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No Place Like Home; Holocaust on Trial; Hillerman Country

Aired January 16, 2000 - 9:00 p.m. ET


ANNOUNCER: CNN & TIME. Tonight, "No Place Like Home." She pulled someone's hair, and that seemingly insignificant brush with the law may be enough to tear this wife and mother away from her family and the country she calls home.


MARY ANNE GHERIS, FACES DEPORTATION: I've been living in this country. I've been raised on hot dogs and hamburgers and -- you know, saluting the American flag and celebrating 4th of July.


ANNOUNCER: A look at crime, punishment, and bureaucracy.

"Holocaust on Trial." He's a noted British historian with some surprising ideas about the Holocaust.


DAVID IRVING, BRITISH HISTORIAN: I think that the -- the figures that we are now told have been inflated.


ANNOUNCER: But don't call David Irving a Holocaust denier or he might take you to court. Just ask this American professor.

"Hillerman Country." The bestselling mysteries of author Tony Hillerman don't take place on the mean streets of New York or L.A.


TONY HILLERMAN, AUTHOR: I love empty places. I love to be places where you can look out 63 miles over, you know, a cliff.


ANNOUNCER: Breathtaking landscapes and Navajo traditions. Recipes for crime novels with a conscience.


HILLERMAN: I don't have any Indian blood in me as far as I know. I guess I've been trying to say that I like them, admire them, and they're just plain folks.


ANNOUNCER: CNN & TIME, with Jeff Greenfield and Bernard Shaw.

BERNARD SHAW, HOST: Good evening, and welcome to CNN & TIME. Jeff Greenfield is on assignment.

Tonight, it's not supposed to happen in America. If you're honest, hardworking and, for the most part, law abiding, you're not supposed to have your life and family ripped out from under you, and yet that's exactly what could happen to Mary Anne Gheris, and she's not alone.

Her story now from Greta Van Susteren.


GHERIS: Yes. Here we go, baby.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, CNN LEGAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For years, Mary Anne Gheris was a single mother...

GHERIS: Are you having a good day today?

VAN SUSTEREN: ... struggling to care for her 14-year-old son, Shane (ph).

GHERIS: He's profoundly mentally retarded, he has scoliosis, and he has cerebral palsy.

What are you doing, Shane? Are you in a race car?

He can't walk. He can't talk. He's totally wheelchair bound.

VAN SUSTEREN: Then last August, she married Peter Gheris, a consultant...

GHERIS: You know, it is time for you to get in the bathtub.

VAN SUSTEREN: ... and with his daughter, Morgan (ph), began to settle into family life in suburban Atlanta. But life suddenly changed two days after Thanksgiving.

GHERIS: Well, here I am still on my honeymoon and we're trying to make a living adjustment and, all of a sudden, I get this ridiculous letter in the mail telling me that I'm deportable for the reasons stated below.

VAN SUSTEREN (on camera): And your reaction?

GHERIS: I broke out in a cold sweat. I immediately came in the house, and I tried to gather my thoughts, and I read it about four or five times. I paced my floor. I didn't understand it.

VAN SUSTEREN (voice-over): Gheris was born in Germany and brought to the U.S. at the age of two by her adoptive parents who were in the U.S. military.

GHERIS: My adoptive parents were an American dream for any adopted child. They provided me with the necessities of life to be normal, to be happy, to live here in this country.

VAN SUSTEREN: Gheris was raised a typical American child.

GHERIS: I've been raised on hot dogs and hamburgers and -- you know, saluting the American flag and celebrating 4th of July.

VAN SUSTEREN: But she never became an American citizen.

GHERIS: When I was growing up, my mother never pushed citizenship on me. She wanted to leave that up to me to make -- to be able to make my own decisions, and so, recently, I started looking into it because I wanted to be able to vote.

VAN SUSTEREN: Last year, she decided to apply for citizenship. She never imagined that there would be a problem. However, in 1996, in a surge of anti-immigrant sentiment, Congress passed tough new laws which had now ensnared Gheris. Under their provisions, crimes, such as petty theft or simple battery that are misdemeanors in some states, are treated under immigration law as felonies for which legal immigrants can be deported.

GHERIS: Well, there he is over there.

VAN SUSTEREN: Not only that, the immigration law is retroactive, as Gheris discovered. More than a decade ago, at the age of 22, Gheris had a minor brush with the law. She got in a fight over a man.

