A Touch of Magic

I consider my weekly blog to be a window on my world, and that’s true this week as well.

I’m always a bit taken aback when people ask me if I’m still walking or still writing. I suppose the first is actually an inquiry after the state of may health. The second question is less a question about what I’m doing as it is an indication that the person asking the question has probably stopped reading or has decided that at my advanced age I probably should have hung up my keyboard years ago. In both cases I usually answer yes and then simply keep on keeping on.

I’ll address the first question first. Yes, I’m still walking. Sometime over the weekend I crossed the 16 million-step mark. According to the app that means I’ve walked 0.3 around the world. That’s probably seven years or so of walking, and I’m sure as hell not making the grade in Jules Verne’s 80 days. But yes, I’m still walking, and I’m also still writing, but more on that later.

What I’ve done this past week while waiting to hear back from my editors in New York is walk and read. In the reading department I’m both happy and astonished to report that, in the process of doing so, I read one hell of a good book. How many times have you read a book and ended up with waves of gooseflesh on your legs as you finished reading the last page? Well, that’s what happened to me when I finished reading Hour of the Hunter.

You’re probably thinking, wait a minute, is she nuts? Isn’t she the one who wrote that book? And if she wrote it, how could it give her goosebumps? Well, that’s my point exactly. It was that good!

In the past few months I’ve heard from two Native American elders, one a Pima from Salt River and one from the Lakota tribe urging me to write another Walker book. The Pima, who doesn’t use the Internet, asked his daughter to write to me and ask how I learned all those Tohono O’odham words. (Some of them I picked up during my years on the reservation. Others came from studying a well-thumbed copy of Dean Saxton’s Tohono O’odham/ Pima to English Dictionary.) The Lakota is someone who spent the last twenty years of his life working with urban Native American youth and trying to point them back to their heritage and onto the right path. He told one of my friends, “She needs to write another one of those books. There aren’t enough Indian heroes in books.”

So that was the tiny idea wrote about in last week’s blog. Could I write another Walker Family book? After all it’s almost 50 years since I left the reservation. And so, since Hour of the Hunter was written almost thirty years ago now, I decided it was time to take another look. And I was enthralled. For one thing it was a trip back to the reservation as my first husband and I knew it back in the late sixties and early seventies. And yes, it turns out I did know a lot of Tohono O’odham words, more than I would have thought possible.

Told through multiple points of view with an elastic-band time line, it is absolutely a thriller, with an evil serial killer stalking a young widow and her son. What struck me as I read was how I captured the Tohono O’odham themselves—their stolid endurance in the face of adversity their gentle humor, their kindness and generosity to others. But I also feel I did justice to their culture—to their sacred myths and legends which are sprinkled throughout the book.

On the reservation most people had a mil-ghan (Anglo) religious orientation—Catholic, Presbyterian, Methodist. (One of the characters in the book, Fat Crack Ortiz, is actually a Christian Scientist!) But underneath that thin veneer of Christianity I discovered a bedrock of traditional beliefs—including the parent who called the principal to warn me that it was past the middle of March and that telling a winter-telling tale when the snakes or lizards were out might put me in danger. (Once I received tha warning, by the way, I’ve been careful to abide by it, telling those stories only between the middle of November an the middle of March.)

In the book, a blind medicine man named Looks At Nothing, is the embodiment of those traditional beliefs, and one of my favorite lines in the book, comes when Looks At Nothing tells Fat Crack, “I have lost my sight. I have not lost my vision.”

If you decide to read HOTH for the first time, or if you decide to reread it, please be aware that the book is published in exactly the same way it was written—from beginning to end. When I didn’t know where to go with one strand of story, I’d switch to another point of view or another point in time, or maybe drop in a legend for good measure. And yet it all works. Writing that book was magic–more like French-braiding a story than writing one.

What am I going to read next? I guess I’d better head back to Kiss of the Bees and see if the magic worked there, too.

Happy Reading.

45 thoughts on “A Touch of Magic

  1. I too had goosebumps from “Hunter”
    I too appreciated your handling of life on the reservation
    The book reads today as if it were published this year, not 30 years ago
    You are a great storyteller
    Thank you for the many hours of reading pleasure
    On my end table is “Credible Threat” which I am re-reading

  2. Yes, I’ve read all of the Walker Family series, and would be delighted to read another one. So THAT was your tiny idea! Good!

  3. That is the one series I just can’t get into, but I read all the other ones. You are about the only author around my age that is still writing, so keep up the good work! I guess that happens after 50 years.

