Bob’s Books- Shelfie #9 (Hillerman, Monk)

Bob’s Books- Shelfie #9 (Hillerman, Monk)

It’s installment number eight in Bob’s Books Shelfie series. Links to the prior shelfie posts can be found at the end of this one. If you’re new to this column, I posted shelfies of over a thousand of my books, in the r/bookshelf subreddit. The mods got too annoying for me, and I quit the group. Today it’s Tony Hillerman, and Adrian Monk.


I am a huge Hillerman fan, having gone through his Navajo Tribal police series (reading and audiobooks) easily a half dozen times. And his The Fly on the Wall is in my Top Five Novels. His books are terrific police procedurals, drenched in Native American Culture (primarily Navajo, but there’s more).

After he died, the series was continued by his daughter, but they’ve gone from bad to terrible and I quit reading them. Even with her father’s last name, she’s less qualified to write them than I am.

Season one of AMC’s Dark Winds streamed the summer of 2022, based on his series. Very good show – not good Hillerman. I wrote 5,000 words about Hillerman and the series over at Black Gate. I have not yet seen season two.

Hillerman was a Mystery Writers of America Grandmaster and a TERRIFIC writer. His memoir, Seldom Disappointed, is a great read, and about far more than just his writing. He was wounded in WW II, and was a reporter, and university professor, for years. I can’t recommend Hillerman enough.

The link above includes links to a three-part series I wrote on Hillerman and his Leaphorn and Chee books. He was one of the best.

Fly on the Wall is a stand-alone. It’s a political/investigative reporter thriller, set in the seventies. ‘Old,’ but I like it. He drew heavily on his years as a reporter.

The Leaphorn/Chee books should be read in order. The characters grow, things happen. Except:

I would read the second book first: Dance Hall of the Dead. Then go back and read book one, The Blessing Way. Then read book three and the rest in order.

Hillerman originally intended Joe Leaphorn to be a supporting character. The first book centered on someone else. But as he wrote it, Leaphorn kept growing, and he realized that the Indian stuff was going to be the center. From book two on, the series is set in tone and style, about the Navajo Tribal Police.

The Blessing Way is still good to read, but probably the least of the first ten or so. I don’t think it hurts to read it second, and to start with a better book, more characteristic of the whole series.

Hillerman wrote eighteen in the Leaphorn/Chee series.

If you are really into Hillerman – or the American SW: check out Hillerman Country. Full color coffee-table size book, with photos by his brother Barney. Text by Tony, with some excerpts from the series. Great addition for any Hillerman fan. Beautiful scenery and pics.



I am a HUGE fan of Columbo, and it’s spiritual descendant, Monk.

Monk was the cornerstone that USA Network built on to become a major network beginning around 2002.

I have written about it a couple of times where I blog: including this one. It’s a great show, which I re-watch throughout the year (along with Psych).

But I am also a big fan of the Monk novels. From 2006 to 2013, Lee Goldberg wrote 16 of them, which accompanied the series. They started with Natalie Teeger as Monk’s assistant, but Sharona did make an appearance.

Lee has a long list of screenwriting credits on – much of it with his writing partner, William Rabkin. They did three episodes of this show, and you can look up the other things Lee has worked on.

He is also a NYT best-selling novelist, including a smash series co-written with Janet Evanovich. He’s also co-founder of a mystery book publishing company. The guy knows writing. And his Monk books are an absolute treat.

They are like reading bonus episodes. USA tried the same with Burn Notice (written by Lee’s brother Tod), and Psych (written by Rabkin). But abandoned both series’ after a few books.

Monk just kept going. I have all but one of his – I actually gave it to a Monk fan I met while vacationing at Disney World. I had just finished it and let him have it. I highly recommend these if you’re a fan of the show.

You don’t HAVE to read them in order, though near the end, it definitely helps. Lee had a lot going on, and he turned the series over to Hy Conrad for the final four books.

Conrad was a writer, staff writer, and story editor for the show, and he was a good pick. He knew Monk. I like Lee’s writing style better, but part of that is probably because I also read his other stuff too.

I like Conrad’s books, and it’s cool to have nineteen Monk novels to go with eight seasons and 125 episodes.

Behind those books are my John D. MacDonald overflow. John MacD is my favorite author in any genre; and I think, one of the greatest writers of the 20thCentury. So, I’ll get to him.

But if you like Monk, these are some fun reading for you.


Bob’s Books – Shelfie #1 (Sherlock Holmes #1)

Bob’s Books – Shelfie #2 (Sherlock Holmes #2)

Bob’s Books – Shelfie #3 (Constitutional Convention of 1787)

Bob’s Books – Shelfie #4 (Thieves World, Heroes in Hell)

Bob’s Books – Shelfie #5 (REH, Moorcock, Kurtz)

Bob’s Books – Shelfie #6 (Cook, LeGuin, Gygax, Hardy, Hendee, Flint, Smith, McKillip)

Bob’s Books – Shelfie #7 (Sherlock Holmes #3)

Bob’s Books – Shelfie #8 (McKiernan, Watt-Evans, Leiber, Bischoff, Rosenberg)

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Bob Byrne’s ‘A (Black) Gat in the Hand’ made its Black Gate debut in 2018 and has returned every summer since.

His ‘The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes’ column ran every Monday morning at Black Gate from March, 2014 through March, 2017. And he irregularly posts on Rex Stout’s gargantuan detective in ‘Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone.’ He is a member of the Praed Street Irregulars, founded (the only website dedicated to the ‘Sherlock Holmes of Praed Street’) and blogs about Holmes and other mystery matters at Almost Holmes.

He organized Black Gate’s award-nominated ‘Discovering Robert E. Howard’ series, as well as the award-winning ‘Hither Came Conan’ series. Which is now part of THE DEFINITIVE guide to Conan. He also organized 2023’s ‘Talking Tolkien.’

He has contributed stories to The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories – Parts III, IV, V, VI, XXI, and XXXIII.

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Chuck Timpko

Absolutely agree. Hillerman was a fantastic writer and hope he is still writing Navajo Police novels in heaven. Assuming I ever get there to read them. Thanks for the recommendation on the Monk novels. Always a bit dubious about novels based on a popular TV series as they tend to be very irregular in quality.

Steve A Oerkfitz

Dark Winds was okay but didn’t follow the characters very well. I liked the PBS Masterpiece mystery shows better.
Coluimbo started out okay but than became a haven for B list actors or ones that couldn’t find work anywhere else.

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