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Seldom Disappointed: A Memoir Hardcover – October 2, 2001

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; 1st edition (October 2, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060194456
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060194451
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.4 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (72 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #766,024 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

"Don't look for a way to make money; find a way to make a living doing what you like to do anyway. Otherwise you're just raising ransom to buy your life back," said Barney Hillerman to his younger brother Tony, now in his 70s, a beloved mystery and nonfiction author (The Great Taos Bank Robbery; etc.). But Hillerman's nurturers were many, starting with his fearless mother, who as a teenager at the turn of the century established an Oklahoma homestead by herself. Even as death claimed her husband and WWII took Barney's life, Lucy Hillerman insisted that her youngest son follow his heart into soldiering. The author shares his humble beginnings in Potawatomie County, Okla., his parents' backgrounds and their strong Catholic faith, before devoting eight of 30 chapters to his military stint, which ended when he was 20. After recovering from a major injury, Hillerman, by a "fortuitous typo," was left off the homeward-bound list and thus set "on a collision course with two Navajo marines... and with the Enemy Way ceremonial their family was holding.... That put me in contact with the people I would love to write about." He details military people and places that he incorporated into his Navajo mysteries; a particularly predatory fellow from his training days, for example, became the bad guy in The People of Darkness. His wife, Marie, shuns personal attention, focusing instead on her husband and his work. They both take joy in their biological and adopted children. Hillerman is best with the many characteristically vivid descriptions of people, places and events. He deftly details his work and personal life, yet the man himself remains largely a mystery. Fans, however, will never be disappointed by this utterly delightful memoir. 16 pages b & w photos not seen by PW. (On sale Oct. 2)Forecast: Hillerman's fans will turn out en masse for this.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Winner of both Edgar and Grand Master awards and former president of Mystery Writers of America, Hillerman (Hunting Badger and many others) has written a memoir that is sure to become another best seller. He relates his childhood in Oklahoma during the Depression, his service in World War II, his university education, his career in journalism and academia, and his eventual turn to writing mysteries. The entire book will appeal to his fans, but the first half is intensely gripping. Enlisting in the army even though he was exempt, Hillerman became an infantryman and served during the Battle of the Bulge. He tells of his experiences in battle, including being severely wounded. Like so many of his generation, Hillerman returned home, married, and carried on with his life. He relates all of his experiences with honesty and humor. This memoir is sure to provide his fans with much to consider and should also introduce him to new readers. Highly recommended for all collections.
- Ron Ratliff, Kansas State Univ., Manhattan
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

More About the Author

Tony Hillerman was the former president of the Mystery Writers of America and received its Edgar® and Grand Master awards. His other honors include the Center for the American Indian's Ambassador Award, the Silver Spur Award for the best novel set in the West, and the Navajo Tribe's Special Friend Award. He lived with his wife in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Customer Reviews

I read it in two sittings.
A reader
I highly recommend this book to anyone who has read Tony Hillerman's books, or to one who enjoys learning about an author and may find his books now of interest.
Very enjoyable autobiography that fills in the blanks of the Chee/Leaphorn mysteries and generally interesting because of the varied life the author lived.
Steven R. Urquhart

