Dance Hall of the Dead (1973)

Dance Hall of the Dead (1973)


A storage space usually found toward the rear of a vehicle, especially if the vehicle has a back seat.

Frequently in detective stories, trunks function as spaces to hide incriminating evidence, including dead bodies, weapons, drugs, or explosives. Tony Hillerman's work is no exception.


In Navajo social interactions, as well as in those of many other Native American cultures, "uncle" is a title of respect used to address an older male, regardless of actual familial connection. The familial term connotes the intimacy of a social group in which all members are believed to be connected, as well as the respect that is given to older generations.

Navajo country

An Anglicized reference to the what the Navajo would call Diné Bikéyah, the traditional Navajo homeland, which is roughly demarcated by the four sacred mountains of the San Francisco Peaks or Dook’o’oslííd to the west, Mount Hesperus or Dibé Nitsaa to the north, Blanca Peak or Sisnaajiní to the east, and Mount Taylor or Tsoodzil to the south. More a concept and a state of mind than a specific territorial reference, "Navajo country" is a romanticized evocation of the high desert and red mesa landscapes that fill the Four Corners regions of the Southwestern U.S.

Tony Hillerman's use of the term Navajo country throughout his Navajo detective series also shares a resonance with the 19th-century use of the term "Indian Country," a somewhat pejorative reference to the always-receding lands west of the expanding U.S. frontier. Indian Country was wild, unsettled, and ripe for the taking, once the indigenous populations had been subdued and removed. Although Hillerman was an advocate for rather than an enemy of the peoples whose cultures he sketched into his novels, it's telling that one of his most used resources was an American Automobile Association map entitled "Indian Country," a detailed map of the roads and routes on the Navajo Reservation.

jack handle

A jack is a mechanical device used to elevate the axle of a vehicle so that one wheel is raised off the ground, enabling one to access and change the tire. In simple car jacks, a handle is used to turn the springs of the mechanism so that the device can raise the axle. The handle, which resembles a crowbar, is also used to remove the hubcap if the wheel has one.


A type of shoe or boot traditionally worn by Native American peoples. Moccasins were hand-made, using leather made of deer, moose, elk, or bison skin, and could have either soft or hard soles. Designs varied from group to group and depended on climate, terrain, and the moccasins' purpose and usage. Decorations such as embroidery, beads, fringes, or buttons added to the distinctive style of the moccasins.

In contemporary U.S. culture, moccasins can also refer to a style of shoe adapted from the original indigenous boots. Modern moccasins are a type of slip-on shoe that are casual and comfortable.

Ramah chapter house, Ramah, New Mexico

The Ramah Navajo chapter is located in Ramah, New Mexico and serves the Ramah band of Navajo, who have occupied the area near Zuni Pueblo since the sixteenth century.

A chapter house is a meeting place for Navajo people where they can publicly discuss their opinions about the goings on of the Navajo Nation and its governance. Implemented by Leupp Agency Superintendent John G. Hunter in 1922, the chapter house system quickly transcended the politics of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and gained a communal and cultural relevance of its own. Today, even though chapters are still identified by BIA agency, they have gained and grown at the grassroots level to function as community centers as well as political hubs around the broad territory of the Navajo Nation.

seventh grade

After World War Two, the seventh grade was the first of two grades in what for many public school students in the United States was known as "junior high." Later, as the population growth rate slowed, the children of baby boomers found themselves entering a seventh grade that was the middle grade of what became known as "middle school." Regardless of the generation or the school designation, seventh graders are roughly between the ages of twelve and fourteen, an age that spans the gap between childish innocence and nascent pubescence. Often associated with burgeoning self-awareness and a resultant social and cultural awkwardness, seventh graders can at times be wise beyond their years, yet are effectively children.

swivel chair

A chair whose seat rotates to face in any direction, usually used in office environments. Swivel chairs often also have wheels, to enable easy movement along wide desks and their close surroundings. For many years, Tony Hillerman sat in a swivel chair as he wrote as his rolltop desk.


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