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The Fly on the Wall Mass Market Paperback – April 1, 1990


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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Fascinating...breathless suspense.” (Minneapolis Tribune)

“Tony Hillerman’s novels are like no others.” (San Diego Union-Tribune)

“[Hillerman] is a master at his game.” (Chattanooga Times)

About the Author

Tony Hillerman (1925–2008), an Albuquerque, New Mexico, resident since 1963, was the author of 29 books, including the popular 18-book mystery series featuring Navajo police officers Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn, two non-series novels, two children’s books, and nonfiction works. He had received every major honor for mystery fiction; awards ranging from the Navajo Tribal Council's commendation to France 's esteemed Grand prix de litterature policiere. Western Writers of America honored him with the Wister Award for Lifetime achievement in 2008. He served as president of the prestigious Mystery Writers of America, and was honored with that group’s Edgar Award and as one of mystery fiction’s Grand Masters. In 2001, his memoir, Seldom Disappointed, won both the Anthony and Agatha Awards for best nonfiction.

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: HarTorch; Reissue edition (April 1, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061000280
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061000287
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 4.2 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,085,425 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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

Please read this volume with its time in mind.
B. Campbell
Well, no. it wasn't so much that the book was unoriginal or boring, it was that the book was a drudge to get through for some reason.
N. Wallach
In this novel by Mr. Hillerman, the well developed story puts the reader in a position as strong observer.
J'oAn B-B

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 5, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
One of Hillerman's few stories that doesn't take place on the Navajo Reservation. Here, newspaper reporter John Cotton stumbles onto a story of government corruption that has already led to the death of a friend and fellow reporter. It was kind of difficult to figure out where his investigation was going in the first half of the book. Things did start to make sense in the second half. Also, drama started to go up a bit. More should have been done to flesh out Cotton and other characters. You mainly see him as a reporter, not a human being. It also would have been nice if the city and state where the story took place was named. Still, all in all, it was an okay book.
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17 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Susan R. Cakars on October 26, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This story is set in an unnamed Midwestern city. John Cotton is a reporter at the state's capitol. One of his colleagues tells him he is working on a really big story. Shortly after this the colleague falls several stories and dies. This starts Cotton investigating the same leads. Then another one of his friends is killed while driving Cotton's car.
I found this to be a very slow book. The characters were not well developed. Cotton's attraction to Jane seems to come out of the blue. Also, I had difficulties following the leads in the beginning. They were very technical.
The political intrigue did not get interesting until about 1/2 to 2/3 way through the book. One issue covered in the book is how much political corruption, stealing of public funds, etc. is allowable if it serves the purpose of getting or keeping the "better" politician in office.
Tony Hillerman's books set on the Navajo reservation are better. The characters are much more well developed in those books.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By John C. Legg on September 1, 2011
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is the second time in about 20 years that I have read The Fly on the Wall, published in hardcover 1st edition in 1971 by Harper and Row, copyright by Tony Hillerman. I enjoyed the book much better the second time around; I learned from the first reading not to sweat the numerous, often-times boring details of the scam.

John Cotton writes a political column for the Tribune. A rival reporter, just before he takes a violent tumble to his death from the balcony of the capitol rotunda, tells John that he is on to something big/exciting. Shortly before the rival reporter's death, a man in a blue suit hurriedly comes looking for the reporter's notebook which contains all the reporter's notes on current/future stories he is/will be working on. John Cotton finds the missing notebook,launches his own investigation that leads to the disclosure of policical corruption high up in state government, and comes very close, several times, to having his life violently snubbed out before the situation resolves itself in a most satisfying way.

Although the book is jam-packed with minute details on how a state goverment is scammed by an unscrupulous road construction firm, just remember that understanding every detail about the scam is not that important. There is a section in the book about a poker game in progress. I'm not a poker player; I've never bothered to learn the rules of the game, but I knew enough to know that I didn't have to understand every detail about every hand to get the gist of what was going on (but it might have added to my reading pleasure if I had!). What is important about The Fly on the Wall is that the state is being scammed, and the challenge is to try to determine who is behind the scam and why.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful By C. T. Mikesell on September 24, 2004
Format: Turtleback
Tony Hillerman's The Fly on the Wall has not aged particularly well. Written in 1971, early in his career, the book has been bypassed by technological advances as well as Hillerman's success with the Leaphorn/Chee series. Knowing that no future tales of John Cotton, newspaperman, have been written made getting into the book a little more difficult than I expected.

The characters and setting don't fit well with what one has come to think of as a "Tony Hillerman" book - that combination of Native Americans, their folklore, and the Southwest. To a man (and a woman), the characters are all extremely liberal in their political viewpoint. If you're convinced there's a liberal bias in the mainstream press, this novel will do nothing to disabuse you of that notion. Even if you do subscribe to the dominant point of view, you may be disappointed by some of the things liberalism's used to excuse in the final chapter. Perhaps the book's greatest weakness is the lack of alternate viewpoints explored: there are no real Republican characters either as foils or villains and this makes for some uninspired conflict and ultimately an unsatisfying resolution.

Part way through the book I found myself wishing Cotton would get himself out of a jam by making a cellphone call, or fax or e-mail his stories in to his editor, then I remembered - 1971! None of those things existed. Teletype machines and direct-dial long distance were the high tech of the day; even though photocopiers existed, Cotton still uses carbon paper throughout the story to make duplicates of his stories written on a manual typewriter. If you're nostalgic for these things, then you'll probably get more out of the story than I did.
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