Award Winning Novelist
Professor of Native American Studies and Political Science
Travels from: Colorado

“A propulsive crime novel and a wonderfully informative book.” – Louise Erdrich

David Heska Wanbli Weiden, an enrolled citizen of the Sicangu Lakota nation, was named by the New York Times as one of “the most critically acclaimed young novelists working now.”  His debut novel, WINTER COUNTS, was called a “once-in-a-generation thriller” by the Los Angeles Times, a “worthy addition to the burgeoning canon of indigenous literature” by Library Journal, and one of the “best crime novels of all time” by Parade magazine. Weiden is the first Native American author to win an Anthony Award and the Thriller Award, and the second to be nominated for the Edgar Award. His short fiction has appeared in numerous anthologies and has been selected for Best American Mystery and Suspense Stories.

Winter Counts (Ecco/HarperCollins, 2020; paperback, 2021), a national bestseller, is a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice and was named one of the Best Books of the year by NPR, Publishers WeeklyLibrary JournalCrimeReadsDeadly PleasuresAir MailFinancial TimesThe GuardianDaily Express (UK), The Mirror (UK), Daily Record (UK), and other magazines.  The book was also selected as an Amazon Best Book of 2020/Best Mystery and Thriller of the year; an Indie Next pick; and CrimeReads Best Noir Fiction, Best Debut, and Notable Selection for Best Crime Novel.  The novel was a main selection of the Book of the Month Club, Best of the Month by Apple Books, and was the November choice of the BuzzFeed Book Club.

Weiden has published nonfiction in the New York Times, Shenandoah, and other journals, and short stories in a number of anthologies and magazines.  His short story “Turning Heart” will appear in the 2022 Best American Mystery and Suspense Stories anthology.  He’s also the author of the children’s book Spotted Tail (Reycraft, 2019), a biography of the great Lakota leader and winner of the 2020 Spur Award from the Western Writers of America.

He teaches in the low-residency MFA programs at Regis University, the Pan-European MFA program at Cedar Crest College, and at the Lighthouse Writers Workshop in Denver. He received his MFA in Creative Writing from the Institute of American Indian Arts, his law degree from the University of Denver Sturm College of Law, and his Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin. He is a MacDowell Fellow, 2022 Ucross Fellow, Sewanee Fellow, Tin House Scholar, Ragdale Foundation resident, Vermont Studio Center Fellow, VONA alumnus, and received the 2018 PEN/America Writing for Justice Fellowship.  He’s an active member of the Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, Western Writers of America, and also a member of the Dramatists Guild and Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers.  He’s Professor of Native American Studies and Political Science at Metropolitan State University of Denver, and lives in Colorado with his family.

His last name, Weiden, is pronounced “Why-den.” Heska Wanbli is pronounced “Heh-ska Wahn-blee.”  His nation, the Sicangu Lakota, is pronounced “See-chon-goo Lah-coat-ah.”

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David's Featured Titles

Winter Counts

Ecco |




Winter Counts is a marvel. It’s a thriller with a beating heart and jagged teeth.”  —Tommy Orange, author of There There

A Best Book of 2020: NPR * Publishers Weekly * Library Journal * CrimeReads * Goodreads * Sun Sentinel * SheReads * MysteryPeople 

 A groundbreaking thriller about a vigilante on a Native American reservation who embarks on a dangerous mission to track down the source of a heroin influx. 

Virgil Wounded Horse is the local enforcer on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota. When justice is denied by the American legal system or the tribal council, Virgil is hired to deliver his own punishment, the kind that’s hard to forget. But when heroin makes its way into the reservation and finds Virgil’s nephew, his vigilantism suddenly becomes personal. He enlists the help of his ex-girlfriend and sets out to learn where the drugs are coming from, and how to make them stop.

They follow a lead to Denver and find that drug cartels are rapidly expanding and forming new and terrifying alliances. And back on the reservation, a new tribal council initiative raises uncomfortable questions about money and power. As Virgil starts to link the pieces together, he must face his own demons and reclaim his Native identity. He realizes that being a Native American in the twenty-first century comes at an incredible cost.