GHERIS: Back in 1988, I pulled a girl's hair. It was a mistake. It was an honest mistake. I should not have done it. I should have known better.

VAN SUSTEREN (on camera): Why did you pull her hair?

GHERIS: She was out on a date with my biological son's father, and we were supposed to go out that night. The next day when I was at work, I got a phone call threatening that she was taking a warrant out on me.

VAN SUSTEREN (voice-over): The woman states that Gheris also grabbed the other woman around the neck, a charge Gheris denies.

(on camera): What were you charged with?

GHERIS: Simple battery.

VAN SUSTEREN (voice-over): On her attorney's advice, Gheris pled guilty and received one year's probation. She thought the incident was forgotten. But not under the new immigration laws. After she applied for citizenship, the Immigration and Naturalization Service learned of the misdemeanor and notified her that she could be deported. PETER GHERIS, WIFE FACES DEPORTATION: Since that time, it's been a daily issue, and I have -- have thought about, well, what if I come home and she's not here or she was detained by somebody. So we've had to live in fear.

TOM FISHER (ph), FORMER REGIONAL DIRECTOR, INS: It's an unforgiving law.

VAN SUSTEREN: Until last October, Tom Fisher was the Southeast Regional Director of the INS, the office handling Gheris's case.

FISHER: One of the few laws that I have seen in my professional career that is retroactive, and it has such a traumatic effect on many people.

JEANNE BUTTERFIELD, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, AMERICAN IMMIGRATION LAWYERS ASSOCIATION: What's happening to real people as a consequence of this act are that families are being torn part.

VAN SUSTEREN: Jeanne Butterfield is the executive director of the American Immigration Lawyers' Association.

BUTTERFIELD: A Mexican man with a 16-year-old conviction. A Panamanian man with a 20-year-old conviction. Congress passed such a harsh act in many respects in a reactive mode, so a criminal conviction for a misdemeanor 30 years ago that wasn't even a deportable offense back then is now not only grounds for deportation, but it's a deportation from which there is no relief, no second chance, no waiver. Many of these very damaging provisions were not debated at all. They were slipped into this bill in the middle of the night under the cover of a conference proceeding that included no debate.

VAN SUSTEREN: So Jet Chay (ph) is the Atlanta immigration lawyer who represents Gheris.

SO JET CHAY, IMMIGRATION LAWYER: Alone, as a solo practitioner, I have at least 15 cases that I can talk about that deal with minuscule offenses. You have to remember when they pled guilty, they did not have the knowledge that this would lead to deportation.

GIBSON ANI (ph), FACES DEPORTATION: You score a hundred!

VAN SUSTEREN: Chay also represents Gibson Ani from Nigeria.

ANI: In 1989, I had a problem.

VAN SUSTEREN: Ani pled guilty to a charge of simple battery in a dispute with his former wife. Ani says he never did anything wrong and only pled guilty because his public offender told him that the charge and the sentence were minor.

ANI: I just can't see me after 17 years just going back home for nothing, something I didn't even do, but I was just so stupid, and I pleaded guilty.

How long is it going to take?

VAN SUSTEREN: Many believe that the number of such cases is growing, although no official figures are available.

BUTTERFIELD: Unfortunately, INS doesn't share with us specific statistics, but literally thousands of people are being caught up in the snare of the '96 laws.

FISHER: One of the ironies of this whole situation is Mary Anne has been in this country for 33 of her 34 years, I believe. If she never applied for U.S. citizenship, she'd never be in this predicament now. She would be able to remain in this country legally as a lawful, permanent resident, and INS would never become aware of her.

GHERIS: OK. Here we go.

VAN SUSTEREN: But once the INS did know, it was bound by the 1996 law to start deportation proceedings against which she had no legal recourse.


ANI: It's like any -- and you don't even have any rights to defend yourself, no due process, you know, and -- that they can offer, you know. It's kind of hard to me. Every now and then, I just see -- when I sit back and look at the (UNINTELLIGIBLE), and I say, "God, what is this here?" I don't understand.

SO JET CHAY: That's the trouble with this law. We don't look at whether you're married to a U.S. citizen. We don't look to whether you have a sick child. We don't look to whether you have five children. We don't look to whether you're a breadwinner of the family. All that we look at is that you fit this definition, you must go.

VAN SUSTEREN: If Gheris is deported, she says she will have to leave behind, at least temporarily, her son, Shane, of whom she has sole custody.

