Tag Archives: Craig Johnson

‘Longmire’ canceled; book series hits new peak

longmire any other name

I’ve got good news and bad news.

Despite its status as A&E’s top-rated drama series, “Longmire” has been canceled by the cable channel.

We heard a variety of explanations given when the news broke a few days ago. A&E didn’t value the older-than-the-most-coveted-demographic age of the audience. A&E didn’t own the series and thus made less money from it.

TV is a totally screwed up industry.

So with the finish of the third season still fresh and the possibility that the series might continue on another channel or even online, we’ll mourn “Longmire” and hope for more adventures of the crusty Wyoming sheriff and his posse.

Longmire Season 2

“Longmire” the TV series had a great cast and average-to-above-average stories that settled into author Craig Johnson’s characters and settings more as the series progressed.

But the series never topped Johnson’s stories. And I don’t think I’ve ready any 10th book in a series that felt as assured as “Any Other Name,” Johnson’s latest Longmire novel.

Sure, Robert B. Parker’s Spencer series and Lee Child’s Jack Reacher books are dependably, consistently fun. And maybe Johnson just hit a high point with “Any Other Name.” But the book series feels like it’s gotten a second wind, so compelling and accomplished does “Any Other Name” feel.

Johnson can’t go too far wrong when he focuses on Walt Longmire, of course. Select members of his supporting cast bring a lot to the stories, and he includes three of them here: Walt’s longtime best friend, Henry Standing Bear; Vic Moretti, Walt’s chief deputy and sometime paramour, and Lucian Connally, Walt’s predecessor as sheriff.

Lucian asks Walt’s help in finding out why his old friend, a cop in another county, killed himself. Before long, they determine that the cop’s death was caught up in a scheme involving missing women and human trafficking.

Johnson’s writing is so heartfelt but so wry, so funny but so hard-nosed, that it didn’t seem likely that he could top his previous books.

But I really think he did with “Any Other Name.” The story has the quirky charm of all of the author’s previous modern-day westerns with a clear and concise mystery.

And it feels like Johnson had a hell of a time writing “Any Other Name.” I just hope he had as good a time writing it as I had reading it.

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‘Longmire’ strong in third season

longmire cast outdoors

For readers of Craig Johnson’s series of books about Wyoming Sheriff Walt Longmire, the A&E TV series version of the show was something of a challenge at first.

In the first season, two years ago, so many elements from Johnson’s quirky, gritty, mystical and funny series of crime novels seemed … “off.” Longmire and longtime friend Henry Standing Bear didn’t seem old enough (in the books they’re Vietnam veterans; in the series they’re played by middle-aged hunks Robert Taylor and Lou Diamond Phillips) for the well-worn characters they are; the ever-changing roster of deputies was pared down; the relationships were streamlined and the early books’ Philadelphia subplots were gone.

But so many things were so right. Taylor and Phillips are great, gruff and sardonic by turn; Katee Sackhoff was letter-perfect as Deputy Vic Moretti, as was Cassidy Freeman as Walt’s daughter, lawyer Cady, and Adam Bartley as “The Ferg,” a deputy holdover from the books; and Bailey Chase initially seemed written just to be antagonistic as deputy Branch Connaly but quickly grew to portray a complex character.

The entire series, in fact, grew. Creators and producers John Coveny and Hunt Baldwin quickly seemed to realize they needed to import Johnson’s storylines, at least to some degree, and even more importantly adopt the mood the author invokes in his books: The stories are set in a Wyoming that is by turns beautiful, hard, cold, hot, parched, magical and gritty.

As the third season begins, I’m glad to say that “Longmire” has maintained the successful mix that Coveny and Baldwin began refining shortly after the show got on its start.

Longmire himself, as played by Taylor, is crusty and deceptively straightforward but has a real edge to him. Henry – in jail in connection with the death of the man who killed Longmire’s wife – is struggling to survive and might become a pawn in a larger game. And the deputies are in turmoil, as always.

At the same time, “Longmire” does well with its plots of the week. most recently Walt and Vic’s crusade to bring to justice the person responsible for the death of a Russian teen whose body was found in a Wyoming creek.

Her murder involved international adoption, foster parent scam artists and Walt’s smoldering sense of outrage.