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

75 of 75 people found the following review helpful By Ron Hunka on January 7, 2002
Format: Hardcover
"Seldom Disappointed"
Tony Hillerman
ISBN 0-06-019445-6
I am one of those readers Tony Hillerman writes about in this memoir who does not like mysteries but reads his books. Like those folks, the Navajo cultural stuff is what interests me. Well, maybe there is something more than that. It is Tony Hillerman's remarkable ability to tell a story.
Hillerman grew up in Oklahoma, the son of poor parents for whom he had much respect. The title of his memoir comes from something his mother used to say, that one who did not expect too much from life was seldom disappointed. This was an outlook not uncommon to Hillerman's generation. Also, like many young men of his generation, he went off to the war in Europe.
As a combat infantryman, Hillerman won the silver star, the bronze star, and got blown-up by a mine. Yet there is little bitterness in him about the war. This is one of the few memoirs relating to WWII in which a former soldier describes the opposing German soldiers as "other teenagers". The casual manner in which Hillerman writes about his war experiences and later about his literary success seems to reflect a stoic outlook about "that short run toward the Last Great Adventure".
After the war, a couple of years studying journalism at the University of Oklahoma led to work as a reporter in Texas, Oklahoma, and eventually New Mexico. Fifteen years of newspaper work and being editor of the Albuquerque paper led to some connections with the University of New Mexico and its journalism department. Hillerman taught there for about fifteen years until he lost his enthusiasm for teaching and wanted to write.
Hillerman learned the Navajo culture from Navaho acquaintances who sensed his sincere interest.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Dean Kauffman on January 2, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Completely fascinating and thought provoking. Full of so many surprises and unexpected pleasures. I thought his portrayal of growing up in depression Oklahoma a revelation and a window to a time those of us who grew up later can hardly imagine. His infantryman's view of WWII must be read by anyone with any delusions of the "glories" of war. His immersion into the world of journalism and politics at the city, state and university level enlightens. And the joys of family life that have sustained him will sustain all. His whole attitude toward life and all the cards that he has been dealt is an example for us all. I have been a fan of his books and have regularly given or loaned my copies. Having studied anthropology in the distant past, I've found his portrayals of the modern day Navaho and surrounding groups to be better than any ethnography I have ever read - plus his mysteries are so well done, using the cultural complexities to further the plot. The only part I skipped was at the very end where he discusses each book - and only because I think I want to go back and reread them - in order. Tony Hillerman fills a need we didn't know we had until he came along and this book does the same. Thanks a lot!
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 28, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Tony Hillerman tells a touching story of a great writer from Brokaw's "greatest generation" and his rise to literary success and acclaim. His views of small town Oklahoma during the depression are sensitive and yet lively. His recounting of the struggles of a foot soldier in World War II are moving, especially to a fellow veteran of a different era. The true story is a window into the soul of a man who could create Jim Chee, and more importantly, Joe Leaphorn.
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29 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Kent Braithwaite on October 4, 2001
Format: Hardcover
As an Anglo author who writes a mystery series starring a Latino private eye, I have always felt a strong kinship with Tony Hillerman, an Anglo author who writes mysteries starring Navajo tribal police officers. I found this autobiography a fascinating read. SELDOM DISAPPOINTED was never disappointing. From the days of his youth growing up in Oklahoma to his days of success here and now, Tony Hillerman tells a great tale. It is the greatest story he's ever told. His memories of his mother are particularly touching, as is his affectionate comments about his wife and children. Then, of course, there is his professional career. Read SELDOM DISAPPOINTED as soon as you can. You won't be disappointed.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Philip A. True on June 11, 2004
Format: Paperback
I've enjoyed reading many of Tony Hillerman's mysteries which are more about understanding bits of pieces of Native American culture in the high mountain country of New Mexico and the interactions of individuals, a nice contrast to the fast-paced, urban-setting mysteries rife with sex, violence, and foul-mouthed bad guys of many mystery authors. His memoir will delight his many fans because the picture it paints is one of an unassuming person who grew up in the poverty of the Great Depression, did more than his share as an infantry grunt in WWII, and relates his post-war life with his beloved wife, Marie, with warmth and modesty.
The book is plain and simply written and Hillerman's self-effacing demeanor sets it apart from the memoirs of other authors and artists who see the world only through the prism of their own egos. Hillerman does not reflect deeply on What It All Means, but merely relates in matter-of-fact fashion a journey through life.
His infantry tour describing the conditions in the bitter winter of 1944-45 concludes that Army Intelligence was seldom correct, the West Pointers directing the war were often but dimly aware of what was really needed, e.g., winter garb for what turned out to be the snowiest winter in Western Europe in 40 years, and that confusion and ignorance were constant companions. His "grunt" experiences are comparable to those described in more detail, and with much more reflection, by Raymond Gantler in his fine book,"Roll Me Over" written soon after WWII, of similar situations and experiences.
Hillerman's post-war experiences of university life, journalism, and, finally, his quest to be a novelist make up the final third of the memoir.
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