Over the four days of the 2019 South Dakota Festival of Books, there will be two large group (all authors) signings and 106 presentations and workshops offered to attendees. The presentation/workshop topics will range from writing and publishing to the background stories of various author’s books, fiction and non. From my perspective, it’s a whole new world of 60 authors and book experts from whom to listen and learn.
In reading through the festival line up, I’ve selected a full schedule of events to fill in-and-around my own presentations and the group books signings. One of those events takes place on Saturday night. In fact, festival promoters have titled it with the wild west moniker of “A Saturday Night Special.”
The presentation will be a one-man show featuring author, Craig Johnson, generally known as a mystery writer from the town of Ucross, Wyoming, population: 25.
Specifically, Johnson is known as the New York Times Bestselling author of 14 novels, two novellas, and a collection of short stories that have won numerous awards including The Western Writers of America's Spur Award, the Will Rogers Medallion Award for fiction, the Watson Award for a mystery novel with the best sidekick and the Wyoming Historical Association's Book of the Year award.
The most well-known of Johnson’s books is The Longmire Series based on the character, Walt Longmire, sheriff of the fictional county of Absaroka, Wyoming. The series is comprised of 21 novels that have been translated into 14 languages and won numerous awards. The Longmire series was also developed into a television series for A&E, debuting on June 3, 2012 as the cable network’s number-one original-series premiere of all time with 4.1 million total viewers. It ran for four seasons on A&E and three additional seasons on Netflix, where it is now available for binging enjoyment.
In reading through various bios on Mr. Johnson, while his genre is noted as, “mystery,” the use of terms such as western, spur, horse, mountains, plains and sidekick left no doubt that his storytelling is flavored with a tinge of the wild west and a dose of cowboy.
While I acknowledge that a good story is a good story, Western sagas have never been my cup of tea. That being said, weaving mystery into the web intrigued me.
Knowing that I would be listening and learning from this accomplished author/executive television consultant, I figured I needed to at least read one Longmire book or watch one of the video episodes. Comparing my overloaded schedule with my Longmire intentions, I chose the video option.
For the ensuing 55 minutes (sans commercials, thank you, lord!) I was engaged, enthralled and emotionally stimulated, from laughter to tears. Sheriff Longmire (played by Australian actor, Robert Taylor) is lanky, scruffy and damaged goods following the death of his wife. Yet his heart is dedicated to the people of Absaroka County. That passion is what keeps him reasonably functional and alive.
The characters around him are quirky and appealing, even when you hate them. Most significantly, the storyline is tightly woven within Longmire’s personal struggles, his professional duties and the challenges of sheriffing in Wyoming, including Native American prejudices on both sides of that racial divide.
The backdrop of the story is perfectly filmed, although in New Mexico, not Wyoming. Regardless, the scenes are filled with minute attention to detail in a land that is vast and rugged. To summarize, episode one of the first season was terrific and I now know what I will be binge watching during my long cold Buffalo, NY winter.
And now I am truly looking forward to attending Craig Johnson’s Saturday Night Special Presentation. Not because of his fame and fortune author’s career, but because of the characters he has created that, wild west cowboy or not, have infiltrated my soul.