Winter Counts is a tour-de-force of crime fiction, a bracingly honest look at a long-ignored part of American life, and a twisting, turning story that’s as deeply rendered as it is thrilling.

Winner, Spur Awards for Best Contemporary Novel and Best First Novel * Winner, Lefty Award for Best Debut Mystery Novel * Shortlisted, Best First Novel, Bouchercon Anthony Awards * Shortlisted, Best First Novel, International Thriller Writers * Shortlisted, Dashiell Hammett Prize for Literary Excellence in Crime Writing, International Association of Crime Writers * Longlisted, VCU Cabell First Novel Award * Shortlisted, Barry Award for Best First Novel * Shortlisted, Reading the West Award * Shortlisted, Colorado Book Award (Thriller)

Spotted Tail

Reycraft Books |
Picture Book
Winner of the 2020 Spur Award by the Western Writers of America
• Official selection for the state of South Dakota for the 2020 National Book Festival, sponsored by the Library of Congress
• American Indians in Children’s Literature–Best Books of 2019
• Bank Street Children’s Book Committee–Best Books of 2019
• Finalist for the 2020 Colorado Book Awards for Juvenile Literature
• Named as part of the “Colorado Canon” of books by 5280 magazine

This biography of Spotted Tail traces the life of the famous Lakota leader who expertly guided his people through a pivotal and tumultuous time in their nation’s history as they fought and then negotiated with the U.S. government. Spotted Tail is remembered for his unique leadership style and deep love for his people. Today a university is named in his honor.  This early reader is appropriate for children in grades 2-5, and those interested in the life of this great Native leader.


Native American Literature in the 21st Century

In this multi-media presentation, David Heska Wanbli Weiden discusses the past and future of Indigenous literature, including new works of genre fiction.  A reading is included with this presentation.


A Native Writer's Journey

David Heska Wanbli Weiden discusses his journey from a first-generation college student to bestselling author.  This presentation includes a reading and question-and-answer session.


Compelling Dialogue

Weiden lectures on how to write realistic dialogue in novels and short stories.


Setting, Theme, and Symbols

Weiden discusses advanced techniques in writing fiction and nonfiction.


Inequalities in the Criminal Justice System on Native Reservations

In this talk which will include a short reading, David Heska Wanbli Weiden discusses various laws passed by the U.S. government that harm Native American nations and their citizens.


Social Justice Techniques in Fiction

Weiden discusses strategies and techniques for bringing social justice issues into fiction.


The Only Good Indians: Boarding Schools, Spirituality, and Assimilation

David Heska Wanbli Weiden discusses the evolution of federal policies affecting Native Americans, including the role of Native boarding schools and laws prohibiting Native religious practices.

For Book Clubs

David’s Upcoming Events

Other Writing

Honors, Awards & Recognition

-Named one of “The Best 110 Thriller, Crime and Suspense Novels of All Time” by Parade magazine.
-Named a Best Book of 2021 in the United Kingdom by Financial Times, The Guardian, Daily Express, The Mirror, and Daily Record
-Named a Best Book of 2021 in New Zealand by New Zealand Listener
-Winner of the Anthony Award for Best First Novel
-Winner of the Thriller Award for Best First Novel
-Winner of the Barry Award for Best First Novel
-Winner of the Lefty Award for Best Debut Mystery Novel
-Winner of the Macavity Award for Best First Novel
-Winner of the Spur Awards for Best Contemporary Novel and Best First Novel
-Winner of the High Plains Book Award, Best Indigenous Book
-Winner of the Electa Quinney Award for Native American Literature
-Winner of the Tillie Olsen Award for Creative Writing
-Winner of the CrimeFest (UK) Award for Best Debut Crime Novel
-Winner of the Crime Fiction Lover Award (UK), Editor’s Choice for Best Debut Novel
-Nominated for the Edgar Award for Best First Novel
-Nominated for the Dashiell Hammett Prize for Literary Excellence in Crime Writing
–New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice

Media Kit

By clicking the link below you will be directed to a Google Docs Folder
where you can download author photos and cover images.

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