Today, Hartford Books Examiner extends greetings to Craig Johnson.
The author of the highly acclaimed Walt Longmire mystery series, which serves as the basis for the new A&E drama LONGMIRE, Johnson will be in Connecticut for the 16th Annual Sharon Summer Book Signing this Friday, August 3rd. (See event details below.) His novels have achieved New York Times bestseller status and earned Johnson a variety of accolades including the Western Writers of America Spur Award for fiction, the Mountains and Plains Booksellers Award for fiction, the Nouvel Observateur Prix du Roman Noir, and the Prix 813; The Dark Horse holds the distinction of having received starred reviews from all four prepublication review services. Johnson makes his home in Ucross, Wyoming, population twenty-five.
The eighth entry in the series, As the Crow Flies (Viking Adult, $25.95), was published last May. Publishers Weekly gave the book a starred review and noted, “Johnson expertly highlights his conflicted hero’s dual role as father and sheriff in this deeply satisfying installment.” Further, Booklist enthused, “All the elements his fans love are present: lively characters, easy banter, and, of course, a touch of the supernatural…This book fits the hand like a well-worn glove.”
From the publisher:
Embarking on his eighth adventure, Wyoming Sheriff Walt Longmire has a more important matter on his mind than cowboys and criminals. His daughter, Cady, is getting married to the brother of his undersheriff, Victoria Moretti. Walt and old friend Henry Standing Bear are the de facto wedding planners and fear Cady’s wrath when the wedding locale arrangements go up in smoke two weeks before the big event.With the popularity of Craig Johnson’s Walt Longmire series growing apace, fans new and old will relish As the Crow Flies, the sheriff’s latest quirky and complex investigation.
The pair set out to find a new site for the nuptials on the Cheyenne Reservation, but their scouting expedition ends in horror as they witness a young Crow woman plummeting from Painted Warrior’s majestic cliffs. It’s not Walt’s turf, but the newly appointed tribal police chief and Iraqi war veteran, the beautiful Lolo Long, shanghais him into helping with the investigation. Walt is stretched thin as he mentors Lolo, attempts to catch the bad guys, and performs the role of father of the bride.
Now Craig Johnson takes readers behind-the-scenes of Longmire…
1) AS THE CROW FLIES finds Walt Longmire attempting to juggle obligations of both a personal and professional nature. What inspired this story’s particular plot – and how do you keep things fresh eight books in to a series?
I drink a great deal… Just kidding. Generally, the ideas for my books tend to come from newspaper articles, things I stumble across as I travel from small town to small town in Wyoming and Montana. I write what I refer to as socially responsible crime fiction, which means I don’t want my sheriff on a cruise ship or a skateboard; I want him dealing with the same problems that plague people who live in small towns all over the world. I think with those small newspapers as my source material, it keeps the stories grounded, which is what I like. The catalyst for As the Crow Flies was an article about a young Lakota man who returned from Iraq and committed suicide by cop in Rapid City--Indians, and I use that term because all my Indian friends laugh at me when I use Native American, have an extraordinarily high percentage of their young people that go into the military for either economic reasons or because they are generally a militaristic society--and it just seemed to me that with the parallels of this country’s experiences in Vietnam—the more things changed, the more they remained the same.
2) Your books are steeped in the culture of the American West. How do you feel that these elements enhance the narrative and enrich readers? Also, what’s the key to creating characters that are true to the culture but defy stereotypes?
Well, I think that when you write about a place you love, the only thing that it demands in exchange is honesty. When you write in a genre, whether it’s western or mystery, there’s always going to be a certain amount of baggage you bring along with you, the trick is in turning that baggage into a high-context relationship with the reader. Humor plays a large part in this, that and making sure that the characters are fully dimensional. For me, the worst thing that could happen would be for somebody to get on a plane there in Hartford, fly to Wyoming, get out and say, “This is nothing like what’s in his books.”
3) Given your own experiences in law enforcement, is it difficult to balance fact with creative license?
Once again, I try to be honest to the characters, some of the counties in Wyoming are way bigger than Connecticut, and these sheriff’s have to do the best they can with the limited financial resources and lack of manpower that they have, so no Wyoming CSI. Once again, I think the humor in the books helps; when you get right down to it cop humor isn’t all that different from cowboy or Indian humor…
4) What are your thoughts on A&E’s television drama “Longmire”? Have you found that the show has had any influence on your writing?
I think they’ve done a marvelous job in translating the books to the screen, I better since they made me an Executive Creative Consultant. With the difficulties of trying to tell their stories in forty-two minutes it’s hard for them to use entire books as plot lines, but I sent them a folder full of those newspaper articles that weren’t appropriate for novels, but appear to have worked pretty well as teleplays. I was lucky enough to fall in with a great group of folks who really love the books and the characters and that’s about as much insurance as a cowboy writer from a town of twenty-five can get.
In answer to the second part of your question, not much; I’ve been writing these books for eight years now, and the characters and place are based on a reality in which I live and that’s kind of difficult even for a television show to dislodge. The other effect is that it gets really quiet on either side of me at the local cafes…
5) Tell us about a typical book signing appearance. What can attendees expect? Also, is it daunting to know that more people might show up to one of these events than make up the population of your current hometown of Ucross, Wyoming?
Oh, I’m more of a Will Rogers kind of guy; my events are more like cracker barrel affairs… I tend to tell stories, read, and answer questions. I’ve actually done the National Book Festival and a lot of large events here and in Europe, especially France, where the books are very popular. I’m not daunted by much.
With thanks to Craig Johnson for his generosity of time and thought and to Bennett Petrone, Associate Director of Publicity for Viking/Penguin, for facilitating this interview.
The 16th Annual Sharon Summer Book Signing will take place this Friday evening, August 3rd, between the hours of 6 - 8 PM at The Hotchkiss Library. Admission is $25, payable in advance or at the door (Visa and MasterCard accepted). The event will include an open wine bar as well as hors d’oeuvres provided by Hannah’s Catering of Litchfield. The Hotchkiss Library is located at 10 Upper Main Street in Sharon. More information can be found online or by calling 860-364-5041.