Graham Roland adapted Tony Hillerman’s Leaphorn & Chee novels into the gripping American psychological thriller series “Dark Winds,” debuting its first season on June 12, 2022, and airing all six episodes across AMC and AMC+. Following its initial success, “Dark Winds” was renewed for another six-episode run, set to air on July 30, 2023.
“Dark Winds” is an exceptional TV series due to its all-Native American writing team and cast, providing authentic representation. Moreover, it immerses viewers in an atmosphere that deeply resonates with Native culture, capturing scenes vividly and authentically. Though the opening crime may be disturbing to some viewers initially, the show’s well-crafted plot quickly becomes compelling for its audiences.
As is often the case with television adaptations, viewers of “Dark Winds” frequently wonder whether the show is inspired by actual events, given the prevalence of true crime stories on television. While details regarding its inspiration remain scarce, its engaging storyline and narrative leave viewers eager to uncover more about its roots.
Is Dark Winds Based on a Book or True Story?
“Dark Winds” is a fictional series that follows Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee, two Navajo police officers working in the Southwest during the 1970s. The show draws its inspiration from Tony Hillerman’s novels, such as “Listening Woman” (1978) and “People of Darkness” (1980).
Tony Hillerman did not base his novels on specific real-life events but found much inspiration for them from personal experiences in his own life. Though not of Native American descent himself, Hillerman felt an emotional kinship with them and recognized parts of himself in them, which motivated him to write about their culture and lives.
Hillerman became close to the Potawatomi people as a child in Sacred Heart, Oklahoma. Later, during his time as a truck driver in the oil industry, he formed many lasting relationships on the Navajo Reservation, gaining further insight into their rituals and traditions. Furthermore, reading a book about Australian aborigines broadened his appreciation for Native American culture.
Hillerman chose Navajo culture as the basis of his mystery novels because he felt it provided more intricate and fascinating settings than other options. The protagonists, Leaphorn and Chee from “Dark Winds,” stood out to him as unlikely but captivating characters, each possessing distinctive traits of their own, making for compelling reading material. While the television series featured them working together on crimes, their individual journeys often led to distinct conclusions in Hillerman’s novels.
Joe Leaphorn, an intriguing character with a troubled past and a difficult present case to solve, emerged as a prominent figure throughout the first three volumes. Hillerman initially intended him to play only a secondary role, but he was eventually won over by Joe’s depth and decided to give him more prominence in subsequent volumes.
Both Hillerman’s novels and the show depict Navajo culture and spiritual practices in a grounded reality, reflecting his commitment to authenticity. Through this story arc, Hillerman seeks to challenge stereotypes associated with Native Americans while shedding light on any bigotry or discrimination they experience from society.
“Dark Winds” is an engaging work of fiction that effectively conveys a realistic portrayal of Navajo customs and traditions, which have been passed down from generation to generation with meaning. Moreover, this series delves deep into character dynamics and relationships to emphasize their significance alongside an intriguing mystery plot.
As Kiowa Gordon, who plays Jim Chee, stated, “Dark Winds” strives to highlight the depth and breadth of Native American culture, encouraging viewers to interpret and appreciate its themes and messages in their own way.
Also Read: Is HBO’s “The Idol” Based on a True Story?