A polygamy group causes trouble for Walt Longmire in A Serpent's Tooth, Craig Johnson’s ninth novel to feature the Wyoming sheriff, now the star of the A&E TV series Longmire.
Why do you emphasize the environment in your plots?
The environment is an important aspect of living in Wyoming, and like Studs Terkel once said, “Ain’t nothin’ ever happened nowhere.”
Are polygamy groups a problem in Wyoming?
We don’t have too much of a problem with polygamy groups in Wyoming, but they’re right across the borders in South Dakota, Utah, and Colorado, so I don’t think it’s much of a stretch.
Are “lost boys” like the teenager kicked out of his religious group in A Serpent’s Tooth common?
They are in the states I’ve mentioned, and sometimes they find work in Wyoming. It’s heart-wrenching that these kids are turned loose on the world with little or no skills, just to allow the older men in these compounds more access to young women.
Will Walt ever be happy?
As far as Walt being happy, I tend to think of him as “over”—over age, overweight, overly depressed. But he still gets up and does the job, and to me that’s heroic.
Your debut, The Cold Dish, won France’s Le Prix du Polar Nouvel Observateur/BibliObs, and Death Without Company won France’s Le Prix 813. Why do you think your novels resonate with the French?
I think changing Walt Longmire’s name to Jerry Lewis might’ve had something to do with it... Just kidding. I think the French, from what they tell me, are responding to the complexity of the characters and the vastness of the landscape; also, they’re very knowledgeable about the Old West, but I think they’re curious about the contemporary West and they feel that with the Walt books, they’re getting the real deal.
A novella called The Spirit of Steamboat that’s due out in October. It was supposed to be a short story, but after four days it was already over 80 pages long, so Viking is putting it out in the fall as a hardcover novella. It’s about an epic Christmas Eve flight in a vintage B-25 that Walt takes in an attempt to save a young burn victim’s life.
Has the TV series had any impact on how you shape your plots or characters?
Not really. The television show is marvelous, and I think they’re doing a great job, but I was writing these novels seven years before they ever got hold of them. I assemble the characters more from family, friends, and neighbors—I’m a kind of Dr. Frankenstein, actually—and that tends to have more of an effect.