GHERIS: Say I'm the No. 1 fan for football.

I wouldn't leave him here. I couldn't leave him here. I couldn't go any length of time without seeing him, and I don't think he could go any length of time without seeing me either.

VAN SUSTEREN: No INS official was made available to CNN & TIME to comment on the issue. However, even the INS commissioner Doris Meissner has reservations about some of the law's effects. She wrote in "The Dallas Morning News": "In some respects, the law went too far. Justice is more than words in a statute or a deportation order. It is doing what is right and fair for each and every person." In Washington, there is a movement afoot to reform the 1996 law, but it may come too late for people like Gheris and Ani.

ANI: Right now, I'm living in fear, fear of abandoning my wife, my kids, my home, everything I've ever worked for. I have paid my dues in this country, believe me. Since '83, I have paid my dues.

GHERIS: And it's totally turned our lives into a whirlwind because I live this every day, I breathe it every day, and I eat it every day.

Mama loves her little boy.

I mean, if I go to Germany, I don't know what's going to happen to me. I don't know what's going to happen to my son. I don't want to go back there. I don't know that place. That is not my home. The United States of America is my home.


SHAW: There's a good chance that people like Mary Anne Gheris will soon get some help from Washington. There is bipartisan support to amend the 1996 Immigration Act. Two measures are currently before the House, and another is expected to be introduced in the Senate.

When we return, the story behind the story in "Dispatches."


ANNOUNCER: Coming up, the British historian versus the American professor.



IRVING: I find no evidence that Adolf Hitler gave the order. I find no evidence that there was gas chambers in Auschwitz.


ANNOUNCER: "The Holocaust on Trial" as CNN & TIME continues.


SHAW: Over the weekend, one of the most notorious figures to emerge from the bloodshed in the Balkans died violently. The feared Serb paramilitary leader known as Arkan was shot and killed by gunmen in the lobby of a Belgrade hotel. Arkan has been indicted by the UN War Crimes Tribunal for alleged atrocities in Bosnia.

More now in tonight's "Dispatches."


JOHN FIELDING, PRODUCER, CNN & TIME: On Saturday afternoon, about 5:00 local time, at the Intercontinental Hotel in Belgrade, which is a great Arkan hangout and had been for a number of years, in came two gunmen, and Arkan took three shots directly, one through his eye, and died a little later on. Tonight, in Belgrade, there will glasses raised in all kinds of different circles as a result of the death of this man.

Here was a guy who was unaccountable. He had what was billed largely by him as a unique group of fighting men who he had personally licked into shape, who had come from jails, various other places. There could be no question that -- that Arkan and his tigers, as he called them, a group of people purportedly volunteering, were at the very forefront of the policy of ethnic cleansing.

The group that he headed was involved with some major atrocities in Bosnia in the early days of the Yugoslav war when Yugoslavia broke up. They include bombing people in their houses, looting, murder. We've actually run stories on this program in which eyewitnesses testified to saying Arkan's tigers slit the throat of an old lady. But, above all, creating a palpable atmosphere of terror.

The ties between Arkan and Milosevic have always been carefully concealed. There's general agreement among political observers of every stripe that a link exists in the sense that that is where Arkan takes his motive.

Here is a guy who was a hired gun in every sense, and now the desired effect has been achieved. The villages in Bosnia have been terrorized, the place has been plundered.

Here's a guy without a job. The name of Arkan, which is supposed to strike terror into everybody's hearts -- and, in fact, did so in the early '90s -- had become, by the time Kosovo came apart, something of a joke, although all kinds of thugs would go around in Kosovo saying that they were kind of Arkan's guys.

Arkan himself spent the war in the Hyatt Regency Hotel, which was full of journalists, where it is certain there was going to be no rocket-propelled grenades coming through the window. I think, for a few years now, the only question about Arkan was how long he was going to survive, and all the indicators were that he would be rubbed out by other gangsters rather than the machine which he once served.

He was not able to travel outside Yugoslavia because he was indicted last year by the War Crime Tribunals of the Hague. I think, during the last few months, as Arkan has become more desperate and Milosevic's position has become, to a certain extent, more powerless, it would have offered Arkan the possibility of making some kind of deal to rat on a whole lot of stuff about Milosevic and the operation arms of Milosevic's government.

In figuring out who killed Arkan, you have to assume that you need a lot of men, a lot of contacts, a lot of really good training, and a -- and professional behavior when conducting a hit. That excludes just about everybody but fellow gangsters or the government. Take your pick.


