MysteryPeople Q&A with Craig Johnson

This Thursday, May 21st, at 7 PM, our pal Craig Johnson is back in the store. His latest Walt Longmire novel, Dry Bones, has the Wyoming sheriff involved with a murder investigation that is right in the middle of a fight for the rights to a rare and sizable Tyrannosaurs Rex fossil. Longmire must also deal with an unexpected tragedy that strikes close to him. We caught up with Craig to ask a few questions (he mostly answered) about his book, his state, and the direction of the series.

MysteryPeople: Much of Dry Bones‘ plot revolves around the discovery of the most complete Tyrannosaurus fossil and who has the rights to it. In your research, what was the most surprising thing you learned about the dino-world?

Craig Johnson: That scientists are just as capable of heinous activity as the rest of humanity. You would think that by pursuing the high-minded tract of empirical data that they would be above the petty squabbles and backbiting that plague us mere mortals, but that’s not the case. In the historic battles between Cope and Marsh, two of the greatest paleontologists in American history, they salted each others’ sites with incorrect bones, wrote horrible articles about each other, and at one point one of them had the skull of the other on his desk. All of which makes the dinosaurs seem pretty civilized.

MP: The subject reinforced the idea of how history has been an important element in the series. How does history apply to Walt’s part of the country?

CJ: Well, there’s history and then there’s history… Less than 20% of native religious items and bodies have been repatriated to the tribes, which in this day and age is ridiculous. Wyoming is the outdoors. As your good buddy James Crumley once said, “The west is the out of doors, just go to Casper, Wyoming and look at the town. That’s not the West, but look out and away, that’s the West.” I think westerners are confronted by the natural world to a greater degree, and the history is all around us, whether it be teepee rings from a couple hundred years ago, or bones from sixty-five million.

MP: Dry Bones’ plot is comparatively “light’, compared to your last few novels, yet almost halfway into the story, a large personal situation occurs that throws a somber shadow over the book. What do you have to consider when dealing with different tones and moods in a novel?

CJ: Without giving too much away, it’s happening all around us just now. Police officers are being lured into situations and being killed. I’m afraid that the truth of the matter that when you buckle on that gun belt and pin that badge on in the morning you’re never sure if you’re going to be coming home that night. You can have the characters in crime fiction blithely move from novel to novel, but that really isn’t honest to the material. When tragedy strikes it’s almost always unexpected.

MP: I thought this was your best use of Dog in the series. Other than a sounding board for Walt, what else does he bring to the stories? 

CJ: He humanizes Walt and makes him a better person, just like all our pets do for all of us if we let them. There are 5,416 species of mammals on this planet and that’s just the mammals. I think realizing we’re a part of the natural world and not some dominant species that towers above it is a good thing for all of us. We’re part of a miraculous instance that we need to be aware of, if for no other reason than to be in awe of it.

MP: This is another Walt Longmire novel where the land is as dangerous as the murder suspects. What is the most precarious circumstance you have found yourself in with Wyoming nature?

CJ: When I complain to my wife that dinner appears to be late:)

Probably up on the mountain in the Cloud Peak Wilderness area. I climb Cloud Peak every other year in the Bighorn National Forest, sometimes by myself, and it’s humbling to be that far out and having to rely on only yourself with 1,731 square miles of wilderness surrounding you. Especially if the weather turns bad at thirteen thousand feet…

MP: Dry Bones feels like it’s setting up Walt for a some big changes and possible compromises of who he is. Can you tell us some of the things he will have to confront for the next ten books?

CJ: No. Sorry–you’ll have to keep reading.

Craig Johnson comes to BookPeople with his latest Longmire novel, Dry Bones, on Thursday, May 21st, at 7 PM on BookPeople’s second floor. Events are free and open to the public. In order to join the signing line, you must purchase a copy of Mr. Johnson’s latest. You can find copies of Dry Bones on our shelves and via Can’t make it the event? Purchase a copy ahead of time online or over the phone and we’ll get it signed for you! 

