Phoenix Author Wins Prestigious Tony Hillerman Prize

Congratulations are in order to Phoenix author Christina Estes. Unfortunately, we’ll all have to wait until 2023 to read her debut novel, but you should expect her to appear and sign books at The Poisoned Pen. Here’s the news release about her book and the Tony Hillerman Prize.


10/9/21 ““ Minotaur Books announced that Christina Estes’ novel Off the Air has won the 2020 Tony Hillerman Prize for a best first mystery novel. Minotaur Books is planning to publish Estes’ debut in 2023.

Estes is an Emmy award-winning reporter who lives in Phoenix, and is also a founding member of Sisters in Crime Grand Canyon Writers. Off the Air is the story of a local TV news reporter who gets the scoop of a lifetime while investigating the murder of a popular radio talk show host. But the killer is determined to keep her silent.

Joseph Brosnan, who oversees the Hillerman Prize program for Minotaur, said, “We’re so excited to publish Off the Air. Christina’s novel was a treat to read, and both Hillerman and mystery fans are going to love it.”

The Hillerman Prize is awarded annually to the best debut crime fiction set in the Southwest. Previous winners include Samantha Jayne Allen’s Pay Dirt Road, Carol Potenza’s Hearts of the Missing, John Fortunato’s Dark Reservations, CB McKenzie’s Bad Country (nominated for the Edgar Award for best first mystery novel), Andrew Hunt’s City of Saints; Tricia Fields’ The Territory; Roy Chaney’s The Ragged End of Nowhere;and Christine Barber’s The Replacement Child

Tony Hillerman’s Joe Leaphorn/Jim Chee mysteries, set on the Navajo reservation, were the first “regional” mysteries to become national bestsellers. Hillerman’s work has been praised by reviewers and the Navajo Nation for its ability to combine Navajo traditions and beliefs with a well-told mystery story. Hillerman’s writing reflects his appreciation for the natural wonders and stark beauty of the American Southwest and its people, particularly the Navajo.  His books have been translated into many languages and frequently make the New York Times bestseller list. At age 83, Hillerman passed away on October 26, 2008.

In 2013, Leaphorn and Chee returned in Spider Woman’s Daughter by Anne Hillerman, Tony Hillerman’s daughter, who has now added six books to the popular series. In 2004, she launched the first Tony Hillerman Writers Conference. The awarding of the Hillerman Prize became a feature of the conference, before becoming a part of the annual Western Writers of America conference in 2017.

Minotaur Books is an imprint of St. Martin’s Press, which is a subsidiary of Macmillan.

Check the Web Store for books by the previous winners of the Tony Hillerman Prize.

And, join the virtual event Thursday, October 14 at 7 PM PT when James McGrath Morris discusses his new biography Tony HIllerman: A Life.