ANNOUNCER: For more reporting of this kind, read "Time" magazine this week.

Next on CNN & TIME, historian David Irving and the Holocaust. Some of his views on the subject may surprise you...



IRVING: What a strange question.


ANNOUNCER: ... when CNN & TIME continues.


SHAW: Welcome back to CNN & TIME.

Upon touring the Nazi concentration camps in the closing days of World War II, General Dwight D. Eisenhower urged as many people as possible to view the atrocities. Eisenhower feared that if the world looked away, sooner or later people would come along and question the stories of Nazi brutality -- a chilling prophecy, especially when you consider the landmark libel case over Holocaust denial that began last week in Great Britain.

More now from Charles Glass in London.


GLASS (voice-over): Many people call British historian David Irving a dangerous man.

DAVID IRVING, HISTORIAN: I'm most puzzled by that word dangerous. Dangerous, to my mind, is somebody who goes around throwing bombs or setting fires. What have I endangered? What have I been a danger to? The latest book I wrote, I wrote the entire book in fountain pen.

GLASS: Although he has no degree in history and is self taught, David Irving has written has more than 30 books on the second world war. Prominent historians have applauded Irving's meticulous research and his discovery of documents that had alluded others.

IRVING: Hitler's private secretary gave me this, which is ultimately unique. It's the only self-portrait of Adolf Hitler which was known to have survived the war.

GLASS: He has never been interested in teaching.

IRVING: You can go to Hitler's war.

I'm far more interested in writing what I find in the records, and if I find something in the records that offends against human sensibilities, I still write it, because that's the way I see history.

GLASS: He has been banned from entering Canada, Germany, Italy, South Africa and other countries that make it illegal to deny certain historical events. This is Irving in 1992, shortly before Canada deported him.


IRVING: According to the evidence that I have seen, there was no gas chambers anywhere. The evidence that we have been shown, the aerial photographs, the eyewitnesses, it's all very spurious indeed.


GLASS: Because of his reputation as a dedicated researcher, his critics say he is more of a danger than the Nazi sympathizers who traditionally deny that Adolf Hitler killed millions of Jews.

DAVID CESARANI, DIR., WIENER LIBRARY: David Irving, I'm afraid, should be treated as someone who is beyond the pale of respectability.

GLASS: The director of Britain's largest Holocaust library, history professor David Cesarani, charges that Irving uses his prestige as a historian for questionable purposes.

CESARANI: This is someone who may at one time have done excellent historical research. But someone who addresses neo-Nazi rallies, someone who dedicates their life to the ideology and movements of the far right, can no longer be taken seriously as a scholar.

GLASS: David Irving has written for a far-right newsletter and has addressed extremist audiences in the U.S. and Germany. His critics see him as part of the extremist movement. He says no one else will give him a platform for his views.

Abraham Foxman is the director of the Anti-Defamation League in New York.

ABRAHAM FOXMAN, DIR., ANTI-DEFAMATION LEAGUE: This is his way to make a contribution to the fueled debate. He -- some people do it by wearing uniforms, some by getting on the Net, some by lighting, you know, fires, some by throwing a brick, and some by posing as a historian dedicated to the truth in order to deliver that message.


GLASS: Deborah Lipstadt is a professor of religion at Emory University in Atlanta. She teaches the Holocaust and has made a special study of what she calls "Holocaust denial."

LIPSTADT: It is a very dangerous force, but it is not a clear and present danger, to borrow a phrase from American legal parlance. It is a clear and future danger. It's when there are no longer people around, and there are people in this room who could say this, who could say, this is my story, this is what happened to me. Then I think the deniers will do what they want to do in an even stronger fashion.

GLASS: In 1993, Lipstadt's book, "Denying the Holocaust," came out in the United States. In it, she wrote that David Irving bends historic evidence, quote, "until it confirms with his ideological leanings and political agenda." She added that he has become "a Holocaust denier."

IRVING: Oh, it's a very useful charge, but it's a killer charge. Anybody who's a Holocaust denier is finished, he's floating face-down dead in the water.

GLASS: Irving, who says he's a dissident, not a denier, did not sue her in the United States, where American law places a heavy burden on the plaintiff. After the publishers, Penguin, released Lipstadt's book in Great Britain in 1995, Irving filed suit. British libel law gives more advantages to the plaintiff than does American law.