MysteryPeople, Austin Mystery Writers, and Sisters in Crime Host Free All-Day Workshop

To celebrate Texas Mystery Writers Month, MysteryPeople, along with Austin Mystery Writers and Sisters in Crime, is holding a free workshop for the public on Saturday, May 23rd, starting at 10 AM and going till around 5 PM.  Three of Texas’ top talents of crime fiction will each focus on a certain topic of writing crime fiction.

reavis worthamKicking off the knowledge at 10AM is Reavis Wortham. Reavis is a rising star in the mystery scene, due to his Red River series featuring a group of lawmen and their families in a small Texas town during the Sixties. He’ll be covering the subject of story and plot. You can find copies of Wortham’s books on our shelves and via

les edgertonAt 11:30 AM, we turn it over to Les Edgerton. Les has had stints as a burglar, convict, teacher, and hairdresser as part of his rich life. He’s put many of those experiences to use in his gritty crime novels like The Bitch and The Genuine, Imitation, Plastic Kidnapping. He’s the perfect person to explore the relationship between protagonist and antagonist. You can find copies of Edgerton’s books on our shelves and via

george wierAt 2 PM, after a lunch break, George Wier will take us through the editing process. George has made himself  an online success with his Austin “fixer” Bill Travis. His latest, Murder In Elysium, gives us West Texas sheriff Shane Robeling. You can find copies of George Wier’s books on our shelves and via

At 3:30PM there will be a panel discussion with Les and George to cover any other topics that those attending would like to learn more about. You can come in for individual portions of the workshop or stay the whole day. Books by the authors will be available for sale and signing. Join up and let these professionals teach you some of the tricks from their trade.

All MysteryPeople events are free and open to the public. Check out our newly updated upcoming events list on our blog to find out more about our summer line-up!

A Writer In Texas Is a Texas Writer: Guest Post from George Wier for Texas Mystery Writers Month

Our celebration of Texas Mystery Writer’s Month continues with an essay by one of our favorite local authors, George Wier. His books are colored with Lone Star history and attitude. Here George explains where it comes from.

A Writer in Texas is a Texas Writer

– Post by George Wier

I found out today that a friend of mine of nearly twenty years duration is from my hometown, and I never even knew him or his family from those old days. I’m from a small East Texas town you’ve probably never heard of called Madisonville. When my family left there to move to Bryan, Texas, long about the Christmas of 1973, the population of Madisonville was roughly 3,500 souls, give or take. Now, it’s about…the same, but mostly take, or so I’ve heard. I met my friend Dan on a trip to Austin back in 1996, but I would see him and his wife and his beautiful daughter quite often after moving to here permanently in 2002. I had beat a hasty retreat from Bryan and College Station. I found in Austin a people who would accept me and my rather odd creative bent. You see, I write books. I write fiction books (known colloquially in the Eastern parts of the state as “those damn lies!”). I have written far more in the last thirteen years since I moved to Austin than I ever did the previous thirty.

The one thing that I have never shaken—and never will, can you say “Amen!” brother?—is the simple fact that I’m a Texan. Molly Ivins is purported to have said, “I dearly love the state of Texas, but I consider that a harmless perversion on my part, and discuss it only with consenting adults.” Well, that was Molly all over again. For my part, there is no perversity in it. There is, instead, something fundamentally grounding. I’m sure it’s the same no matter where a person is from. I do like to think that—I like to think that everyone else feels this same hard thump in their chest, such as when the horses come by on parade and the Lone Star flutters past. Or the sense of lost longing when parted from Texas and home for more than a scant few days. Or the sense of pride when talking about Texas with people who just…don’t know.

Let me tell you something. Now, listen close. I wasn’t simply raised in Texas. I was raised on Texas. In Texas, Texas History is a subject. There are textbooks on it, and some of them are even good. But as I grew up here I found out just how much my own family had a role in the founding of this state (we were first a sovereign country, and no, we’re never going to let anybody else forget it!). But even if the Wiers had only arrived in Texas with my father or my grandfather, my feeling for the state would be the same. Here’s why. My father, Nelson Wier, was one of the original Hellfighters. He fought oil well fires alongside Boots ‘n Coots and Red Adair. He fought them all over Texas and all over the oil platforms and drilling rigs of the Gulf of Mexico. He took me to every major big city in the state before I was ten. He introduced me to Texas oil millionaires (I spent time on Silver Dollar Jim West’s famous West Production Ranch when I was just a kid, and J.R. Parten lived mere blocks from our house) and he introduced me to old black men playing dominoes in Houston’s Fifth Ward, and barkeepers in Waco, to truck drivers and insurance salesmen. He took me to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo where I met real cowboys and real cattlemen, and he took me to meet the wardens of Texas prisons. My father, you see, walked tall among the people around him. He was bigger than life. He was…a Texan.

