FARMINGTON — After author Tony Hillerman died in 2008, his daughter, Anne Hillerman, stepped in to continue his work.

The late writer was best known for his series of mysteries featuring Navajo Tribal Police detectives Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee. His daughter's 2006 book, "Spider Woman's Daughter," builds on the series.

On Friday, Anne Hillerman will give a talk at the Farmington Public Library and sign copies of the book.

When Hillerman decided to continue her father's series, she said she knew she couldn't simply mimic her father. To add her own voice to the narrative, she said she focused on Bernadette Manuelito, a rookie cop who becomes Chee's girlfriend and then, in Tony Hillerman's final book, his wife.

Anne Hillerman’s book, "Spider Woman’s Daughter," continues the mystery series her late father, Tony Hillerman, wrote.
Anne Hillerman's book, "Spider Woman's Daughter," continues the mystery series her late father, Tony Hillerman, wrote. (Courtesy of Anne Hillerman)

"She never really had a chance to solve the crime herself," said Anne Hillerman, who lives in Santa Fe.

In "Spider Woman's Daughter," Manuelito gets a chance to solve the crime — the first time one of Tony Hillerman's female characters has a chance to do that, Anne Hillerman said. She said she is grateful Manuelito and Chee wed in her father's final book because she could show them working together as partners, rather than getting caught up dating drama.

Her book took three years to write, partially because she said she felt nervous about how her father's fans would react. But, she said, she ultimately wrote the book for herself.

She encourages everyone to come out to her talk and support the library. Growing up, she remembers walking to the library after school and said she knows first-hand the importance a library has to a community.

That was one of the reasons she agreed to visit Farmington when Kimberly Collett, the adult services coordinator at Farmington Public Library, contacted her a few months ago. Collett, who recently moved to Farmington from Washington, is a long-time Tony Hillerman fan.

"I knew the Southwest intimately through his books," she said.

She read Anne Hillerman's book and said she enjoyed it.

"I hate to see the series come to a close, but she did a wonderful job at picking up where he left off," Collett said.

The series will continue, Anne Hillerman said. She said she is working now on her second book in the series.

In addition to talking about her book on Friday, Hillerman said she will talk about what it was like to grow up with her father.

"I was so lucky to have such a wonderful dad," she said.

She credits her dad with passing along a passion for writing and said he thrived on supporting this students. He often gave short "blips" to his students who were publishing books to put on their book covers.

Tony Hillerman and his daughter, Anne Hillerman, sit together in this undated photo. After her father’s death, Anne Hillerman continued his series of
Tony Hillerman and his daughter, Anne Hillerman, sit together in this undated photo. After her father's death, Anne Hillerman continued his series of mystery novels. (Courtesy of Anne Hillerman)

Tony Hillerman grew up in Oklahoma and didn't travel much until World War II. Anne Hillerman said after her father returned from the war, he got a job on the Navajo Nation and fell in love with the Southwest. After he left New Mexico, he began writing for the newspapers in Texas and Oklahoma. In the 1950s, he returned to New Mexico to work as a journalist in Santa Fe.

In the 1960s, Tony Hillerman began teaching at the University of New Mexico.

"That job gave him a chance to focus on writing novels," his daughter said.

The job also put him in a position to learn more about Navajo culture, both from students and from various resources in the university's library.

Anne Hillerman followed in her father's footsteps and became a journalist and a non-fiction writer. One of her books is "Tony Hillerman's Landscape: On the Road with Chee and Leaphorn," which she published in 2009, a year after her father's death. While researching the book, she read all of her father's novels.

"I think doing that book was good preparation for 'Spider Woman's Daughter,'" she said.

IF YOU GO

What: An Evening with Anne Hillerman

When: 6 p.m. Friday

Where: Farmington Public Library, 2101 Farmington Ave.

Cost: Free

More info: Go to infoway.org

Hannah Grover covers news, arts and religion for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 and hgrover@daily-times.com. Follow her @hmgrover on Twitter.