is in their makeup rather than somenview imposed upon them from outside.nBRIEF MENTIONSnThe Spanish tale begins with threenstaccatos; “We took our seats at thenTALKING MYSTERIES: A CONVERSATION WITHnTONY HILLERMANnby Tony Hillerman and Ernie BulownAlbuquerque: The University of New Mexico Press; 135 pp., $16.95nIn early summer of 1989, I telephoned Tony Hillerman in Albuquerque, NewnMexico, from a flophouse in Gallup and was slightly surprised when the celebratednmystery-novel writer answered the call himself “Hillerman here,” he said in a grufflynamiable and completely unselfconscious voice. I explained that I had been traveling onnthe Navajo Reservation and planned a swing through Albuquerque; would it benpossible, I inquired, to drop by and chat with him about the Navajo people and theirnculture? Mr. Hillerman replied that he would be delighted to meet with me on mynnext trip to the Southwest in November, but that until then he was busy fulfilling anthree-book contract he had signed with his publisher. Even so, he doubted that hencould be of much help to me; he actually knew very little about the Navajos, henexplained modestly, of whom he received most of his information from Ernie Bulownin Gallup. As I already had Mr. Bulow’s address from Clarke Abbey, widow ofnEdward, I decided to follow this lead and was rewarded with good conversation onnliterary and ethnological subjects, not to mention a retrospectively interesting, thoughnimmediately nerve-racking, experience in a Navajo bar on the wrong side of the SantanFe tracks in Gallup. In the course of the evening, Ernie mentioned that he wasnworking on a publishing project with Hillerman and showed me drawings by thenNavajo artist Ernest Franklin that he hoped to incorporate with the text. He was havingndifficulty bringing it all together, it seemed, and could not tell me when the proposednvolume was likely to see print.nTwo and a half years later the book exists, the product of the University of NewnMexico Press rather than of Ernie’s big book-strewn bungalow high on a hillnovedooking the town of Gallup. It consists of an introduction by Ernie Bulow; annautobiographical essay by Tony Hillerman; a tape-recorded conversation betweennBulow and Hillerman; a short story written by Hillerman at the request of the editorsnof Playboy, who subsequently rejected it; and a dozen drawings by Ernest Franklinndepicting scenes from the Chee-Leaphorn novels, which Hillerman credits withnhaving shown him what his own characters look like.nWhile Tony Hillerman may not know as much about the Navajo Indians asnErnie Bulow, who spent four years as a teacher with the Bureau of Indian Affairs atnFort Wingate, New Mexico, seems to think he ought, it is plain that Hillerman’snfamiliarity with the culture is far more extensive than he is in the habit of claiming.nApart from a gift for storytelling, his chief asset as a novelist is his completenhonesty, his refusal to fake; and it is this quality that comes through loud and clearnin his discussion of his work habits, his preparation of a book, and his aims innwriting one. Although the conversation with Bulow is the centerpiece of TalkingnMysteries, the story “The Witch, Yazzie, and the Nine of Clubs” is interestingnwork in spite of its author’s self-deprecatory remark that the short story form is notnhis forte. “Witch” is a tour de force whose central action occurs within the skull ofnthe Navajo policeman Jim Ghee while he attends a Blessing Way ceremony on thenBig Reservation in Arizona, though it probably seemed to the Playboy editor thatnthere was no central action at all. In the story, Chee’s observation of a trickster’sncasual use of “illusion and distraction” leads him to identify the hitherto unsuspectngentleman as the culprit in a murder cleverly perpetrated by the same devices. AndnHillerman’s charming and completely ingratiating autobiographical sketch is ofninterest too: I had known that he is a former newspaperman in Albuquerque, butnnot that he is a war hero, critically wounded in action during World War II.nIn short. Talking Mysteries almost makes up for the session I never did spendnwith Tony Hillerman; one of those rare writers who is obviously as decent andnlovely a man as he is a gifted one, and who well deserves his present celebrity andnsuccess.n— Chilton Williamson, ]r.n40/CHRONICLESnnntable. There were seven of us. It wasnone of those taverns in Madrid.” Fromnthere we see and hear the men, eachnlistening only to himself, trying tonorder fish for dinner. Ludicrous? Ofncourse it is. But nonetheless diverting.nPritchett’s descriptions often act asngrace notes in the stories. For example,nin “The Chestnut Tree” the narratornrecalls his boyhood job at a leathernmerchant’s firm, where the daily arrivalnof the two lady bookkeepers was anneye-opening experience. The elder ofnthe ladies looked “like a swan andnthought so herself”: “She was curvingnand sedate. With the sleepy smile ofnone lying on a feather bed in Paradise,nwith tiny gray eyes behind the pinceneznwhich sat on her nose, with thenswell of long low breasts balanced bynthe swell of her dawdling rump, shenmoved swan-like to her desk. But notnlike a swan in the water; like a swan onnland. She waddled. Her feet werenplanted obliquely. One would havensaid that they were webbed.” Inn”Things as They Are,” a bitter tale ofntwo working women on their day off,ngetting crocked in a public house beforennoon and lamenting, first, the fleasnthat had robbed one of sleep the nightnbefore and then the loves that both hadnlost but could no longer clearly recall,nPritchett sets the tone with this description:n”Margaret’s square mouth bucklednafter her next drink and her eyesnseemed to be clambering frantically,nlike a pair of blatant prisoners behindnher heavy glasses. Envy, wrong, accusation,nwere her life. Her black hairnlooked as though it had once belongednto an employer.”nThe very best of the stories tend tonbe the longest — for example, “BlindnLove,” “When My Girl ComesnHome,” “The Necklace,” “ThenSpree,” “Tea with Mrs. Bittell,” andnthree related tales narrated by a youngnbaker, mainly concerned with thenpuckish behavior of a racing car drivernnamed Noisy Brackett and his well-todonwife, who spends her days trying tonkeep Noisy on a marital leash. But thatnis to name only a few of the best. If younhave room for only one more book ofnfiction on your shelf, this is the one tonget.nWilliam H. Nolte is an emeritusnprofessor of English at the Universitynof South Carolina.n