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Craig Johnson's Longmire

Updated on September 26, 2013

Until a couple of months ago, I couldn't have told you the difference between Craig Johnson and Don Johnson. I was watching some show on A & E about a camo wearing Z. Z. Top tribute band building duck calls with their Uncle Si (or something like that, Jack) and they kept advertising this show called Longmire. The commercials wore me down and I watched the first couple of episodes of season one on my Apple TV.

The Walt Longmire character on the series seemed so introspective that I began to wonder if the series was based on any books. After seeing Craig Johnson's name as the author on the opening credits and then being unable to get any of the books at my local library, I bought the first in the series, A Cold Dish, from iBooks.

Mysteries written in the first person are my favorite. Robert B. Parker, Robert Crais and Ace Atkins books fill the shelves above my computer and I constantly look for others. I found a great addition in Craig Johnson.

So far, I've watched the entire first season, several of the episodes of the second season, and ripped through the first six books. Welcome to a world of quality writing and character driven narratives. The beauty is that both venues can so easily coexist. The books and the series are enough alike to make a viewer smile when they cross over and different enough that each can stand alone.

The first time I watched Henry Standing Bear answer the phone at the Red Pony with the line " It's another beautiful day..." I was glad no one saw me grin at the TV like some kind on lunatic. Vic's husband on the show explains her being a blonde, which might be a small thing but it demonstrates the respect the writers on the show have for Johnson's work.

Robert Crais refuses to sell Elvis and Joe to Hollywood and I understand his reservations but I believe that Craig Johnson has struck gold here. I saw the show before I read any of the books so Walt, Vic, the Ferg, Cady and Henry to me will always be the actors who portray them in the show. In every case that's a good thing.

Robert Taylor as Walt Longmire

Lou Diamond Phillips as Henry Standing Bear

One of the factors that makes the books and the shows click with me is the relationship between Longmire and Henry. Henry's character is not a cop but is close friends with Walt and the friendship's strain and strengthening make for great reading and watching. The kind of friendship these two have is something best understood by those who have experienced it; cops, firefighters, and the military.

Henry Standing Bear does not use contractions. That might not seem like a big thing but Johnson's seemingly simple choice gives Henry's voice a cadence, an individual rhythm, that I don't (I mean do not) recall reading or hearing anywhere else.

Katee Sackhoff as Vic Moretti

Vic is a very special character in the show and even more so in the books. A large part of her persona is her vocabulary. She doesn't delete any expletives. I believe she'd drop an f-bomb at a Southern Baptist Convention and then roll her eyes if someone objected. It's part of her charm, her believability and frankly helps make her character more than an equal.

Bailey Chase as Branch Connaly

The books and the show have many differences. The character of Branch Connaly does not appear in the Longmire books and yet he fits into the cast so well, it's as if he were one of the originals created by Johnson. (There is a Turk Connely in the first book, but he doesn’t hang around long.) Sancho from the books does not exist in the TV show, and even though I like his character the show is fine without him.

Cassidy Freeman as Cady Longmire with Craig Johnson

All these actors had gigs before Longmire. I remember Cassidy Freeman from her years on the Smallville show. She sure turns it up a few notches on Longmire and proves she has the talent to portray complex interesting characters.

A quick commercial for the Craig Johnson store:

On Craig Johnson's website you can order stuff. It didn't take me long to figure out I wanted that Red Pony Bar and Grill T-shirt and I ordered it. It arrived quickly and I was so pleased with the quality that I sent an email letting the folks in Wyoming know. I have a Gas Monkey shirt, a Justified shirt, but the Red Pony shirt is my favorite. Might order another before they run out!

It would look better on you!

A bit long, but so worth watching:

After I finished this article, I found the video below. If you bear with the lighting and audio problems during the first few minutes, it's a fascinating look at the way Longmire became a series and Craig Johnson's involvement with it. His wit and likability shine through in this piece and the amount of input he had is nothing short of amazing! There are interesting nuggets of information about the actors and their attitudes toward their roles.


Final thoughts:

The A & E Network show Longmire is entertaining to watch but the Craig Johnson books are more than that especially for those of us who write. I believe that if you enjoy writing, you improve two basic ways. First you write and work on your skills. And second, I believe that good writers read. Reading Craig Johnson books will improve your game. Do I think I'll ever be as good as Craig Johnson? No, but it's a worthy goal.

Meeting Craig Johnson

On Saturday, September 7 Craig Johnson was in Winston-Salem, NC which is only a couple of hours from where I live. I drove over, bought the last two of his books and got in line to have them signed.

It was obvious that Mr. Johnson likes to meet folks who read his books and he enjoys talking to them as well. He didn't rush anyone through the line and stayed until the last person got their chance to meet him. I also got to meet his wife, Judy, who seemed like a great lady. She took a picture of me in the Red Pony shirt but it must have been eaten by Dog since it did not appear on Craig's Facebook page.

Later the author spoke and read a bit of A Serpent's Tooth. I'm telling you this guy is the real deal; an intelligent, likable man who appreciates his fans. In fact he said he considers the people who read his books to be friends instead of fans.

That's important.

I'd write some more, but As The Crow Flies and A Serpent's Tooth are waiting on me.

Please leave a comment below, if you'd like. You don't have to sign up or provide any information.

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    • resspenser profile imageAUTHOR

      Ronnie Sowell 

      4 years ago from South Carolina

      Thanks, dude.

    • profile image

      Mark 

      4 years ago

      Well done, Ronnie!

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