Tony Hillerman, author of the acclaimed Navajo Tribal Police mystery novels and creator of two of the unlikeliest of literary heroes - Navajo police officers Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee - died Sunday of pulmonary failure. He was 83.
Mr. Hillerman's daughter, Anne Hillerman, said her father's health had been declining in the past couple of years. He died at Presbyterian Hospital in Albuquerque, she said.
Mr. Hillerman, whose mystery novels are set in the Four Corners area of New Mexico and Arizona, lived through two heart attacks and surgeries for prostate and bladder cancer. He kept tapping at his keyboard even as his eyes dimmed, his hearing faded and rheumatoid arthritis turned his hands into claws.
He said in 2002 that he was getting old, "but I still like to write."
He was born in Sacred Heart, Okla., and was a decorated World War II combat veteran.