  4. Please write more Walker books — of all your series, that is my favorite. When I tell people about the Indian traditions (winter-telling tales, why animals look the way they do, etc) they ask where I heard those stories. Simple answer is JA Jance’s Walker series!

  5. Thanks! Haven’t read these yet so looking forward to another journey with you.

  6. Looking forward to more Walker books, especially since they are so authentic.

  7. The Walker family introduced me to your writings in, oh who knows, it was a long time ago. I loved all three books and with there had been a dozen more. Thank you for taking me into the lives of my neighbors.

  8. Yes, more Walker stories. I always felt that you ended the series too soon but I’m a greedy reader.
    Maybe a crossover with Brady?

  9. I love your blogs! I read HOTH when it first came out, as I have done with most of your books, and am thrilled you will be writing more Walker stories!

  10. I tell all my friends who are new to your books that the Walker Family series should be the ones they start with. Such insight into the native culture.

  11. I am glad you are writing another Walker book. I loved them. Great works of literature and a great read. Thanks!

  12. Although I will read and enjoy anything you write, the Walker books are my favorites, so this idea of yours makes me very happy!

    It also reminded me of yet another project that I let drop during the busy work season. Kiss of the Bees is the only one of the Walkers I don’t currently own, so I’m off in search of a copy. And by my calculations, having missed 3 months of buying 3 paperbacks to fill in the gaps in my Jance collection, I am entitled to buy 9 at once. Oh, bliss! Now where’s that list I was working from?

    I have a regional culture question for everyone: Having lived on both East and West coasts, I find the West coast people more in tune with Native People’s culture and issues. But I also moved west at a point in time when land acknowledgements were becoming popular everywhere, so maybe this perception is just a reflection of the times and the timing of my relocation? It’d be nice if what I’m seeing is a shift in the US culture as a whole, but I suspect it’s yet another regional divide.

    • Here on the east coast in the Low Country (Charleston, SC, being the main part of the coastal area so designated because for 5 miles inland from the shores of the Atlantic Ocean the elevation is at sea level), the area has many Indian names (Socastee, Santee, Elloree, to name a few). The Gullah, who date back to the hay day of rice and indigo production, are also here and do much to promote their traditions and crafts to keep their heritage alive. I don’t think these indigenous peoples get near the attention as those out West, but their heritage is widespread, and very interesting.

  13. I read Hour of the Hunter several years ago and still have to suppress a tiny shudder when we drive past Picacho Peak. I remember telling my husband that you could rival Dean Koontz (one of my favorites) in creating scary villains.

    • I’ve never read Dean Koontz, but I do remember telling JAJ that I HATED that guy in Hour of the Hunter, at the same time realizing that there really ARE people who are that evil.

  14. I love all your books, but I really loved the walker family books they really caught my interest! I hope you do write a new one, good luck with that .I will be looking forward to it!

  15. I’ve been doing some rereading of your Beaumont books but haven’t gotten too far in them. Seem to get sidetracked with other things. But, I’m going to go get the next one right now.

  16. I loved HOTH and will definitely pull it out to reread! You’ve provided so many wonderful hours of engagement and entertainment. It’s hard to decide which characters to revisit. When I do, however, I discover so many thing about the characters that I’ve missed before! I look forward to rereading HOTH. I hope JP doesn’t mind, he’s a close friend now!

  17. I resisted reading it at first because it wasn’t about Beau. Then I tried it and found it fascinating. Please do consider an encore.

  18. I love the Walker family series. My only complaint is that there aren’t more books in that series! Your writing has definitely fueled my love for Arizona.

  19. You keep writing ’em and I’ll keep reading ’em!
    Actually, in an effort to declutter, I have given away almost all of my novels, except for yours and Michael Connelly’s. I think I am inspired to start re-reading them all.

  20. Thanks for the dose of positivity in your exquisite manner. Chuck from Tacoma.

  21. Of all your books, my very favorite has always been “Hour of the Hunter”, for multiple reasons. My first husband was a Christian Scientist, the Native members of my family are Lakota from South Dakota, your family is Scandinavian as is mine, and we are very close in age. I worked near the reservation and subbed in a two-room school house on the reservation.
    I was beyond happy when “Kiss of the Bees ” was published. Have read the others now I can look forward to a new book.
    Thank you!!!!!

  22. I definitely vote for another Walker Family series book. Read them many years ago but will now go back and reread them so I’m ready for the next one. The native culture is very interesting to me. Have collected many of their art pieces and books as well as visited many of the pueblos and reservations including the Pima. I got started with Tony Hillerman and then found the Walker Family. Please keep writing and walking.