DON GUTENPLAN (ph), JOURNALIST: In England, she has to prove that what she said about him was true.

GLASS: Don Gutenplan is a journalist writing a book about Irving versus Lipstadt.

GUTENPLAN: In this case, what he's done is kind of use the libel law as a kind of jujitsu to force her to prove not only that what she said about him is true, but since she says that his views about the Holocaust are nonsensical, she has to prove that they're nonsensical.

GLASS: When Lipstadt and Irving arrived at the British high court last week, they were prepared to argue the history of the last century for the next two to three months.

(on camera): David Irving is asking an English court to vindicate his reputation as a historian. Inevitably, the stakes are higher. A judge will have to decide something much more important: the truth about history.

IRVING: This is my secret weapon.

GLASS (voice-over): David Irving is representing himself. His legal experience includes convictions and fines for what he has said about the Holocaust in France and Germany. He has sued newspapers for libel. And Otto Frank once took Irving's publisher to court for what Irving wrote about his doctor Anne Frank, the Dutch-Jewish girl who died in a concentration camp.

(on camera): Did you say that the Anne Frank diary was a forgery?

IRVING: Guilty.

GLASS: Is it a forgery?


GLASS (voice-over): Deborah Lipstadt is represented in court by a high powered legal team that includes Princess Diana's former divorce lawyer. They have advised her not to testify in court or to be interviewed by CNN & TIME. ADL director Abraham Foxman is a Holocaust survivor who was surprised that a court should weigh evidence about an event he lived.

FOXMAN: I just find it so offensive and ludicrous that it needs to be established in a court of law, but, you know, if that's where we are, that's where we are.

GLASS: By suing Lipstadt in Britain, Irving said he was trying to discredit other critics beyond the reach of the British courts. The ADL successfully lobbied Irving's American publisher in 1996 to cancel publication of his biography of Nazi propaganda Joseph Goebbels.

IRVING: There was a conspiracy to defame me.

GLASS: Irving says he is suing because the critics have deprived him of his livelihood and violated his right to free speech. Even in Britain, he can no longer find a mainstream publisher, and publishes his books himself.

(on camera): Do you believe in a Jewish conspiracy against you?

IRVING: There has been an organized attempt by international Jewish organizations to destroy my career and my legitimacy. I think a court would define that as a conspiracy.

GLASS (voice-over): David Irving grew up in Britain during and just after World War II. He dropped out of his university and went to work in a steel factory in Germany.

IRVING: It took me some time to learn German properly, to get to know the Germans.

GLASS: At the steel works, Irving met a survivor of the 1945 Allied bombardment of Dresden, who told him how the British air force had devastated the ancient city.

In 1963, Irving's first book, "The Destruction of Dresden," launched a broadside against the British for what Irving called an unnecessary holocaust of innocent German civilians. The Dresden book opened doors in Germany to Hitler's inner circle. One was Dr. Irwin Gesing (ph), who had treated Hitler after the failed bomb attempt on his life in 1944. Gesing gave Irving his diary and told him to turn to page 340.

IRVING: There was a conversation between Hitler and himself in August 1944, which ends up with Adolf Hitler telling Dr. Gesing, "Nobody will ever judge me properly, not this generation, it'll have to be the next generation, it'll have to be an Englishman, it'll have to be an Englishman who knows the German archives and an Englishman who can speak the German language fluently."

GLASS (on camera): Was there a danger for you that you would not only be a historian and an observer of the circle, but might become a part of it?

IRVING: A part of it. I appreciate what you're saying and it's a very difficult position, of course. You meet the people on an individual basis and you listen to them, but you try never to forget your duty.

GLASS (voice-over): In 1977, Irving published "Hitler's War," acclaimed by many historians, the book prompted critics to accuse Irving of being too sympathetic to Hitler. One wrote it was the autobiography Hitler didn't write.

(on camera): Do you admire Adolf Hitler?

IRVING: What a strange question. As a soldier, yes. Unquestionably he fought some major battles and won them against the advice of his generals. But on the other hand, what about his moral qualifications? There I have to equivocate and say that he's on the same pedestal as Joe Stalin, Roosevelt, Churchill, and Truman. To my mind -- and I may be wrong -- but to my mind, each of these five executed crimes against humanity, against innocent populations that would justify the label of war criminal.

GLASS (voice-over): Irving says there is no document proving that Hitler himself ordered the genocide of the Jews and has offered $1,000 to anybody who provides one.

