The Hillerman Way
Leaphorn swiveled his chair to face the map that dominated his wall behind his desk. It was a magnified version of the "Indian Country" map produced by the Automobile Club of Southern California. Smaller versions were used throughout the Four Corners territory for its details and its accuracy. Leaphorn had hired a photographer to copy it and make him a double-sized print on a matte paper. Emma had pasted this to a sheet of corkboard. For years, he had sprinkled it with coded pins, using it, so he said, to reinforce his memory. Actually Leaphorn's memory was remarkable, needing no reinforcement. He used the map in his endless hunt for patterns, sequences, order--something that would bring a semblance of Navajo hohzho to the chaos of crime and violence.
--from Coyote Waits, by Tony Hillerman
Through thirteen books by renowned New Mexico mystery writer Tony Hillerman, Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn of the Navajo Tribal Police has been putting pins in that map, making the connections to solve a remarkable assortment of murders.
Over the years, as Leaphorn kept solving seemingly unsolvable crimes, Hillerman kept adding fans--the series quickly became a bestseller--as well as characters. Leaphorn's wife, Emma, passed away, but he got another, less serene sometime sidekick: Navajo police officer (and medicine-man-in-training) Jim Chee, who is as impetuous as Leaphorn is methodical, who makes his connections through intuition as much as geography. Besides their uncanny ability to clear up cases and their distrust of belagaana--or white man's--authority, Leaphorn and Chee share a love of the Four Corners area: Indian Country, a land as shrouded in secrecy as many of Hillerman's plots. Unless, of course, you have that AAA map to Indian Country.
Or now, Tony Hillerman's Indian Country Map & Guide. Not only does this map include all of the standard Four Corners landmarks, it also offers a chronology of Hillerman books and shows many of the sites crucial to the twists and turns in their plots. There's menacing Black Mesa, which overlooks Tuba City, the Western headquarters of the Navajo Tribal Police, where Chee was stationed in 1983's The Dark Wind. Chinle Wash, the red-rock canyon where someone tried to kill archaeologist Eleanor Friedman-Bernal in 1988's The Thief of Time. And Fort Defiance, the first U.S. Army post in Arizona (it was established during the Navajo Wars of 1851-61), and the nearby sacred springs that played into 1989's Talking God. Much of the action in that book took place in Washington, D.C., where Leaphorn and Chee saved the Smithsonian from a bomb plot--but as always, the two were eager to get away from the inexplicable ways of the East Coast establishment and back to Indian Country.
A copy of this map--and a few well-thumbed Hillerman tomes or some cassettes of his books on tape--are a must for anyone traveling around the Four Corners this summer. And who isn't? After all, in Navajo mythology, the Four Corners is the center of the universe--the place where the world was created before it divided into continents.
It is certainly the center of the universe for Frank Lister, who'd been trying to get back to the area for years--and finally did when he founded Time Traveler Maps in Mancos. Lister's parents are archaeologists; he spent his early youth running around field camps at Mesa Verde and his later youth in high school in Boulder--"Let's say that I grew older in Boulder," he says--while his father was teaching at the University of Colorado. And while Lister won't admit to being grown up just yet, after stints as a cartographer, Peace Corps volunteer, park planner and global bike-tour organizer, the 52-year-old is now charting out a future in Mancos.
"Maps were once considered fine art," he says. "I want to put them back into that realm, revive the tradition. There's an amazing psychology of maps: Two people with zero in common--say a rocket scientist and someone with a fourth-grade education--can look at them and find something to talk about."
Lister's company produces maps of all kinds, but it specializes in the Southwest and Navajo country. Time Traveler has produced a Navajo Nation map in Navajo with English subtitles; a geographical gazeteer of Navajo country that's a reprint of a government document from the Thirties; a new map of the Colorado Plateau, complete with information on campsites, monuments and visitor services; and assorted other charts. (Lister confides that his dream job would be to map Tibet--making it accessible to people who have been banished from their homeland.) Lister says there's nothing more Southwestern than Hillerman.
His parents knew the author, which made it easy for him to call and ask if Hillerman would be interested in having Time Traveler do a map dedicated to his books. Hillerman agreed and even provided an introduction: "When I began writing fiction, the Navajos, the high, dry and beautiful land they treasure, and the neighboring tribes seemed the ideal backgrounds for my stories," he wrote. "As I learned more about them, they became the center of my work. This map is intended to be helpful for those who share this interest in cultures, and ethnic systems, from which all of us could learn."
From the map, you can also learn the subject of Hillerman's next work. If you look carefully at the Leaphorn figure and follow the right foot into the mesa area, you'll see tiny figures representing the two Four Corners fugitives. Where it goes from there, of course, is a mystery.
Time Traveler Maps, Mancos, www.mapz.com, 1-970-533-1136, 1-800-753-7388.
Get the Things to Do Newsletter
Sign up for our weekly guide to events in Denver, and never be bored again. With suggestions for every day of the week, our recommendations will keep you busy on any budget.