Craig Johnson, several years ago, gave readers a stunning gift--the characters Walt Longmire and Henry Standing Bear. Not just characters, but heroes!
All my adult reading life I have sought characters to equal Robin Hood, Jean Valjean, and Saint Francis, the heroes of my childhood. When I opened The Cold Dish in 2005, I recognized them, my never-let-you-down, brave and solid, funny and flawed heroes. I am forever grateful to Craig Johnson for these two, as well as for Victoria Moretti, Cady Longmire, Ruby, Ferg, Omar, Lucien, and so many other residents of the town of Durant in Absaroka County, Wyoming. Most importantly, Walt makes me smile, he makes me think, and best of all, even though he is challenged by his mobile phone, he restores order and peace with grit, grace, and wisdom. This is potent medicine for someone like me!
The Walt Longmire mysteries now number 14, with a 15th to be published in November of this year. They all have been bestsellers, appearing on The New York Times and Best Books of the Year lists, and selected as Wyoming Historical Association's Book of the Year in 2006, the Western Writers of America's Spur Award winner, the Mountains and Plains Book of the Year, and the Library Journal's Best Mystery of the Year, among many other awards and accolades.
Fourteen novels in, they always speak to me, for so many reasons--Johnson's Walt Longmire is intelligent, astute, courageous, moral, strong, and kind. He is also funny, well read, grumpy on occasion, sweet on women, a good friend, and a great keeper of the peace. Did I already mention he is my hero?
I'm only one of the millions who is impressed by Johnson's body of work. New York Times' Mystery Critic Marilyn Stasio said, "It's the scenery--and the big guy standing in front of the scenery--that keeps us coming back to Craig Johnson's lean and leathery mysteries". "With indelible characters Johnson paints gorgeous, mesmerizing landscapes that feel exotic while also managing to feel like a home you left and long to revisit", said the Portland Oregonian. From Kirkus Reviews, "Pile on the thermal underwear, fire up the four-wheel drive and head for Durant. Walt and his idiosyncratic crew are terrific company--droll, sassy, and surprisingly tenderhearted."
Craig Johnson was asked this question:
"Your books are very unlike traditional mysteries. How would you characterize what your novels are or what you intend them to be?" This is his answer:
"I hope they are whodunits for people who get to the end and don't give a damn about who done it. I'm interested in the structural aspects of the mystery, but I am more concerned with the societal issues and the people. I'm a great fan of the golden era of mystery writers--Hammett, Christie, Sayers, and Chandler--but I don't want to write what they wrote. The mystery genre speaks to a much larger audience these days and with that goes a certain responsibility for the author. To ignore the complexities of the reader is to ignore the complexities of society, and that would be criminal."
Craig Johnson, he's the man! My real-life hero!