Longmire story takes series hero across border

Author Craig Johnson recently spoke on his craft in metro area


Wyoming Sheriff Walt Longmire has been fighting Mexican drug cartel boss Tomas Bidarte for some time, but things truly took a bad turn at the end of Craig Johnson’s last Longmire book, “Western Star.” Longmire’s beloved daughter, Cady, was kidnapped by Bidarte and is hidden in a remote village in northern Mexico.

The evil drug lord threatens to auction her off to the highest bidder.

Longmire, who of course must save her, doesn’t get much help from the American government, nor the Mexican one and must go alone to rescue her. Well, almost alone, with his American Indian sidekick, Henry Standing Bear, and Vic staying behind in Wyoming …

Move the scene to an old bar in Juarez, where supposedly, the margarita was invented …

Johnson immediately begins to introduce a cast of characters. The Seer is a humpback man with no legs, who has a driver in a big, pink Mary Kay Cadillac …

Then it’s Guzman, who gets him started on his quest, guided by young, almost silent (due to his tongue being cut out) but to-be-trusted Isidro, who is Apache/Tarahumara and a fine marksman. More names will appear in this imaginative cast …

Estante del Diablo, Shelf of the Devil, is the destination village, where the captive Cady is held, and Longmire is warned to trust nobody at all!

Johnson’s sense of humor underlies his storytelling although the landscape is grim and characters are violent … a bit too grim for this reader as an introduction to this popular series — “Depth of Winter” is No. 14, but I haven’t read the earlier books.

The village, when Longmire finds it, is a really awful, ugly place — the contrast of a sort of festival happening makes it seem even worse.

Of course, our hero is captured and more characters appear on the scene. Johnson really writes well as he keeps one in the moment, wherever Longmire is, as he gets near to his daughter and starts figuring out a plan … A reader can smell the village, feel the heat and see the worn buildings, including the one where Cady is imprisoned.

One can’t be alive and reading in the West and remain unaware of this legendary sheriff-and the related TV series. I will try an earlier story next.

When Douglas County Libraries brought Johnson here to speak recently, I was thoroughly engaged. He said he often starts a book with inspiration from a newspaper article in his massive file of clippings. “You’re looking at an `executive creative consultant,’” he said with a happy grin. Dispatches by sheriff’s deputies are also a good source of stories.

A look at early reviews finds fans who disagree with his choice to wander from Wyoming and the sheriff’s home territory. When he spoke at Lone Tree, he reminisced fondly about his American Indian friends, who live near his ranch in Wyoming. (“I say Indian,” he declared.) “But, these are my friends and neighbors—where is the tension? Hollywood relies on tension!” So he set out for dangerous northern Mexican cartel country with Longmire — which provides plenty of tension and still more characters and storylines.

“Do you ever write something that makes you laugh?,” he was asked in a following Q&A session. “If it doesn’t make me laugh, it won’t make you laugh,” he responded. And there are indeed funny parts in “Depth of Winter,” despite the desperate circumstances.

Suspend the logic and roll with Johnson as he leads Longmire in and out of one dangerous situation after another. Watch a master storyteller at work as he reassembles the puzzle pieces …

And picture this story on film eventually — it would seem to be a natural.


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