CESARANI: A good historian knows that in many cases there isn't a single document, that you have to answer the questions in more sophisticated and subtle ways than that.

GLASS: In 1988, David Irving testified on behalf of a self- confessed Holocaust denier, Ernst Zundel, in a Canadian court. Zundel stood accused of promoting racial hatred with propaganda that Jews were lying about the Nazi death camps.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not a Nazi sympathizer, or a revisionist, or a right winger, or anything else.

GLASS: Irving said the testimony of another witness, American Fred Leuchter, who had taken samples of bricks from Auschwitz and had them analyzed in the U.S. for cyanide, caused him to doubt the Jews had been gassed at the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in Poland.

IRVING: The later report wasn't the only reason, of course, but I -- it caused me to rethink, made me sit down and think to myself, well, is there any evidence? And the answer is, no.

GLASS: The Canadian judge ruled that Fred Leuchter had no expertise. But David Irving published Leuchter's report and wrote a foreword. The report contradicts the testimony of thousands of survivors and important documentary evidence.

CESARANI: We now have in the Moscow archives the building plans, the orders for the gas chamber and crematory equipment. This is not to mention the sworn statements taken by Nazis in captivity at the end of the second world war, and of course, the mass of statements by the survivors.

GLASS: Lipstadt's attorneys are making an issue of Irving's denial that the Nazis murdered as many as 6 million Jews. IRVING: I would guilty of questioning the statistics. I think that the figures that we are now told have been inflated.

GLASS: Irving acknowledges that the Nazis murdered up to a million people with machine guns on the eastern front and another 50,000 at Auschwitz, far fewer than most other historians. And he equates both morally and in terms of numbers, deaths under the Nazi extermination program and those caused by the Allied air bombardment of German cities.

IRVING: Somebody who's trying to quantify the size of the crime. It matters, because if it was a million people who were killed in the Holocaust, then we burned a million people with the bombing, which makes us as bad as the Nazis.

GLASS: Many survivors and critics are offended that Irving dismisses the eyewitness testimony of Holocaust survivors, while relying on the word of victims of the Dresden bombing.

IRVING: Calling it a double standard is a bit harsh, but I think it's a fair point to make.

GLASS: Abraham Fox accepts Irving's right to be, in his opinion, a bigot. Survivors may be insulted, he says, but Irving and others have made them bear witness to what happened.

FOX: It stimulated survivors who were silent to all of a sudden to bear testimony, to tell the story, because so offended were they that there would be not a few a individuals, crackpots, but there would be a movement, that it would start appearing on college campuses, that book were being published, that platforms were being provided.

GLASS: Irving is taking a gamble. Winning could make him publishable again; losing might leave him liable to pay Lipstadt's court costs estimated at over $1 million. The court could then seize his assets, including his London flat. And his reputation as a historian would be more seriously battered.

IRVING: I'm interested to see if in this coming trial here in London they find the documents and they produce them to the satisfaction of this court that do prove me wrong. And if they prove me wrong, I'll smile sheepishly and say, well, well done, fellows. It's taken you 40 years.


SHAW: The case of Irving versus Lipstadt is expected to take up to three months. In his opening statement, Irving said he had made important contributions to the world's understanding of the Holocaust. The defense countered with quotes from books and speeches in which Irving exonerated Hitler and called Auschwitz, quote, "baloney." The defense also branded Irving a liar.

We'll be back in a moment.

ANNOUNCER: Coming up, it is the trademark of a Tony Hillerman mystery, the sweeping majesty of the Old West.


TONY HILLERMAN, AUTHOR: I'd like to feel like I did a little bit of good with these books.


ANNOUNCER: Mysteries, cultural and criminal, as CNN & TIME continues.


ANNOUNCER: Next on CNN & TIME, vivid landscapes, page-turning mysteries. Tony Hillerman writes volumes about a labor of love: Native Americans.


TONY HILLERMAN, AUTHOR: It kind of bothered me that so few Americans, fellow Americans seem to understand them.


ANNOUNCER: When CNN & TIME continues.


SHAW: As we'll tell you, you don't just read a Tony Hillerman mystery; you experience it. Beyond the hook of compelling twists and turns are the panoramic vistas and cultural landscapes of the American Southwest: settings and characters that bring to life the ageless intrigue of an ancient people. That story now from David Lewis.