Later in life, when I was out on my own, I drove all over the state pushing a rolling straight edge to measure the bumpiness of Texas highways for the Texas Transportation Institute, and in that capacity I believe I have been down more roads than anyone I have known, possibly apart from a fellow writer and friend who is a retired Border Patrol Agent. Since those days, I’ve been traveling on my own, whether it’s booksignings, or to visit friends, or just to see the countryside. Sallie and I range from South Padre to Amarillo, and from Texarkana to El Paso. We travel. We travel a lot. And most of our travel is here in Texas.

I have met upwards of probably a hundred thousand people at one time or another, and I’m not sure that I have a single enemy among them. All by way of saying, I know Texas, and I know Texans. But I also don’t think I’ll ever stop learning more, or meeting more people, or making more friends. Texas is simply that big, and life is too good here.

So, for me to write about anything other than Texas would mean that I would have to write…science fiction. Now don’t laugh. Science fiction is about the only thing I can write when I’m not writing about Texas. I suppose that’s what it means to be a Texas writer. You have to write about Texas. I’m not sure I can help it. But it gets worse than that. This affliction is down in the bone, where no treatment can reach. What I mean by worse, is that I live in Austin, so guess what I have to write about? Okay, that one was too easy. Austin has grown on me. It has grown into me. I could no more divest myself of Austin than I could divest or divorce myself from Texas. I love it here, and I’ve only lived in Austin for the past thirteen years.

So, when I’m writing, and I need a character, he or she is going to have a Texas name. He or she is going to have a Texas background. And you know what? That character is going to talk Texan. They’re going to think Texan, and they’re going to have a history that is nothing but Texas.

From time to time Sallie and I will discuss moving somewhere else. We really do. I have never, however, believed it would work. It would be sort of like breaking up with someone you’ve been with and gone through life with, and this pea-picking heart of mine can’t hardly take any more heartache. So, cry me a river, but I ain’t leavin’.

About my friend, Dan—I think I understand him better, now. It’s quite likely he and I saw the same things when we were little fellows. Hell, it’s likely we were born in the same hospital, albeit years apart, and if not the same room, then likely just down the hall. There aren’t many rooms or halls in that little hospital. Yeah, I think I understand him. And I think I know why he’s here in Austin. Dan plays the piano, professionally. He’s incomparable at it. I think he came to the right place.

There’s one other thing, before I close, and suppose it’s this last bit that tells the tale. There’s a level of responsibility I didn’t expect that settled upon me the moment my first publication rolled off the line and started appearing in bookstores. It was as if all of my ancestors, going back to San Jacinto, were standing there in two lines in that bookstore as I walked in to my first booksigning. Like wraiths, all presence and no substance, they stood, taciturn but faintly smiling, as if to say, “Do us proud, son. Make us mean something again. Don’t let them forget us.”

Well, daddy, and my grandaddys, and all of you old southern coots with your women on your arms and your boots dusty from the trail, I hope I have. And if I haven’t, well, I promise you, I’m working on it.

May is Texas Mystery Writers Month. Keep an eye on our blog for guest posts from our favorite Texas writers, all month long. You can find George Wier’s books on our shelves, most of ’em signed. Just give us a call here at BookPeople and we’ll set one aside.

MysteryPeople Q&A with David C. Taylor, Author of NIGHT LIFE

David C Taylor has been writing for film, TV, and theater since the seventies. He has written for classic shows like The Rockford Files and scripted several movies including the fun Tom Selleck caper flick, Lassiter (a personal favorite) and the rock comedy Get Crazy. His debut novel, Night Life, is a look into New York City of the Fifties. One almost hears the theme from the Burt Lancaster film Sweet Smell Of Success as we follow Michael Cassidy, a cop with a unique background, whose case puts him in the middle of the red scare and up against real life villain Roy Cohn. It is a book rich in story and character that never loses itself in the period and atmosphere it evokes. I recently talked talked to Mr. Taylor about his book and the period it tackled.

MysteryPeople: Michael Cassidy is an intriguing character who can move in many directions and has an interesting history. How did he come about?

David C. Taylor: It is difficult to know exactly how a character is born. If you have been watching people’s behavior and storing up incident for as long as I have, I think there are characters alive inside you, and when you begin to tap them, they grow naturally as you demand more and more of them. I did grow up with a father who worked in the New York theater world, so that was available to me. And I did not want to write a run of the mill character whose background would lead naturally to the police department. I wanted him to be a bit of an outsider in all the worlds he passes through.

