The Ghostway (1984)

The Ghostway (1984)

Correspondence regarding The Ghostway, 1984-85

This folder contains 11 pieces of business correspondence about The Ghostway, including a congratulatory telegram from Harper & Row upon the publication of the work, and a schedule of Tony Hillerman's promotional tour book signing engagements.

Due to privacy and permissions concerns, correspondence from the Tony Hillerman Collection is not available online. Researchers may view this material in person by visiting the Center for Southwest Research at the University of New Mexico.


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.


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.

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.

New Mexico State Police

A division within New Mexico's Department of Public Safety, the New Mexico State Police Force maintains 12 district stations in the state. The department began as a motor patrol in 1933 to address the need for law enforcement with statewide jurisdiction. The State Police recruits and trains cadets at the law enforcement academy in Santa Fe, emphasizing core values of respect, excellence, service, pride, ethics, courtesy and teamwork.

As a state-wide agency, the New Mexico State Police have jurisdiction over both interstate and state highways, demanding close collaboration with other agencies around the state, whose jurisdictions overlap these travel systems. Such agencies include tribal and sovereign police forces, as well as municipal agencies associated with towns and cities.

Turkey Clan

In Native American social structures, a clan is an interrelated social group whose connections derive from parentage as well as kinship. Clan configurations develop and are expressed uniquely in different indigenous groups, and each tribe is comprised of numerous various clans. Clan names often originate in the natural environment of the tribe’s homeland, and refer to place names, fauna and flora, or significant natural phenomena.

The Turkey Clan is probably named after the bird that is commonly found across Southwestern parts of the U.S. The Navajo, Hopi, Zuni and other pueblo peoples all have a clan by that name as part of their greater system of familial and kinship structures.


A daily phenomenon that has special resonance in the Four Corners area of Southwestern U.S.. Although sunsets, occurring as they do all over the world every evening, are a common occurrence, because of the Southwest region's general latitude (roughly between 25 and 40 degrees North) and generally clear atmospheric conditions, skywatching, especially sunsets, is a regional practice. Deep purple to black silhouettes of striking cactus and geologic formations contrast with the ephemeral and splendid bursts of rich roses, oranges, and cerruleans that sweep and deepen from the western horizon to the observer's vantage point.

cirrus clouds

Cirrus clouds form high in the atmosphere and are blown into their characteristic wispy streamers by high winds aloft. Cirrus clouds signal a change in the weather in the near future, as they are a sign of moisture in the air and of atmospheric disturbance.


A tracker is an individual who is skilled in following prints and traces left on the ground by animals or a humans. In many Native American and other indigenous cultures, tracking is learned by hunters, gatherers, or warriors starting at a very early age. Trackers learn to identify animal paw and hoof prints, scat, fur, and feathers, as well as traces of movement on the path. Similarly, they may also be skilled in reading human traces such as footprints, tracks left by tools or vehicles, and signs of stopping, turning, and shifting weight. In Hillerman's novels, Jim Chee, a Navajo policeman, appears to possess exceptional tracking expertise that enables him to interpret clues left at crime scenes, follow suspects, and solve mysteries.

Native American trackers have been recruited by European settlers in the Americas since first contact. More recently, they have been employed by military and law enforcement agencies in operations that require their unique skills.


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