HILLERMAN: I love empty places. I love to be places where you can look like 63 miles. Over there, there's a cliff and a shadow on it. All that empty space; nobody out there. Looks like nobody ever's been out there. I like that. It appeals to me.

DAVID LEWIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tony Hillerman is headed out to research his next mystery, set on the Navajo reservation.

HILLERMAN: Always kind of stop here and do reverence to that mountain.

LEWIS: Over the last 30 years, Hillerman has written 16 novels: all but two placed in this reservation landscape in the Southwest: at the "Four Corners" where Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado meet.

HILLERMAN: That's the Turquoise Mountain. Beyond that is Dennyka (ph), "the land between the mountains," see.

LEWIS: And the novels explore the values and traditions of the Navajo nation.

HILLERMAN: I think we think we're so damned important; they're smart enough to know they're not really. I guess I've been trying to say that I like them, admire them, and they're just plain folks. And it kind of bothers me that so few Americans understand them. I mean, they look (UNINTELLIGIBLE) sort of a strange cult, strange segment of society.

LEWIS: For three decades, he's been introducing this world to his readers through the eyes of his two key characters: Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee. There are officers in the Navajo Tribal Police: cops like Calvert Sosee (ph).

Like Leaphorn and Chee, Sosee works on the vast reservation that is nearly the size of West Virginia, trying to find people when roads have no names, trying to solve problems like any cop.

(on camera): Do you identify with the Navajo?

HILLERMAN: I don't have any Indian blood in me, as far as I know. And I -- I wouldn't claim to. But I identify them as I'm in the same class of people they are.

LEWIS (voice-over): Hillerman himself was raised in simple surroundings in Sacred Heart, Oklahoma.

HILLERMAN: I estimated the population at 50. I mentioned that to my older sister, and she said, no, no, that's too much. It's 34, she said. She named them for me.

I'd say we were rich in everything except the material stuff. We didn't have indoor plumbing, or you know, the stuff rich folks have like running water or electricity or -- or -- we pulled our water out of a well.

LEWIS: Even as a child, Native Americans were part of his life.

HILLERMAN: Our neighbors were Patowatomi mostly and some Seminoles, and some Sackenfox (ph). A lot of -- mostly Indians.

LEWIS: And for the eight grades, he went to a Native American school.

HILLERMAN: When we played cowboys and Indians, we would be the cowboys usually. And they saw some of the cowboys in Western movies, and they found out the Indians always lose. So they wanted to be the cowboys, and we had to be Indians.

LEWIS: In 1941, those battles gave way to battles in France in World War II.

HILLERMAN: I was eager for that big adventure. I was scared to death they'd get her over with before I got in.

LEWIS: Fighting with the infantry in France, he won a Silver Star. Later wounded, he returned home a hero with a Purple Heart. HILLERMAN: A reporter at the "Daily Oklahoman" had done a big piece about my -- what a big hero I was. And she collected all these letters from my mother that I'd written. So I went down to the "Daily Oklahoman" and talked to her, and she said I should be a writer.

So I thought: "OK, that's a good idea; I'll try that." So I -- I enrolled in journalism school.

LEWIS: But after he graduated in 1948, he couldn't find a job as a reporter. There was too much competition.

HILLERMAN: I took a trial job with an ad agency writing Pig Chow commercials for radio. Pig Chow and Cane's Age-Dated Coffee (ph) and Purina Pig Chow commercials, which talk about intellectually challenging jobs. It doesn't sound like it, but imagine making pig chow interesting to sleepy farmers.

LEWIS: Ten years later, he was editor of a daily newspaper in Santa Fe, New Mexico. But he dreamed of another career.

HILLERMAN: I decided I was going to write the "great American novel," but I don't know if I can go the distance yet, see? I've been writing, you know, 250-word stories. I've been writing short and tight. So I think I'll writer a mystery, which has a skeleton, a plot.

I decided I will pick a really interesting, intriguing background. I'll set it on the Navajo reservation.

LEWIS: His first visit to the reservation was just after World War II, when he was still recovering from his wounds.

HILLERMAN: We're driving on this dirt road, and here comes about 20 or 30 Navajos on horseback and in ceremonial regalia.

A couple of local Navajo boys were back from the Marine Corps, and they were having a curing ceremonial. And so I saw a little bit of that, one part of it, fascinating I thought. Why don't somebody have a curing ceremonial for me, right? Bring in all your friends and relatives. It was really nice: restore them to harmony with their people, with their culture. Good idea.

