by Cynthia Chow
Details on how to enter to win a copy of Wait for Signs at the end of this review, along with a link to purchase the book where a portion goes to help support KRL.
Over ten years ago Craig Johnson started to give short stories as thank you presents for his newsletter subscribers. Released every Christmas Eve, his fans began to anxiously await the annual treats. Finally there is a collection of these delightful peeks into the life of Absaroka County, Wyoming Sheriff Walt Longmire. Petunia, Bandit Queen of The Bighorns is the one completely original new story but all will be delightful reminders of Johnson’s past gifts to his readers.
Somewhat heartbreaking, but also a demonstration of how far Walt has since grown, are the stories that feature Walt as he’s still mourning the loss of his wife and drowning his sorrows in alcohol. Ministerial Aid has the widower mistaken as an unlikely Second Coming (perhaps it’s the bathrobe) and places him in the perfect position to give advice to a far less respectful husband.
In the least-populated of the Wyoming Counties, Walt has frequent interactions with local tribes. This proves to be crucial in Old Indian Trick, where a tribal elder slyly uses a not-so-old Indian trick to help Walt solve a robbery in twenty minutes.
Any appearance by foul-mouthed deputy Vic Moretti is a welcome, even one as brief as a phone call in Several Stations. Her prominent role in The Messenger (reviewed previously in KRL) is therefore a standout, not only for her acerbic humor but for her underlying—if reluctant—sentimentality.
Walt’s esoteric knowledge of history, theology, and mythology plays a role in many of these stories, even leading him to make a major drug bust in High Holidays. The one lesson Walt seems not yet to have learned is to never spend Thanksgiving with the Cheyenne Nation, Henry Standing Bear, unless Walt wants to again be lectured on the events that should more accurately have been named “Thanks-taking,” if considered from the Indian viewpoint.
Crafted over a decade, not one of the stories feels rushed. With tales ranging from ten to forty pages in length, every word feels purposeful and chosen to enhance the story. Lou Diamond Phillips, the Longmire actor who portrayed Henry Standing Bear in the sadly cancelled television series, wrote a charming introduction for the collection. In it, his respect, admiration and affection for the author is undeniable.
The lesson from all of these stories is the one Walt states in Divorce Horse; there are times when the law enforcement side of the job has nothing to do with the right-thing-to-do side. The skill, humor, and depth prevalent in the full-length novels abounds in these entertaining shorts, serving as wonderful early Christmas gifts made all the more special for their limited length but exceptional quality.
To enter to win a copy of Wait For Signs, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Signs,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen November 8, 2014. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address, and if via comment please include your email address.
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Click on this link to purchase this book & a portion goes to help support KRL!