I’m still missing the absence of the Philly connection in the series and I regret the mystery of Walt’s wife’s death – a complication that’s not in the books but was probably necessary to give the series more of an over-arching mystery storyline – but almost everything else about “Longmire” the TV series works.

madchen amick longmire deena

Oh yeah, one element I’m missing this season: Madchen Amick as Dena, Henry’s girlfriend. The former “Twin Peaks” star appeared last year in a few episodes. So far this year it’s been mentioned in an aside that she stole money from Henry’s safe. Here’s hoping that means she will show up eventually and that the comment isn’t a way of writing her out of the series.

 

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.

 

Waiting patiently for Sheriff ‘Longmire’

One of my favorite mystery novel series right now is Craig Johnson’s Walt Longmire series, which follows the sheriff of a sparsely populated Wyoming county as, slowly and sometimes painfully but with dry humor, he recovers from the cancer death of his wife and keeps the peace.

Johnson’s Longmire is a tough guy with a soft heart. He’s no spring chicken — Longmire and his native buddy, Henry Standing Bear, served in Vietnam together — but he’s rough and ready. Longmire is more than capable of dealing with the kooks and criminals that pass through his county.

His vulnerability is his heart. Longmire worries — with good reason — about his smart and independent daughter, Cady, and tries to figure out his relationship with Victoria Moretti, his imported-from-back-east deputy who is as rough-edged as she is tempting.

The books have their fair share of action, often involving the inhospitable Wyoming terrain and a group of surly bad guys. But the Longmire stories won’t be mistaken for “Die Hard.” Longmire can defuse a situation as handily as he can brawl his way out.

In light of the success of cable TV series like “Justified,” A&E announced last year that it would turn Johnson’s Longmire books into a series. “Longmire” debuts June 3.

I hope they get the show right. Robert Taylor seems a little too young to play Longmire, and Lou Diamond Phillips will have to convince me he is Henry Standing Bear. Katee Sackhoff couldn’t be more perfect as Vic Moretti, though. Sackhoff has the perfect mix of sex appeal and hot-headedness to play Vic.

I’ve read all of Johnson’s books and I’m looking forward to the next, “As the Crow Flies.”

And I’m looking forward to — if a little anxious about — the TV version.

Can’t wait: Upcoming TV shows to watch for

Back in the day, TV networks threw all their season premieres into the same week in September. It made for a fun issue of TV Guide but was fairly suicidal. Even though there were only three or four networks back then, it was impossible to check everything out.

With the splintered and factionalized TV picture that came with the explosion of cable, TV series premiere virtually throughout the calendar year. Shows take mid-season breaks, stay off the air for months and years (I’m looking at you, “Mad Men”) and pop up whenever.

There’s something to look forward to in the coming weeks, however: The return of several new favorite dramas.

First up is one of my favorite shows, FX’s “Justified.” Based on characters created by crime novel legend Elmore Leonard, the show features Timothy Olyphant as U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens, back in his home state of Kentucky and, with cool Stetson and even cooler demeanor, running roughshod over lowlifes and bad guys.

“Justified” returns at 10 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 17 on FX.

Not long after comes Feb. 12 and the premiere of the second half of season two of “The Walking Dead” on AMC.

The survivors of the zombie apocalypse, traumatized by the loss of young Sophie, forge ahead with their efforts to find their way through the wilds of Georgia and the end of the world.

I’m hoping — really, really hoping — that Rick, Lori, Daryl Dixon and the rest get off the farm where they’ve been all season so far, and get out of there quickly once the second half of the season begins.

How many years has it been since we last saw Don Draper and the rest of the cast of AMC’s “Mad Men?” Two? Three? Less than that? Really?

Well, the deliberately-paced 1960s character drama will finally return on March 25, if you can believe star Jon Hamm’s recent announcement.

Speaking of great characters: One of my favorite episodic dramas of the past couple of years is “Sherlock,” the modern-day retelling of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic Sherlock Holmes tales. Benedict Cumberbatch returns as the brilliant detective and Martin Freeman makes for one of the most satisfyingly irritable John Watsons ever.

Just three episodes aired on PBS’s “Masterpiece Mystery” last year and three more are coming in May. Best news: Three more episodes are now in the works.

I wish I could tell you with some certainty when A&E’s “Longmire” series will premiere, but I haven’t seen a date other than “sometime in 2012.”

I also wish I could tell you that the series is faithful to Craig Johnson’s wonderful mystery series about Walt Longmire, an old-fashioned modern-day Wyoming sheriff dealing with an odd assortment of characters and crimes. I wish I could say that it is — and it very well might be — but the casting is a little young and a little off.

The best bit of casting? Katee Sackhoff of “Battlestar Galactica” as Longmire’s funny, profane deputy, Victoria. The actress is perfect for the part.

