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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Northwest Passages Book Club: ‘Longmire’ author Craig Johnson brings a dose of cowboy humor to Spokane

Craig Johnson, best-selling author of the “Longmire” book series, has a lot in common with the series’ protagonist, Sheriff Walt Longmire.

Both are from Wyoming. Both are fond of cowboy hats. And both have a sense of humor.

Spokane got a taste of that humor Wednesday evening at the Bing Crosby Theater, where Johnson was featured as the most recent author of The Spokesman-Review’s Northwest Passages Book Club.

Johnson’s recent book, “Depth of Winter,” published in September and appearing on the Northwest Independent and New York Times best-sellers lists, features Longmire, an Absaroka County, Wyoming, resident known for his quiet and generous spirit.

Longmire travels to Mexico – without usual sidekicks deputy Vic Moretti and Henry Standing Bear – to rescue his daughter from nemesis Tomas Bidarte, a dangerous drug kingpin.

As in the Johnson’s other books, Longmire’s sense of humor crops up often in “Depth of Winter,” – in one instance, when the hero finds out he’ll be driving around Mexico in a 1950s bright-pink Cadillac convertible.

“The first thing he asks the driver is, ‘How much Mary Kay did you have to sell to get this?’ ” Johnson told the audience. “For me, humor is really kind of an important aspect, especially with characters that are dealing with what law enforcement deals with. So, in dire situations, Walt is still going to have his sense of humor.”

Organizers estimated about 600 people attended the event.

Longmire was inspired by Johnson’s own experiences and from individuals he consulted with in law enforcement. He wanted a sheriff, he said, that embodies the best qualities of police work: compassion, intelligence, determination and a keen sense of ethics.

The setting for “Depth of Winter” was predicated by Bidarte, who first battles Longmire in the book “Serpent’s Tooth,” and becomes an antagonist for five subsequent novels.

“I knew that at some point in time there would be a culmination of that antagonism, where they would go up against each other, but I knew that Tomas Bidarte would not make the same mistake twice,” he said. “He wouldn’t take Walt on again in Wyoming.”

Johnson published his first book, “The Cold Dish” in 2004. He has since authored 14 novels, two novellas and a short story collection – all of which provided the basis for the six-season “Longmire” television show.

The show had a three season run on the A&E Network before it was canceled in 2012, despite its popularity. Netflix picked up the show for three additional seasons before it was canceled again last year.

Johnson said he’s unsure if there will be another show in the future because of a dispute between Netflix and Warner Brothers, but there’s hope for a movie at some point.

A typical day for Johnson involves a balancing act between writing and tending to his ranch in Ucross, Wyoming.

“For me, it’s kind of wonderful because I get to spend half of my life outside with the animals in what is basically Walt’s world,” he said. “And then, the other half of my life is sitting up there in the loft typing about my imaginary friends. It’s a nice balance to have.”

Johnson plans to continue his pace of writing one book a year, which includes the next installment in the “Longmire” series, “Land of Wolves.”

He’ll also continue participating in Longmire Days, an annual event held in Buffalo, Wyoming, featuring “Longmire” cast appearances, music, a parade as well as arts and crafts.

“It’s a chance to kind of pay back the county, the town I borrow so much from,” he said. “So much that I write about comes from that area where I live.”