MP: What drew you to Fifties New York as a setting?

DCT: New York in the Fifties was the New York I grew up in. It was a city that did not really change until the late Sixties, by which time I was in my twenties, and youth is the time in our lives when many memories become indelible. I wanted to write about that city, which I loved, without limiting the story by making it about a boy.

MP: You also use the world of theater, that you have experience with. What did you want to get across about the people in that life?

DCT: The Fifties was a glorious era for those who lived in the mainstream of American life, but not such a glorious era for those who were marginalized by color, or sexuality, or politics. Theater people, then and now, are tolerant of those on the margins, those who do not swim in the main stream, and that was the world Cassidy grew up in, the world that shaped him.

MP:The book has several real life characters like Roy Cohn and mobster Frank Costello. How do you approach historical characters in historical fiction?

DCT: I always thought that Roy Cohn was one of the great villains of America’s 20th Century. He was one of those people whose public stance was that he was trying to protect America from its enemies. He used to say that “God Bless America” was is favorite song, but he spent most of his life and energy trying to hijack the system for his own benefit. I have read a great deal about him, and I tried be true to who he was. Frank Costello is there in part because I wanted Tom Cassidy to have a criminal enterprise in his background, which is often part of the American story, and I wanted Cassidy to have access to that part of New York life that works in the shadows. I have, of course, created relationships between Costello and the Cassidy family that are fiction. The use of real life characters from the past allows the writer to examine the tendency of power to corrupt without the partisan passions that writing about contemporary characters ignites. And, you cannot libel a dead man.

MP:You’ve mainly wrote for film, television, and stage. What did you you enjoy the most about writing a novel?

DCT: Film, TV, and stage are collaborative media. The script is a blueprint to which others add insight in the hopes, sometimes realized, of improving the work. The theater belongs more to the writer than movies or TV, but novels allow the writer the luxury of succeeding or failing on his own merits. You write what you want, and though there is an editorial process that can have an influence on the finished product, the writer has the last word, which, after years of writing for movies and TV, I find very satisfying.

MP: After researching and writing about the McCarthy era, do you see it a the kind of history that can repeat itself?

DCT: It does repeat itself, and in some ways is repeating itself now. If the population can be scared enough, it tends to willingly give up some of its guaranteed liberties in hopes that the government will use its expanded power to protect its citizens. This was true when McCarthy was finding a Communist under every bed, and seems to be rising again when we are told that there is a terrorist around every corner. We are now facing intrusive surveillance by agencies like the NSA, and the growing militarization of our police forces.

You can find copies of Night Life on our shelves and via

MysteryPeople Review: DRY BONES (Longmire #11) by Craig Johnson

dry bones

Craig Johnson joins us to speak and sign his latest Longmire tale, Dry Bones, on Thursday, May 21st, at 7 PM on BookPeople’s second floor. All MysteryPeople events are free and open to the public. You can find copies of Dry Bones on our shelves or via

Dry Bones, Craig Johnson’s eleventh novel featuring Wyoming sheriff Walt Longmire, shows off the author’s gift for handling differing tones and textures at once. He sets the reader up for a tale lighter in tone then his three or four previous novels, with a satirical backdrop framing the narrative. The story delivers its fair share of noir unease, however – Johnson drops a bomb that scatters somber shrapnel all around.

In the beginning he subtly and with humor foreshadows what’s to come, giving us a spoken police-style report on a murder victim that would make Joe Friday proud. The victim is Jen, a Tyrannosaurus Rex who left behind the largest intact fossil of her species in Absaroka County. When Danny Lone Elk, the Cheyenne rancher Jen’s “body” is on, dies in an odd drowning, a legal war erupts between state, local, and tribal governments, not counting the family. With all the big money involved, Walt’s suspicion of murder grows. While looking into Lone Elk’s death, he has to prepare for a visit from his daughter and granddaughter and deal with the dino-politics that has the Absaroka citizenry greeting him with raised fists, declaring “Save Jen.”

For the first third of the book, we’re given a humorous mystery in the vein of Junkyard Dogs, then Walt gets a call. On the other end of the line is tragic news. it has little effect on Dry Bones’ plot, but will pull the series in a new direction. Johnson deftly weaves this personal element into the plot.