Of course, there are other shows to look forward to. But that’s a pretty good start to any year.

 

Steve Jobs, books and time’s passing

I heard about the passing of Apple visionary Steve Jobs just a little while ago and, of course, I heard the news through my iPhone. I imagine I’m one of millions of people who found out through one of Jobs’ many ideas-brought-to-life.

Then, after watching a few minutes of a TV special about Jobs, I settled in and finished a book. It was Craig Johnson’s “Death Without Company,” the second in his series about Wyoming lawman Walt Longmire.

I just closed the Johnson book — it’s good, and typical of the Longmire stories, which feel like Westerns even though they’re crime novels and, above all else, character studies — and feel philosophical. More so than usual.

Part of that is because of the tone of the book, which is all about death and friendship and family and long-forgotten passions rekindled. Part is due to the passing of Jobs, whose inventiveness changed things for a couple of generations of people.

It’s important, for some reason, to note that I read “Death Without Company” not on Jobs’ iPad or Amazon’s Kindle or even BN’s Nook but on paper. I don’t have a tablet or e-reader, at least not yet. I’m not rushing to get one, in great part because there’s something that feels so right about reading a book on paper. Hardback, paperback, whatever. The experience of opening a book and getting lost is one that I’ve loved since I was a grade-schooler. I’m positive that love will never pass. I’m pretty positive my devotion to the old-school book experience will likewise stick around.

Jobs was the kind of guy who was always moving ahead, always innovating. I found myself wondering tonight if he still read books — or newspapers, or magazines — on paper. Was that ever an important thing to him? Did it ever stop being important?

I’m not sure what I’m going to read next. I have only one of the Longmire books left. I might crack that open or I might dip into a book about the Civil War in an attempt to remedy my woeful ignorance about that period in our history.

Maybe I’ll start reading “Killing the Blues,” the latest in a series of books about small-town New England cop Jesse Stone. Jesse was created, you see, by Robert B. Parker, a longtime mystery author who passed away last year.

“Killing the Blues” exists because Parker’s wife chose a successor. Michael Brandman is continuing the series after Parker’s passing.

Parker, like Jobs, was a master at his own game. He’s gone now, like Jobs, and others will try to fill the void, like they will with Jobs.

Parker’s successors — because it’s hard to imagine a replacement — will continue his various series, hopefully with some success and artistic accomplishment.

Jobs’ successors — because it’s hard to imagine a replacement — will continue his work, hopefully with some success and artistic accomplishment.

Books will still be published. Incredible advances in technology will continue to be made.

And the world will keep on spinning, albeit perhaps diminished.

What’s on your nightstand?

We’ve got books all over our house. In bookcases and in boxes and filling those handy folding shelves that Target used to sell. I’ve got boxes of old comics and monster movie magazines in the garage (which themselves will one day be the topic of a blog entry or two).

But most of the book action in my household is on the nightstands.

All of us have a few books within reach, ready to be read in the few minutes each night before we (I, really) crash into fitful sleep.

The nightstand is where I put my glasses and my keys and my iPhone each night, but the two stacks of books, teetering a little precariously over everything, is what makes me feel comfortable.

The stack of books at the back of the nightstand is shamefully neglected. Some of those books have been there for a couple of years. They’re books that have been recommended, gifts that I’m meaning to get around to, books that I bought on sale just because I could and books that I’ve actually read before but want to keep handy. “Gregor the Overlander,” by “Hunger Games” author Suzanne Collins, is one that has been highly recommended to me. “Devil in the White City” by Erik Larson is one that I’ve already read and highly recommend.

On top of that stack is a small legal pad, complete with Harry Potter pen, that I keep handy just to jot down notes.

The front stack on my nightstand sees the most action. That’s where you’ll find my latest library books. On top of that stack right now are three books in Craig Johnson’s series of mystery novels about Wyoming sheriff Walt Longmire. If you haven’t read Johnson’s books, you should because they’re great. Good stories, even better characters and a great take on life from his crusty old sheriff protagonist. And you can say, “Oh, I’ve read those books” in case a proposed A&E cable TV series about Longmire is a hit.

Also prominent on the front stack is “The Encyclopedia of Appalachia,” a hefty reference book with a depth of knowledge that matches its weight. Anything you want to know about that region that’s so dear to my heart can be found in that book.

We’re trying to corral our books in this household, figuring out if we want to get some new bookcases. If we do, how we store our books will probably change.

I can’t imagine any change, however, that will rob my nightstand of books.