Craig Johnson has received high praise for his Sheriff Walt Longmire novels The Cold Dish, Death Without Company, Kindness Goes Unpunished, Another Man's Moccasins, and The Dark Horse, which received a superfecta of starred reviews from Kirkus, Booklist, Publishers Weekly, and Library Journal, and was named one of Publisher's Weekly's best books of the year (2009). Each has been a Booksense/IndieNext pick with The Cold Dish and The Dark Horse both DILYS award finalists and Death Without Company the Wyoming Historical Association's Book of the Year. Another Man's Moccasins received the Western Writer's of America Spur Award for best novel of 2008 as well as the Mountains and Plains award for fiction book of the year. The latest Walt Longmire novel, Junkyard Dogs, was released by Viking on June 1, 2010.
The Cold Dish was translated into French in 2008 as Little Bird and is in competition for Le Prix du Polar Nouvel Observateur/Bibliobs. It was also selected for Le Grand Prix des Litteratures Policieres and was a finalist for Le Prix 813. Death Without Company, Le Camp des Morts in French, was just released in April of this year. The Dark Horse will be translated into Czechoslovakian in 2010.
Craig is a board member of the MWA, having been elected as a member at large.
Post-It: The Face in my Head
by Craig Johnson
Since A&E green lighted, (green lit, green illuminated?) the pilot for Longmire, I’ve been inundated with questions and advice from folks with sometimes very strong opinions about the actors who should play the venerable sheriff. I’ve pretty much dodged the question about who should play Walt by answering Gary Cooper, but I’ve gotten about as much mileage out of that as I’m going to… In all honesty, I’ve heard other authors describe their characters as ‘an older Daniel Craig’ or ‘a brunette Reese Witherspoon’. I’m always surprised by that because I just don’t use actors as models for my characters for the simple reason that I don’t know any of them.
I once handed Reese Witherspoon a toothpick at the California Pizza Kitchen in Brentwood and she was very nice, but I don’t think that counts.
I tend to use people I know as characters in my books, simply because they are people I know. Sometimes it’s something in their physical appearance, but more likely it’s a gesture, a phrase, or some kind of telling character trait. Appearance doesn’t mean all that much to me, I have to confess, and with an actor you get that and the character of whomever they might be playing.
I guess I find it confusing when assembling a character from someone who’s already assembled their own.
For me, the outside of a person is under the direct influence of the inside person. There are an awful lot of inferences that tell me about a person when I’m looking at them, and very few of them have to do with whether the person is good or bad looking, and I’m pretty sure that the guy Warner Brothers Horizon and A&E come up with will probably be better looking than the Walt I’ve got in my head.
And probably shorter, since Walt’s 6’5” and everybody in Hollywood is 5’8”.
The casting directors are starting with Walt, and rightly so since he’s the linchpin for the series. Whichever actor they get for that roll will have a direct effect on whom they get to play Henry, Vic, Ruby, and all the others. Hell, it might even affect who plays Dog.
I’m seeing a Rin-Tin-Tin with just a touch of Buck in Call of the Wild--the seminal, Clark Gable version.
Even though I’m a ‘creative consultant’ to the series, the producers don’t have to ask me much, so I’ve been amazed at how extraordinarily responsive the team has been to any input I’ve had. I’m careful though, realizing that this is an entirely different medium and that they have to do things for certain reasons that I might not at first understand because of my limited experience in film and television production. When the producers told me they were most likely going to make Walt a little younger than in the books, I immediately wanted to know why. They patiently explained that they were hoping that this might be a long-lived series on A&E and they’d just as soon not have Walt on a walker by season six.
I had a hard time arguing that one.
It’s all a learning experience for me, along with the realization that the TV series won’t be exactly like the books. I think when you find yourself in a collaborative artistic effort (i.e., producers, directors, casting directors, screen writers, and actors), you either have faith in their connection to the material or you don’t. I’ve got a lot of confidence in these people, because of their conviction in the novels. They love the characters in these books and are remarkably talented, with extended track records of fine work—so most of the time I spend keeping my nose out of it until asked.
So, who’s going to play Walt in the A&E pilot of Longmire?
I don’t know yet—but I bet he’ll be different from the one in our heads—and I bet’cha he’ll be good.