Strange Days

Author Craig Johnson wasn’t born in Wyoming. Rather, while moving a herd of horses through the state on a cowpoking mission, he fell in love with Ucross, population 25, a town in the middle of nowhere, and knew it was where he wanted to settle. And he did eventually move there and build his own spread with his own two hands. But the remote setting held further inspiration for this literate former Manhattan cop: Johnson is one of that rarefied group of writers using the state as a backdrop for a mystery series. He’ll be in town tonight at the Tattered Cover Book Store to sign copies of The Dark Horse, his fifth yarn featuring the folksy, middle-aged sheriff Walt Longmire as its protagonist.

“One great thing about Wyoming: It’s a weird place,” Johnson says. “A lot of people think of it as being really square and remote, which it is. But the open spaces also bring out the weird and the strange. People are a little bit more out there, which gives me a lot of ideas for eccentric characters.” And that’s one of his strong points. Johnson’s characters fit comfortably like an old boot in a fictional land where the Western and mystery genres cross paths, finely sketched and imbued with humor. “My writing style is kind of like ditch digging,” he notes. “It’s a real blue-collar style of writing: You get up and early and do your ranch chores, and then you get a cup of coffee and you sit down and write.” That’s something we can all appreciate here in the morphing West, where it never hurts to recall the region’s roots.

Hear Johnson read at 7:30 p.m. at the Tattered Cover, 2526 East Colfax Avenue; he’ll also stop at Murder by the Book, 1574 South Pearl Street, tomorrow at 12:30 p.m. For details, visit or call 303-322-7727; contact Murder by the Book at 303-871-9401.
Fri., June 12, 7:30 p.m., 2009


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