This past weekend was Veterans’ Day, so it seems rather appropriate to recognize one of crime fiction’s great veterans—Walt Longmire. If you’re following my posts here at the AudioFile blog, I’m sure you aren’t surprised at all that I’m a mega-Walt Longmire fan. His popularity has grown considerably in the last five and a half years as people have discovered the Wyoming sheriff and his Absaroka crew through the popular television series aptly named Longmire.
But I’m an old-school Walt fan. I fell hard and fast for the literature-loving Vietnam veteran presiding over the least populated county in the least populated state in the country when I first read THE COLD DISH. Then I fell all over again when I listened to George Guidall read the mystery to me. Oh lordy, what a treat that was. Since then, I’ve had a slew of memorable experiences with this beloved series.
One of the very first times I attended a book event for Craig Johnson, a member of the audience asked if Walt looked like Craig. I remember thinking, “I don’t know if he looks like Craig, but he sounds like George Guidall.” That event was a two-and-half-hour drive from my house, and I spent the time listening to KINDNESS GOES UNPUNISHED—still my favorite of the series, incidentally.
I didn’t properly appreciate Craig Johnson’s brilliant humor until I first experienced Guidall’s performance. Of course I laughed reading the print book, but my sides hurt when I heard Guidall’s interpretation. Then while listening to ANOTHER MAN’S MOCCASINS, when Walt sings various Ruby-themed songs to Ruby, his dispatcher and surrogate mother, I very nearly had to pull over to the side of the road to avoid having an accident, I was laughing so hard. And JUNKYARD DOGS doesn’t even give you time to prepare. The hilarity starts in the first five minutes.
This is, without a doubt, my favorite series to recommend to people, and especially so on audiobook. A good friend said to me, “I listened to these audiobooks back to back. Usually I tire of a series after the second or third book and need something different. With Walt Longmire, I just wanted more, more, more.” It took my friend less than one summer to listen to the first seven books of the series. And I’ve hooked more than one person on listening to audiobooks by recommending this series as their introduction to them.
While KINDNESS GOES UNPUNISHED still reigns as my favorite book of the series, the collection of short stories, WAIT FOR SIGNS is a very close second. Notwithstanding the very bizarre reading of the introduction, where the narrator (not Guidall) repeatedly mispronounces Absaroka, I find these stories to be little pieces of pure happiness. They are insightful, poignant, funny, and rich—all in such a short space.
As a former English teacher and a lifelong lover of literature, I appreciate that element in all the books as well—hat tips and sometimes deep, respectful bows to the likes of Shakespeare, Dante, Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, and more. And at the same time that Johnson is paying tribute to Conan Doyle, he can give a wink and a nod to “The Dukes of Hazzard”—how can you not love it? Check out AN OBVIOUS FACT for that one!
I have a special affinity for DRY BONES (Save Jen!) and regularly quote my favorite line (from ANOTHER MAN’S MOCCASINS), “After a full sweep of the dance floor, I bent down to kiss the U-shaped scar at her hairline and attempted to keep time to the counting of my blessings.”
The release of a new book in the Walt Longmire series is something I look forward to each year. With this year’s launch of THE WESTERN STAR, there are now 13 novels, 2 novellas, and the short story collection available. So if by some chance you haven’t picked up this series yet, there’s plenty to keep you busy this winter. If you haven’t experienced it on audiobook, it’s a must. And if like me, you’re a rabid fan and have read everything . . . . these beauties hold up well, so maybe it’s time for a re-listen.