Thank you, Craig Johnson


Outtakes 192

Thank you, Craig Johnson

By Cait Collins

 

I met Craig Johnson, author of the Longmire mysteries, when he spoke in Amarillo a couple of years ago. I truly enjoyed listening to his journey as a writer. I’ve known writers who would speak for little money, but he was the first to say he’d meet with a group for a case of Rainier beer. Of course he was kidding, but he got a good laugh at the offer.

After reading my first Longmire novel, The Cold Dish, I was hooked. I’ve read a number of the books and keep looking for the ones I’ve missed. This brings me to a find when I was roaming the bookstore shelves recently. Mr. Johnson has written a wonderful novella.

The Spirit of Steamboat has me captivated. I allow myself 30 minutes each morning to read before going to work. I have come close to clocking in late the last two mornings because I hate to put the book down. Think A Christmas Carol, a Christmas storm, a decrepit B-25 World War II airplane, a Doolittle’s Raiders vet, a helicopter crash survivor, Walt Longmire, and a Christmas guest, and you have the makings of a what-will-happen-next holiday story.

The novella presents a different side of the writer’s talent. I am enjoying this read as much as I have loved his mysteries. I’m looking forward to reading Wait For Signs, a collection of Longmire short stories.

Longmire


Outtakes 57

Longmire

It’s that time of year when there’s little new on television. Reruns, reality shows, and repeats of repeats of the same old movies fill the schedules. When I saw the promotions for Longmire on A&E, I thought it sounded interesting. At the very least, it would be new. I caught the last couple of episodes and was intrigued with the characters and setting. There was a beautiful starkness to the cinematography and an intriguing perfection in the characters and dialogue. I hoped the series would be picked up for a second season.

I was surprised to learn the author of the Walt Longmire mysteries, Craig Johnson, would be speaking in Amarillo as part of the Amarillo Public Library’s summer Amarillo Reads program. Since I was impressed with the series, I looked forward to hearing from the author. As I took notes from Craig’s presentation, I started thinking, “If the guy writes the way he speaks, his books will be great.” I have just finished the first book, THE COLD DISH, and can state I am not disappointed.  Craig Johnson is a master story teller. His novel combines the best of distinct, interesting characters; spot-on dialogue minus tag lines; Indian lore; the harsh beauty of Wyoming and Montana; and a big anti-hero. I am hooked. Thank goodness there are seven more Walt Longmire mysteries to read.

I’m a speed reader. I can read a four-hundred page novel in a matter of hours if there are no interruptions. However, I found my reading slowed because I was savoring the description. Johnson has found the perfect balance between too much and not enough description. I hiked the trails around the lakes and through the mountains with Sheriff Walt Longmire as he and Henry Standing Bear searched for a witness. I felt the bone-chilling, mind-numbing cold as he carried an injured man to safety. I felt his pain and uncertainty as the decision was made to leave his badly wounded friend on the mountain during a blizzard. I hurt at the unexpected end.

After finishing THE COLD DISH, I realized the author had skillfully woven three of the great story themes, man against man, man against nature, and man against himself, without confusing or blurring the plot’s twist and turns. Normally, I detect the perp by the middle of the book. This plot was so well hatched, I never suspected the killer’s identity. I consider that the essence of great writing. I look forward to reading the next book DEATH WITHOUT COMPANY. I can’t wait for season two of the A&E series Longmire.  In the words of Lonnie Little Bird, “Yes, it is so.”

Cait Collins