  23. I just ordered HOTH to be sent to a friend of mine- She’s very interested in the
    cultures of Indian tribes in the Southwest- She does not have much to spend, but she donates to a non-profit that helps those on the reservations with medical needs- Many people on the reservations do not have transportation to get to places that offer vaccines, and do not have access to good health care for non-COVID issues-
    When I wrote to you, Judy, last August, you mentioned the Walker novels to me-So I started with HOTH and did not rest until I had read all five! I do really hope and pray that the Publisher wakes up to the value of that series- Surely the fact that we fans all want another Walker should count for something!

  24. Speaking of reading other authors, I want to recommend two if any of you are into not only detective stories but detective stories about working with police dogs.

    Todd Borg writes about a detective in the Lake Tahoe are of CA, who owns a great dane, and works with dog handlers on occasion. Margaret Mizoshima writes about a police dog and his female minder in CO. Not only great stories, but set in beautiful places. Almost as beautiful as Seattle, Sedona, and Bisbee!

  25. Thanks for another great post. I was dismayed (and somewhat embarrassed) to find Hour of the Hunter missing from my hardback collection. It is on order now and I will read it upon receipt.

  26. Yes! Please write more of these Walker family books, they are truly enthralling, and having read them all, I can honestly say I was sad when I came to the end…

    I love all your books, but those are really special.

  27. I really loved the Walker Series and have always hoped you would revisit these characters. Would it be possible to pick-up the youngest characters and bring them forward. Don’t you hate people who tell you what to write.

  28. I loved the Walker Family series and I can tell you that yes, the magic continues in Kiss of the Bees. When I read this series I learned more about the Native Americans and their way of life than I did in school studying US history and American history. Maybe because you made it more interesting or maybe I just forgot a lot of what I was taught.
    I would love having a new book in this series.
    Have a great weekend.

  29. I was born and have lived my entire (85) life in Renton, Washington I have immensely enjoyed every one of your JPBeaumont books My husband of 65 years and I have read everything you have authored and look forward to what comes next. For 25 years we wintered in the greater Phoenix area(Apache Junction) we attended only one book-signing event ever; yours at the public library in AJ. Probably not a well-remembered one for you – in an open room with lots of noise. From then we became avid readers of your books. Keep walking and writing

    • Marilyn, I DO remember that signing! That was Bella the Book Tour Dog’s first day on the job. When I was signing a woman came to the table and asked if I would sign the book in her daughter’s name. While I was doing so, she advised me that her daughter had just died of breast cancer, but I was her favorite author. By the time I finished signing, we were both in tears, but I sent her over to visit with Bill and Bella, and she stayed for the next 45 minutes. Bella knew just what to do. By the way, in the course of that day’s four signings, Bella interacted with 2500 people, and they all loved her. By the end of the day, I was worn out, and so was she!

  30. Your marvelous blogs are my Friday treat. I love your books and have read all of them. I can hardly wait your next one.
    Please stay with Beau, Joanna and Ali. The Walker series is ok but I think it appeals to a different audience.
    Keep writing. You are the best.

  31. I finished The Edge of Evil, I must read the next Ali one when I finally get home from Ireland. We passed the 2nd covid test and can head home. Isolation in hotel no fun,12 paces each way plus other exercises.

  32. Oh I’m so happy you are going to write another Walker book! Thank you.
    Being part Alaska Native I enjoy stories and especially about Indigenous people

  33. I look forward to your Friday posts and this last one had me jumping for joy. I loved the Walker series and hope you revisit it soon. In the meantime I’ll gladly read whatever else you write. Every time I read one of your books I’m so torn. I can’t put them down because I need to know what’s going to happen on the next page but every page I turn brings me closer to the end of the book. 🙁

  34. The 19 year old grandson of a friend of mine is walking the Appalachian Trail by himself. He walked 500 miles in a month. He has met some wonderful people on his journey.

  35. I’m late getting in to read your blog post, but boy I’m glad I did. Because of your blog posts, I went out and purchased HOTH and looking forward to reading it.

    By the way, in my eyes, you are a YOUNGSTER, so of course you’ll keep writing books. My boss is 84 and comes to work 6 days a week (we develop, build and manage shopping centers) and everyone in this office is well over 60 years YOUNG. We all keep plugging away every day.

    Cheers to you!

  36. It is always interesting how your mind works. Thanks. I always enjoy your works and reread them many times.

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