'Dark Winds' was easily one of the biggest surprises of 2022. The modern Western/crime drama/psychological thriller garnered a lot of attention for the network thanks to the support from executive producers Robert Redford ('Jeremiah Johnson', 'Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid") and George R.R. Martin ('Game of Thrones').
'Dark Winds' was promoted extensively throughout the year as AMC prepared to roll out its final episodes of 'The Walking Dead' and 'Better Call Saul'. And, the investment paid off. The season one premiere attracted over 2 million viewers and received outstanding scores on Rotten Tomatoes.
Be that as it may, the concise, six-part first season (not to mention explosive seasonal finale) left many wondering what is the inspiration behind Joe Leaphorn, Jim Chee, and Bernadette.
Fans of 'Dark Winds' may find it surprising that the number one new show on AMC+ is actually based on a series of novels. Leaphorn & Chee is an expansive list of fictional stories that span over three decades. The Leaphorn & Chee book series was produced by Tony Hillerman, who was a huge advocate for Native American rights.
Joe Leaphorn makes his debut in the first novel, "The Blessing Way", but only as a supporting character. In fact, Leaphorn is the only character featured in the first several books before Chee makes an appearance in the fourth novel, "People of Darkness". Still, it's not until "Skinwalkers" (1986) – the seventh chapter in the Leaphorn & Chee series, that the pair start working together. Later, Chee and Leaphorn solve crimes in more than ten other stories.
Hillerman would go on to write several more books in the Leaphorn & Chee book series. The final novel – "The Shape Shifter" – arrived in 2006, two years before Hillerman passed at the age of 83. However, the book series would survive thanks to his daughter – Anne Hillerman – who published a continuation of the Leaphorn & Chee series beginning in 2013. The new edition introduces characters that are seen in the show such as Bernadette Manuelito.
Anne Hillerman continues to actively produce works of fiction in the Leaphorn & Chee series. Her seventh book in the series, "The Sacred Bridge", was recently published. Meanwhile, "Stargazer" (2021) and "The Tale Teller" (2019) are other new releases in the series. For the younger Hillerman, it's all about carrying on the tradition of her father.
Tony Hillerman was born in Sacred Heart, Oklahoma and attended grade school with Potawatomie children. According to his family, the influence on Native American culture provided Hillerman with a unique perspective that inspired the tales of Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee. Hillerman, who was also a World War II Purple Heart recipient, deeply admired and advocated for Native American rights. He passed away one of the most accomplished men in New Mexico history.
All in all, Hillerman published 18 Leaphorn & Chee books and more than 30 titles in general. Later in his life, it was revealed that Hillerman credited an Australian author with giving him the inspiration for Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee. Thus, the fandom of 'Dark Winds' runs deep considering all the Leaphorn & Chee and Upfield novels you can stick your nose into for a larger context.