One of my favorite things to do is to randomly find a book by an author I have not read and check it out. I discovered the Walt Longmire series when I was shelving books at Borders. I picked up Another Man’s Moccasins and liked the cover (yes, I did judge the book by its cover.) Once I finished reading it I immediately found The Cold Dish, the first book in the series, and plowed through them all. These books are a fresh voice in the mystery genre.
Who is Craig Johnson?
Craig Johnson lives on a ranch in Ucross, Wyoming, population 25. He has a wonderful Facebook page where you can see how beautiful this corner of Wyoming is for yourself. Or you could just read the books because Craig definitely follows the advice “write what you know.” The Walt Longmire books take place in the same mountainous corner of Wyoming as Ucross and the majestic setting defines the characters. If Craig Johnson lived in New York City he would have never written these books.
Craig spends a lot of time touring and promoting his stories. He is a wonderful ambassador for the value of books. I have not been able to get to Portland or Seattle to see him but it is on my bucket list. His website lists his tour schedule and I can’t wait for his next book to come out so I can finally get to meet him.
Another Man’s Moccasins won a Spur Award from the Western Writers of America. (If the Mystery Writers of America is listening these books deserve an Edgar.) Spirit of Steamboat was the first One Book Wyoming pick. That means that Craig’s book was the one book that represented all of Wyoming in 2014. I am not surprised. Spirit of Steamboat is a hold-on-to-your-seats book that blends the history of Wyoming with a modern rescue story. Even my husband, who rarely reads fiction, though that it was a gripping tale.
Why do I love this series?
The Walt Longmire books are a combination of police procedural and cowboys and Indians. Where city cops prowl the streets and alleys Walt finds his answers in the mountains and the wide open spaces. He is a sheriff who wants to right wrongs. That makes him a great crime solver and drives his staff crazy since he tries to avoid the more mundane parts of his job.
Walt is a complicated character. He is a widower who never wanted to be a widower. He is slowly coming back from the dark place he had been dwelling in, mostly because his friends are dragging him out. The contrast between his lack of desire to help himself and his compulsive need, one that goes beyond his job, to help others is one of many reason why I love this character.
All the characters in this series are remarkable. Vic, his undersheriff, has a mouth on her that would offend sailors. She is a fish out of water who manages to swim quite well. Henry Standing Bear, Walt’s best friend, is a pillar of calm no matter what catastrophe happens. Since Henry is an Indian (I use that term because that is what Henry calls himself) and many of the plots happen on the reservation the series gives an unapologetic view of these people. They are not perfect and they are not evil. They are simply people, with needs and wants that we all share. It is a refreshing view.
I do recommend reading this series in order. The Cold Dish is a great first novel; it will not disappoint. And remarkably, each book gets better. Whenever I finish a Walt Longmire book I always think it is the best one so far, until I read the next one. This has happened to me time and time again.
No book is perfect. This is what bugs me…
The books do not bug me at all. They are marvelous. But there is a TV show based on the books. Now, don’t shoot me if you like the TV show. I don’t think it is that bad. I love the setting and I like Robert Taylor, who plays Walt Longmire. However, I wish they would have just invented new characters instead of changing the characters that are so perfect in the book.
Yes, I am talking about Vic. She is my favorite character in the books and I can visualize her perfectly. She is a short and curvy with dark hair and a large Italian-Philadelphian-cop family. Cool. Unfortunately that is not the Vic they cast for the TV show. I think the actress does a fine job but I personally can’t get over the differences. I am glad the TV show has a strong following but after watching season one I decided I will just read the books. It keeps my blood pressure from spiking.
Why should you read this series?
The world that Walt Longmire lives in is enchanting and the people who populate this remote area are as captivating as the landscape. Walt Longmire is a character that you want to spend a lot of time with and the mysteries are all well designed. When you finish one you are going to want to pick up the next one immediately. That is not a problem unless you have read them all. My cure, read them all again.
A Quote Worth Quoting
“There are only three major vote getting days in Absoroka County, and I can’t remember the other two. “Oh God, no. It’s Pancake Day.” I thought about shooting myself. I could see the headlines: Sheriff shoots self, unable to face pancakes.” Craig Johnson, The Cold Dish