Dance Hall of the Dead (1973)

Dance Hall of the Dead (1973)


Similar to a capacious envelope, a billfold, sometimes referred to as a wallet, is usually made of leather or other pliable yet durable material and is designed to carry paper money and credit cards. Billfolds are usually small enough to be shoved in a back pocket of a pair of jeans.


A trademark name for a smooth, hard plastic top surface made of sheets of special paper laminated in synthetic resins. Formica was invented in 1912 in New Zealand and due to its durability, ease of cleaning, and heat-resistance, it quickly became a successful product that was in high demand all over the world, especially in the furniture industry.

Joe Leaphorn

Joe Leaphorn, a fictional character created by Tony Hillerman, a Navajo detective for the Navajo Tribal Police and is typically stationed in Window Rock, Arizona. Leaphorn’s last name is a reference to the ancient Minoan practice of bull jumping, about which Hillerman was reading as he wrote THE BLESSING WAY. At the time of his first appearance Hillerman’s 1970 Navajo detective novel THE BLESSING WAY, Leaphorn is already a veteran detective. Because Leaphorn was educated in a Bureau of Indian Affairs boarding school during high school and then completed a bachelors and master’s degree in anthropology at Arizona State University, his extended time off reservation leaves Leaphorn negotiating between traditional Navajo as well as white ways. Despite his lack of complete knowledge of Navajo rituals, Leaphorn is cognizant that Navajo beliefs are often important aspects of cases. In the early novels Leaphorn works alone; however, in later novels, he and, the much younger and more traditional Navajo policeman, Jim Chee, are tasked to be partners and solve cases together. Unlike Leaphorn, Chee is studying to be a Navajo singer, or hataali, and is much more sensitive to Navajo lifeways. Their very different temperaments often cause tension between the two, but together they are able to solve cases.

Leaphorn was first introduced as a supporting character in THE BLESSING WAY. He then becomes the main character for Hillerman’s Navajo mystery series with Hillerman's next two books in the series, DANCE HALL OF THE DEAD, published in 1973, and LISTENING WOMAN, published in 1978. In the mid-1970s, Hillerman sold the rights to Joe Leaphorn to a Los Angeles-based agency called Bob Banner Associates to produce a movie version of DANCE HALL OF THE DEAD and, possibly, a serial television program based on the life of Joe Leaphorn. Hillerman was unable to use Leaphorn as a character in subsequent novels, even though neither the film nor television options proposed by Banner Associates were ever realized, until Hillerman was able to buy back the rights to his character. Leaphorn returns to Hillerman’s writing in 1986 in the novel SKINWALKERS.

The People

In Navajo, Diné means "the People." Eminently adaptable, the Diné learn from their neighbors and have incorporated elements from Pueblo, Hispanic, and even Anglo cultures into their lifeways, developing a traditional way of life that is fluid and dynamic but also deeply affected by their respect for custom and tradition. This is intimately tied to their belief that the physical and spiritual worlds blend together and that everything on earth is alive and related. This is called hózhǫ́, the state in which all living things are ordered, in balance, and walking in beauty. The opposite of hózhǫ́ is hóchxǫ́ǫ́, which refers to disorder and chaos in one’s life.


In many traditional cultures, turquoise has been valued for its color, which evokes both the sky and water. Because of the significance of the sky, which facilitates the passage of the sun and the coming of rain, turquoise is often referred to as “the sky stone.” Turquoise is associated with life, health, fortune, and blessings. Turquoise can be found in medicine pouches, incorporated into Zuni fetishes, carved into beads, and set as larger stones in traditional Navajo and Pueblo silver work, although it wasn’t until the late 19th century that turquoise was associated with silver jewelry, when Atsidi Sani, a Navajo silversmith, began incorporating turquoise stones into the Spanish-style silversmithing he had learned as an apprentice. Silver and turquoise jewelry was popularized by the burgeoning tourist trade in the Southwest, and nearby Pueblo people, Hopi and Zuni, also began making turquoise jewelry.


In Navajo and Pueblo traditions, as well as many other Native American cultures, the underworld is thought of as the watery, dark realm of creation from which people emerged into the present world. The underworld represents the various levels of existence through which people journey before finally rising onto the surface of the Earth to exist in the world as we know it now. While the underworld is believed to be the place of human origin, it also represents the realm of spirits, gods, or the Holy People, and it is where the dead reside after passing away from this world..


The power to rule on legal issues within a certain geographic area. Different courts (for example municipal, district, or federal) will be assigned authority over particular areas or particular cases, depending on state and federal divisions and regulations.


A small group of spiritually devoted people, usually branching off a larger, well-established organized religion, with specific beliefs and practices that are significantly different from those of the original mother religion. Cults often form around a leader who stresses a particular deity, a sacred ritual, or a unique belief that becomes the focus of unorthodox worship. The word has a negative connotation, as cults are often associated with social deviance, fundamentalism, and forms of psychological manipulation and mind control.


Also known as hatałii in Navajo, singers, like medicine men, perform traditional ceremonial healing cures targeted at body, mind, and spirit, and call on the patient, his kin, the singer himself, and divine people to restore an individual's harmony with the world. Before a singer, or medicine man (they are seldom women), is called, a hand trembler (ndilniihii), often a woman, will diagnose the source of illness. Through prayer, concentration, and sprinkling of sacred pollen, her hand will tremble and pinpoint the cause, which then determines the proper ceremonial cure. Then a singer who knows the proper ceremony is called and preparations for the sing are set in motion.

There are nearly 100 Navajo sings, or chants, of varying range and intricacy. Originating from the Navajo Creation Story, they are so nuanced and complex that a singer learns only one or two sings over many years of apprenticeship. Sings last anywhere from one to nine days and include chants, songs, prayers, lectures, dances, sweat baths, prayer sticks, and sand paintings. In order for a sing to be effective, everything must be done as prescribed in the legends.

Federal Bureau of Investigation

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is the United States’ national security and law enforcement agency, which conducts intelligence-driven investigations of terrorism, counterintelligence, public corruption, fraud, and large scale theft, violent crime, cybercrime, and organized crime. The agency belongs to the Unites States Department of Justice, and its headquarters is located in Washington D.C. There are also local FBI offices in different states. For example, the New Mexico division of the FBI is located in Albuquerque, giving agents access to the area’s various Native American reservations, to which the FBI has access under the Major Crimes. The New Mexico division is frequently referenced in Hillerman's fiction, often as a cause for tension between Navajo police, local state police, and FBI agents all involved in the process of solving a crime.


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