Mysteries for our troops overseas

Shulawitsi, the Little Fire God, member of the Council of the Gods and Deputy to the Sun, had taped his track shoes to his feet. He had wound the tape as Coach taught him, tight over the arch of the foot.

Those sentences open Tony Hillerman’s Dance Hall of the Dead (1973). I read them probably in the early 1980s, back when the Santa Fe-based author of mystery novels was largely a cult favorite in the Southwest. Cruising down US 666 back then, you would watch your rear view mirror for Officer Jim Chee, who in my imagination does not look like Adam Beach.

After those two sentences, I was hooked.

I picked up a copy of Dancehall of the Dead today along with some other paperback thrillers (Elmore Leonard, Patricia Cornwell, Carl Hiassen) at Hardscrabble Books (appropriate name, eh?) down in Florence. Two old ladies were discussing Hitler, whom they seemed to think had been born a Jew. (Where do they get this stuff?)

When I finish the books, they will go into a box for Operation Paperback.

Operation Paperback collects books (and some magazines) for American military personnel in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. You register with them, and they give you a list of recipients who will turn share the books.

To pacify local members of the “Religion of Peace,” who might otherwise blow a gasket, there should be no pictures of scantily clad women, so be careful with the motorcycle and lowrider magazines if you are mailing to certain countries. (The Web site will explain.)

US Highway 666 is no more, of course. Certain wacko members of the “Religion of Love” lobbied the feds to change its number, lest they be forced to drive on the “Highway of the Beast.” Sheesh.