LEWIS: The ceremonies and traditions of the Navajo became an inspiration for his books, but his first mystery, "The Blessing Way," was initially rejected, even by his own agent.

HILLERMAN: She didn't show it to anybody. And I said, Why not? And she says, bad book. Woman of few words. She didn't like the Indian stuff.

LEWIS: Hillerman's first book sold to a small audience, but as the public gradually became more aware of Native American issues, the books began to sell. Today, there are 120.5 million in print.

HILLERMAN: I'll turn around somewhere. Where will I turn around? LEWIS: And at age 74, he isn't slowing down.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What are you looking for?

HILLERMAN: As you may have noticed, I'm lost. I'm looking for the old Army base.

LEWIS: Hillerman recently explored an old U.S. Army ammunition depot to come up with plots for his next mystery.

HILLERMAN: Hi, this is Tony Hillerman. Hap Stohler (ph) had invited me to come out and take a look at the work you're doing with the bunkers and stuff.

This book is just a bunch of bits and pieces I haven't put together yet, but you're always looking for places to have stuff happen.

Oh, look at that now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, this one has propelling charges in it.

HILLERMAN: This is what makes a rocket go up.

LEWIS: The bunkers give Hillerman ideas...

HILLERMAN: You find this decomposing corpse.

LEWIS: ... ideas for crimes his Navajo investigators can solve.

HILLERMAN: The only think he has in his jacket pocket is a little piece of paper carefully folded. And on it, he has written B1O11. And my detective says, what could that possibly mean?

LEWIS (on camera): Why are people so fascinated with these characters and your settings and the Navajos? What is it that puts you on the best-seller list?

HILLERMAN: I wondered about that a long time, because there's some people, frankly, who write, I think, better mysteries than I do. And I sell better than I do. So what's the answer? And I think I know -- I thought about it a lot. I think I lucked on to a sensitive nerve or something, that the American people are ready to learn about Indians.

LEWIS (voice-over): Hillerman says treating the Navajo with dignity has always been his goal. And of his many awards, the one that means the most is from the Navajo nation.

LEWIS (on camera): Why does that award mean so much to you?

HILLERMAN: Because I admire them and I respect them, and I was hoping they would recognize that I did. They couldn't have done anything nicer for me than give me that plaque.

LEONARD BUTLER, CHIEF, NAVAJO TRIBAL POLICE: I appreciate what he has done and the fact that he has given name recognition to the Navajo nation and the Navajo Police Department through his writing.

Morning, ladies and gentlemen.

LEWIS (voice-over): Leonard Butler is the actual chief of the Navajo tribal police. But his opinion of Hillerman is not shared by all the Navajo.

TOM ARVISO, EDITOR, "NAVAJO TIMES": He's capitalizing on something that's not his.

LEWIS: Tom Arviso is the editor of "The Navajo Times."

ARVISO: He's not Native American, he's not Navajo, and he's presenting something that doesn't belong to him. He's presenting something that he has no way he could possibly understand the significance of what it is he's writing about.

BUTLER: I think we all have critics. There's always going to be people we can't satisfy. Whether he's made money or not I believe is beside the point. It's the fact that he's been able to get us on the map, so to speak. And I personally appreciate that.

HILLERMAN: I don't think it's fair because I think I have given them something back.

I think I've made a piece of the world, at least, aware of what a wonderful culture they have.

LEWIS (on camera): Can you write about the Navajo if you aren't one of them?

HILLERMAN: If you want to write about the Amish, do you have to be an Amish? I think not.

LEWIS (voice-over): Whatever the debate, Hillerman's desires are simple.


You get born and you die, right? Everybody, whether you like it or not. And I -- my mother and group taught us don't -- you know, all you got to do is get from A to B, from birth to death, and get their in such a way that when you die you've lived a good life. And don't worry. Don't be afraid of anything. Just live it.


SHAW: Tony Hillerman's intrepid crimefighters Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee are reunited in his latest work, "Hunting Badger." But don't look for them to appear as central characters in his next project. That's because Hillerman's saving that honor for himself. You see, Hillerman's not writing a mystery, he's writing his memoirs.

That's this edition of CNN & TIME.

Coming up next, you know how it ended, now see how it all began. It's an encore presentation of the CNN documentary series "COLD WAR."

I'm Bernard Shaw. Thank you for joining us.


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