Dance Hall of the Dead (1973)

Dance Hall of the Dead (1973)

Memphis State, TN

The largest university in Memphis, Tennessee, and a leading research institution in the state as well as its surrounding states of Arkansas and Mississippi. The university was founded in 1912 and in 1941 was named Memphis State College, which is how Hillerman refers to it in his 1973 novel Dance Hall of the Dead. However, in 1994 the name was changed, and it is currently known as the University of Memphis.

Tennessee (state)

A state located in the upper part of the U.S. South. Tennessee stretches from the Appalachian Mountains in the east to the Mississippi River in the west, and its diverse geography includes mountain ranges as well as vast flat areas of fertile agricultural land surrounding the Tennessee River, which flows through the state from east to west. The area that is now Tennessee has been populated for many centuries by Native American peoples, namely the Cherokee and the Chickasaw. With the arrival of European settlers in the 1770s, the state’s demographics gradually changed, and today the population constitutes an overwhelming majority of white people. Because of limited natural resources, the economy of Tennessee, which developed around agriculture and forestry, later to be replaced with industry, has been lagging behind most other states in the union.

one-track mind

An expression referring to a way of thinking that is very focused, or even obsessed with, one thing in particular. The term one-track probably has its origin in the image of a train moving on a straight track in one direction. Like that train, the one-track mind will be directing all its energy toward a specific subject or purpose without considering other options.

track team

A group of individuals affiliated with an institution, often a school, that competes in athletic events that involve running, jumping, and throwing. In addition to track events that are held on a designated field and on a paved track with lanes, there are separate teams and events that compete in cross-country track, in which the runners run on natural terrain.

track shoe

A light-weight sports shoe designed specifically for running. Track shoes have thin, flexible soles, and often feature tiny spikes that improve gripping and traction and therefore allow the runner to safely develop speed.


Traces or evidence of movement left in the outdoors, typically on the ground, whether by animal, human, or machine. In the context of Hillerman's novels, a track can refer to temporary marks and clues, as well as to an existing path that runs through the natural environment. Such a path can be a narrow one that is used by animals, especially herds of deer, sheep, or cattle, or it can be a wider, unpaved road that has formed as a result of vehicles passing through the same route over the course of many years. In the rural parts of the U.S. Southwestern regions, such country tracks are fairly common.

Track can also mean to look for or follow the physical evidence of an occurrence, whether the movement of an animal or the clues left behind as a result of criminal activity.

Achilles tendon

The Achilles is a long, thick band of tissue connecting the heel of the foot with the calf muscles. Located at the back of the ankle, right above the heel, this tendon is quite visible and easy to locate.

The name of the tendon originates in a famous Greek myth. When Achilles, a brave war hero, was in infant, his mother dipped his body in the River Styx, which was known to give people invincible power. But because she held him by the heel, this part of his body was a weak spot, and eventually he was killed when an arrow hit him right in the heel. This myth is also the source of the proverbial phrase “Achilles heel,” although the proverb tends to refer to a significant weakness in a person’s character, rather than to an actual physical limitation.

Tucson, Arizona

A large city located in the Sonoran desert of Southern Arizona, very close to the U.S.-Mexico border. The area on which the city is now built has been populated for many centuries by indigenous peoples, namely the Tohono O’odham and the Pima. With the arrival of the Spanish conquistadores in the late 1600s, a mission was built near the Santa Cruz River, and a settlement developed around it. The town grew as a center for commerce, and later on, in the late 1700s, as a strategic military fort in the battles between Spain and Mexico. With the American purchase of the Arizona territory in 1854, Tucson saw a significant growth, especially after the arrival of the railroad in 1880. The state of Arizona, however, was not officially annexed until 1912, and by then the city was well-established as a bilingual (Spanish and English), multicultural hub, serving its vast surrounding areas of small, rural communities. Tucson is home to a few general and specialized hospitals, a large airforce base, and the University of Arizona, which was founded in 1885 and remains a major center of cultural development and economic growth.

Oso Ridge, New Mexico

Part of the Zuni Mountain Range, Oso Ridge is located on the northeastern boundary of the Ramah Navajo Indian Reservation in Western New Mexico, about 30 miles southeast of Grants, and about half way between the El Malpais and El Morro National Monuments.


A stick, rod, or baton, sometime imbued with symbolic significance. Can be used as a weapon for striking or even throwing.

Wand can also refer to any long, slender object, such as radio antennae, pointers, and even lacrosse sticks and metal detectors.


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