I liked Samantha Dunn's LA Times homage at www.latimes.com/features/books/la-et-hillerman29-2008oct29,0,6489369.story. She writes as a New Mexican who appreciated Tony's sense for the state and for the Navajo Nation.
The Hillermans came to Chaco while I was there as superintendent. He was doing the research for "Thief of Time," his murder mystery set partly in Chaco Canyon. He wanted to get the flavor of the place. We provided them with an apartment, then invited him over for supper. After supper, it was an open house for the park staff to come in and meet Tony and his wife Marie and answer his questions ... and we were all already Hillerman fans. It was probably from that evening that he got the idea of describing the archeologist in Thief of Time as leaving the park for Farmington to get her "exhaust fume fix" when she was noticed by two kids standing by the side of the road, waiting for the school bus. Those kids were Drayton and Noi, my son and daughter, who traveled 60 miles each way to Bloomfield every day to go to school (we never left them standing by the side of the road, though; Jan or I drove them 18 miles in the morning to meet the bus and the same 18 miles in the evening to pick them up, often through mud and snow).
One thing I especially remember from that evening, having suffered through several English courses in which I was told I had to outline and plot my story before I began to write. My favorite Tony Hillerman novel is "Dance Hall of the Dead," which is set in the Zuni area and was published before his visit to Chaco. That evening he told us that he had got more than halfway through the writing of that book with the intent of making the archeologist character the murderer, but the character he was writing was turning into such a "wimp" that he decided he had to write in a different murderer. So much for outlining, etc.!
Jan and I saw Tony a couple more times, separately and together, at Chaco and in Mancos, and he was always the same ... comfortable as an old shoe, unpretentious and a perceptive observer of people. (He always had a little trouble with geography, though!)
Thank you for your insights, Tony; we'll miss continuing to learn from you while enjoying the stories you wove. Rest in well-earned peace. tv