‘Longmire’ Author Craig Johnson On The West, Hollywood, And Funny Indians

Listen Now
<p>(Sadie Babits/CPR News)</p>
<p>Wyoming author Craig Johnson, who created the Longmire mystery series, signs books for listeners at Colorado Public Radio.</p>
Photo: Longmire Author Craig Johnson with Colorado Matters Host Ryan Warner
Craig Johnson, author of the Longmire mystery series, speaks with Colorado Matters host Ryan Warner in the CPR performance studio.

People are drawn to Sheriff Walt Longmire, a character created by Wyoming author Craig Johnson. Johnson spoke with Colorado Matters host Ryan Warner about his best-selling mystery series and "Longmire," the hit TV show it inspired.

Johnson describes Sheriff Walt Longmire

"He’s overweight, he’s over age, he’s overly depressed, but he still gets up in the morning and tries to do the job. To me, that’s where the true heroism lies rather than in the usual kind of crime fiction protagonist that you see of the 6-foot-2-inches of twisted steel and sex appeal; every woman wants him, every man fears him. He can kill anyone with a No. 2 Ticonderoga pencil in 3.2 seconds. In case you can’t tell, that’s the character that I hate more than any other in literature, and in cinema, too."

On actor Robert Taylor, who portrays Longmire

"I think it kind of sealed the deal for me when he took his hat off in the audition. It's the part where he's going into this woman's house, he's never met her before, doesn't know her, and he actually took his hat off when he met her and I thought 'this is probably our guy.' So I was kind of on board with Robert Taylor at that point."

On writing multidimensional American Indian characters

"You can count on one hand the amount of motion pictures where the Indians actually had a sense of humor. And I think the reason for that is there’s no quicker way to dehumanize a group of individuals as by robbing them of the higher brain functions of humor. A lot of times Indians are portrayed as these stoic cigar store 'How" kind of characters and that’s not the Indians I know. The Indians I know work in about 17 different layers of irony and if you’re not aware of that irony you get to be the butt of that irony."

On how he builds a mystery narrative

"One of my favorites, Tony Hillerman, used to say, 'I just start in and see where it goes.' That just scares the living daylights out of me. There’s no way I’d ever do that. It would be like you and I jumping in my truck out there and saying, 'Let’s go to Baltimore, but let’s not take a map.' I would say, you know, 'Why don’t we take a map even if we don’t use it? Let’s have it in the glove box there just in case we do need it.'”