Craig Johnson’s old sheriff ‘Longmire’ in books, TV

For a grizzled old sheriff in a small Wyoming county, Walt Longmire is getting a lot of attention lately.

“As the Crow Flies,” author Craig Johnson’s latest novel about Longmire, came out a few weeks ago and “Longmire,” a new weekly series about the character, debuts tonight on A&E.

It’ll be interesting to see how A&E does with the series. Robert Taylor plays Longmire and, in the few clips I’ve seen, looks like he might be a good fit for the character, a laconic modern-day cowboy who’s a dogged detective but wears his heart on his sleeve.

As the series of books opened, Longmire was still recovering from the death, from cancer, of his beloved wife. His daughter, Cady (played by Cassidy Freeman in the A&E series) is an attorney in Philadelphia trying to help her father get back on track. Longmire’s lifelong friend, Henry Standing Bear (Lou Diamond Phillips in the series) is not only his anchor but his backup when dealing with the dangerous types — meth makers, murderous backwoodsmen, escaped convicts — that drift through the county.

A big part of the series is its spirituality. Not in the organized religion sense, but in Longmire’s discovery of the Native American beliefs of Henry and his fellow Cheyenne people as well as the Crow and other nations that populate the area.

The tie between Longmire’s small-town policing and the world of the reservation is especially strong in “As the Crow Files,” Johnson’s latest book. Longmire and Henry investigate the death of a young Native woman who fell from cliff while they watched. Her infant was clutched in her arms and survived the fall. Now Walt and Henry have to piece together who would push a woman and baby off a cliff and why.

At the same time, Walt is preparing for Cady’s upcoming Wyoming marriage to Michael Moretti, brother of Vic Moretti (ideally cast with Katee Sackhoff of “Battlestar Galactica” fame), Walt’s tempestuous deputy, a former Philly cop.

As in all the Longmire books, there’s an undercurrent of humor. Walt and Henry and Vic are dryly funny characters.

Besides the humor, there’s a somber feeling to Longmire as well as the aforementioned spirituality. Henry’s beliefs, which might come across as mysticism to some, gradually seem more plausible to Walt, who gets spiritual guidance at just the right time in many of the novels.

The A&E series, which seems intended to appeal to the type of audience that likes “Justified,” the FX series about a Kentucky lawman, might do a good job capturing the character-heavy drama of Johnson’s stories. It’s hard to imagine how it will capture the humor and spirituality. We’ll see tonight.

 

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