Journalist Christina Estes wins Tony Hillerman prize for best first mystery novel

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The old adage “write what you know” has paid off for local journalist and now, first-time author Christina Estes, who recently won the Tony Hillerman prize for best first mystery novel. Her book, set in Phoenix, centers around a news reporter who gets a tip about the murder of a radio host. Christina Estes joined us to discuss her award-winning novel.

Estes said the book will publish in 2023, and involves broadcast journalism and the city of Phoenix as well.

“It’s kind of a love letter to Phoenix, a place I thought I would never ever stay beyond my contract with TV news. I moved here more than 20 years ago for ABC 15 as a reporter, I moved here in the summer – big mistake – and it was just a whole new world and I never expected to stay,” Estes said.

The story is a mystery about a TV reporter investigating the murder of a controversial radio talk show host. The protagonist is also fighting for her job and her life in the city of Phoenix. Estes followed the saying “write what you know,” with those two aspects she knows being reporting and the city of Phoenix. She also followed the adage, “write the type of book you would want to read,” that being mysteries.

Estes said the hardest part was writing the lead character, Jolene.

“I relied on my professional experience of course as a reporter but I also relied on my personal experience as a former foster parent. That is her background and I really struggled with respecting her and other children and acknowledging her situation,” Estes said.

Christina Estes, author and journalist

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