Craig Johson – The Longmire mysteries

I hadn’t heard of Walt Longmire or Craig Johnson until I stumbled across the A&E series last summer. I hold a warm spot in my heart for the Rocky Mountains, and when I noticed the TV series was set in Wyoming (though apparently filmed in New Mexico), I gave it a look-see. The TV show was very well done. It had believable (mostly, anyway) characters, interesting plots and it did show some beautiful mountain scenery.

Over the winter, I had the chance to read several of Johnson’s books, on which the TV series is based. The books are excellent, much better than the TV version. The characters are noticably more realistic in print. The plots from the books were taken almost verbatim from the books. The TV series has been picked up for a second season — but they’re rapidly running out of books to translate to the small screen. If the series is to continue, it’ll have to take on a life of it own as other writers create new plots based on Johnson’s characters. We’ll see how that goes.

Each book in the Walt Longmire series involves a murder, of course. Aging sheriff Walt Longmire investigates the killing with help from his native American buddy, a sexy young deputy with a penchant for foul language and a yearning to get together with Walt, the elderly former sheriff, and a cast of less important characters. Longmire’s daughter, a lawyer, appears in several of the books. Longmire himself suffers from continuing angst about the death of his wife years before.

Johnson’s writing evokes a strong feel for the rugged Wyoming setting and the challenging weather patterns there. There’s a continuing thread of benevolent supernatural activity in the series — or does Longmire just have a strong imagination?

Another writer, C.J. Box, currently is producing a Wyoming-based series of mysteries. His protagonist is a fish and game officer. That series also deserves a look for both its mystery merit and its use of the western outdoor setting.

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