Much like someone in Walt’s place, we are in shock, then the book gradually moves back to its initial feel as he continues to work the case while dealing with the fall out from the news. Johnson doesn’t as much shift tone as have one bleed into the other. The humor that still occurs often has more resonance, becoming a refuge for both Walt and us. Johnson also begins to slowly build the seriousness of the crime as well, to reflect Walt’s emotions. He’s even able to end the novel with a light moment.

Dry Bones shows Craig Johnson’s ability to spin several story plates at once. The humor of his characters always comes through believably even in worst of situations. It gives hope those bad times will pass and hope in humanity itself.

Craig Johnson joins us to speak and sign his latest Longmire tale, Dry Bones, on Thursday, May 21st, at 7 PM on BookPeople’s second floor. All MysteryPeople events are free and open to the public. You must purchase a copy of the book to enter the signing line. Can’t make it to the event? Pre-order a signed copy!

Author Brad Parks Conspires With Murder in The Afternoon Book Club

The Murder In The Afternoon Book Club meets the third Tuesday of each month at 2 pm on BookPeople’s third floor. Join us Tuesday, May 19, at 2 PM, for a discussion of Faces of the Gone, by Brad Parks, who will join us via phone call during the discussion. 

Author Brad Parks will be calling in to our discussion of his Shamus Award-winning debut novel, Faces Of The Gone, for our Murder In The Afternoon Book Club on Tuesday, May 19th, at 2 PM. Brad has gotten much acclaim with his series featuring Jersey journalist Carter Ross, and has now published five books. A former investigative and sports reporter, he uses his background and a good dose of humor to  bring his books to life.

Faces Of The Gone introduces us to Carter and his eccentric fellow journalists and colorful contacts. When several people are murdered execution style, it’s written off as gang killings. Carter thinks different and follows his hunch, leading to an investigation of city corruption and the discovery of a very surprising kingpin. This book set up Brad Park’s signature style: both gritty and funny.

Brad is as entertaining in conversation as he is in his books, so join us Tuesday May 19th at 2PM on our third floor. The book is 10% off at the register in the month of book club selection to those who attend.

Ben Rehder, Author of STAG PARTY, Starts Off A Month of Guest Posts for Texas Mystery Month

With  May being Texas Mystery Month, several authors from our home state will be doing guest posts about writing in Lone Star country. Our first is Ben Rehder, author of the satirical Blanco County crime novels. His latest novel is Stag Party.

Being a Texas author means I get to use my state as a backdrop for my novels. In essence, I can be a tour guide for my readers, figuratively showing them around to some of Texas’s coolest spots, as well as some of my personal favorites. Here are some of the places I’ve mentioned in my novels, in no particular order. A couple of these are gone now, but their memories will linger with locals for years.

Rosie’s Tamale House (Village of Bee Cave)
The Friendly Bar (Johnson City)
Cadillac Ranch (near Amarillo)
Hula Hut (Lake Austin)
Enchanted Rock State Park (near Fredericksburg)
Armadillo World Headquarters (Austin)
The Pier (Lake Austin)
Ronnie’s BBQ (Johnson City)
McBride’s Guns (Austin)
The Crystal Chandlier, pre-fame venue for George Strait (New Braunfels)
The Riverwalk (San Antonio)
Pedernales Falls State Park (Blanco County)
Soap Creek Saloon (Austin)
Barton Springs Pool (Austin)
Hamilton Pool (west of Austin)
Disch-Falk Field, home of Texas Longhorns baseball (Austin)
Cities along the Mexican border (Laredo, Del Rio, Piedras Negras, Acuna, etc.)
Whittington’s Jerky (Johnson City)
McDade Watermelon Festival (McDade)
The Sausage Capital of Texas (Elgin)
Selah Ranch (Blanco County)
The Barber Shop (Dripping Springs)
Willie Nelson’s Fourth of July Picnic, 1973 (Dripping Springs)
Nutty Brown Cafe (Cedar Valley)
Blanco State Park (Blanco)
Red Bud Isle (Westlake Hills)
Russo’s Restaurant (Marble Falls)
Blanco Bowling Club Cafe (Blanco)
Port Aransas (Gulf Coast)

Keep an eye out for guest posts from Texas Mystery Writers all this month as MysteryPeople celebrates May: Texas Mystery Month. Sisters in Crime has a full roster of events planned for this month – check out their calendar here.