By Jason KUROSU
Craig Johnson, the author behind the highly successful Longmire series, made an appearance in La Crescenta on Oct. 28 at St. Luke’s of the Mountains. Dedicated fans of the Longmire books and the TV show gathered at St. Luke’s to hear from Johnson and ask their burning questions about his inspiration for the characters and plotlines of their favorite Walt Longmire adventures.
Along with meeting the fans, Johnson was promoting his newest book, “Wait for Signs,” a collection of 12 Longmire short stories, including “Old Indian Trick,” Johnson’s first short story written 10 years ago, which won Cowboys & Indians Magazine’s short story contest in 2006.
Johnson admitted, “I’ve never thought of myself as a short story writer,” but amidst penning the novels of Sheriff Walt Longmire’s investigations in Wyoming’s fictional Absaroka County, Johnson wrote the 12 stories that comprise “Wait for Signs.”
The Craig Johnson event continued the expansion into larger events by Montrose bookstore Once Upon a Time, such as Pseudonymous Bosch at the Sparr Heights Community Center in September. But the October event was also a continuation of the store’s affiliation with Johnson, who previously appeared for a book signing at Once Upon a Time 10 years ago for his debut novel, “The Cold Dish.”
“When I was told, ‘We’re going to send you to Los Angeles. Which bookstore do you want to go to?’ I said, ‘What about that one I went to, the first time I went to Los Angeles?’” recalled Johnson. “We’ve had a bit of success and I just want to repay the debt that I owe them from 10 years ago.”
Johnson revisited the past with a reading of his inaugural short story, “Old Indian Trick.”
The Longmire fans in attendance had a number of questions for Johnson, many of which were directly related to his thoughts on the A&E TV series, which aired for three seasons before being cancelled in August.
When asked whether he felt the portrayals of his characters were accurate, Johnson said he prefers to think of the show as an “alternate reality.” He went on to describe his experience viewing the audition tapes for the actors trying out for Longmire’s role. He was especially taken by Robert Taylor’s tape, particularly because the scene in the tape called for Longmire to visit the home of a recently widowed woman. Taylor was the only one to remove his cowboy hat.
“This is our guy,” Johnson said. “We don’t have to teach him basic civility. His mom did the job.”
Johnson was also asked about how the idea of the Longmire character and storyline came to him, which Johnson described as “a procedural in the least populated county in the least populated state in America, an anti-CSI.”
Rather than focusing on the forensics side of police procedurals, Johnson said he decided to “focus more on the characters and the place and the relationships, which I think is much better grounds for writing a novel than technology.”
Johnson said he still holds out hope that the show will find a new home, though he admitted that much of what he hears on the show’s latest developments have been rumor and conjecture.
“I’ve got great hopes that it will happen because it’s a wonderful group of people that are involved with the making of the show,” he said.
Johnson remained afterwards to sign copies of “Wait for Signs,” which is available in bookstores now.