terrific short story, and I think you should too: Blue Waltz, by Brenda WIlson Wooley.
It’s available online here – in Wanderings magazine.