The challenge in writing a daily blog is to stay balanced: to choose topics close to centers of interest my readers recognize, while providing enough novelty to prevent them from becoming bored.
All writers face this delicate balance. Harry Potter put J. K. Rowling on the map. But when she finished the series and tried a new venue, she met with resistance. Her audience has fallen in love with her fantasy characters and wanted more. She responded with, Magical Beasts, a series which required her to add screen writing to her repertoire. Something old. Something new.
Anne Hillerman must have faced a similar challenge when she picked up the Navajo mystery series from her father, Tony Hillerman. No doubt, she moved cautiously before tinkering with his formula. Detectives Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee had a huge fan base.
Anne Hillerman’s solution was simple and effective. Take a minor character and expand her role. By allowing Detective Bernadette Manuelito to flower, Hillerman’s daughter could inject the stories with the insights of a detective who was also a wife and the oldest child of an aging mother.
The expansion worked and I’m confident Tony Hillerman would approve.
The Tale Teller, just out, is the fourth in Anne Hillerman’s series, and this time, she returns the stage to Joe Leaphorn, Tony Hillerman’s original detective in the Navajo mysteries. Now that Maneulito is an established character, perhaps the author felt confident she could tackle that charismatic detective whose brooding manner and eye for details have made him a legend among mystery fans. I’m glad she did. I’ve missed him.
Anne Hillerman is to be congratulated for managing to preserve the spirit of her father’s work while injecting it with a fresh mix of characters. They change the human landscape for the better in that timeless world. Without question, the moment has come to declare the series hers.