Prather’s Pick: A new Longmire book
November 11, 2014
A couple of weeks ago, while I was at Downtown Books in Craig, I was delighted to find a brand new book by Craig Johnson. He is the author of 10 bestselling novels set in Absaroka County, Wyoming and featuring Sheriff Walt Longmire. The books are so popular that they have inspired "Longmire," the A&E drama series, starring Robert Taylor. Johnson's new book, "Wait for Signs: Twelve Longmire Stories," is published by Viking Penguin (2014).
The book is Johnson's first collection of stories, all published previously except for "Petunia, Bandit Queen of the Bighorns," a new tale. All of them feature an off-duty Sheriff Longmire. In the Acknowledgments part of the book, Johnson writes that some of the stories are "mysterious, some have mysterious elements, and others have no mystery at all, just glimpses into Walt's life." Most of the stories are humorous — one of them even hilarious.
The first story in the book, "Old Indian Trick," is the first short story that Johnson ever wrote. It was published in "Cowboys & Indians" and ended up winning the Tony Hillerman award. The story begins on a September evening as Longmire drives Lonnie Little Bird, elder and member of the Northern Cheyenne Tribal Council, to the Deaconess Hospital in Billings for a diabetes check-up. They stop at the Blue Cow Café, on the Crow Reservation just off I-90, to have some supper.
The café is known for its "Montana Breakfast! Served All Day! As Featured In Reader's Digest!" which includes a half pound of bacon, four jumbo eggs, twelve pancakes, three-quarters of a pound of hash browns, a pint of orange juice and endless coffee.
As they enter the café, Lonnie picks up a free "Shoshone Shopper" newspaper, and he's telling Longmire all about a tractor advertised in the paper. The café seems empty, and then Longmire notices that everyone is hiding. There has been a robbery. The Big Horn County deputy and Sheriff Wesley Burrell Best Bayles arrive and begin questioning everyone, including Longmire. As a result, Longmire and Lonnie are too late for the doctor's appointment, and Lonnie wonders if Longmire wants to go bring back the robber. The story ends with a twist. It's a great story.
That's just an example of one of the stories. A story in the book that is especially hilarious involves bears, an owl and a Porta Potty.
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Besides his bestselling novels and this week's featured volume of short stories, Johnson has also written "Spirit of Steamboat," a novella that was the first One Book Wyoming selection. (This book was featured in Prather's Pick about this time last year.) Johnson is also the recipient of the Western Writers of America Spur Award for fiction, the Mountain and Plains Booksellers award for fiction, the Nouvel Observateur Prix du Roman Noir, and the Prix 813.
Johnson lives in Ucross, Wyoming — population 25.