500,000 Bikers and one Sheriff: MysteryPeople Q&A with Craig Johnson

  • Post by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

Our Pick Of The Month is Crag Johnson’s latest, An Obvious Fact, one of the best to date in his sheriff Walt Longmire series. The Wyoming sheriff, his Cheyenne buddy, and his foul mouthed deputy (and sometimes love interest) from Philly have to solve a mystery during The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in a small town with connections to a woman from Henry’s past.

Craig will be with us on Tuesday, September 13th, at 7 PM, the same day as the book’s release, so come by BookPeople for a chance to be one of the first to get a signed copy! To get everyone excited for Craig’s visit, we got in a few questions in early to one of our favorite authors.

MysteryPeople Scott: I saw this book as your acoustic set, stripping the series down to its three main characters and solving the mystery with little of the drama that has been building in the series. Was this an intentional shift?

Craig Johnson: Well, I try and do something different with each book and I think the stripping down was a result of that, but the drama in the characters lives is always going to be subjugated by the action and pace of the plot. Strangely enough, this may be the funniest and best- paced novel I’ve written–I wish I knew why.

MPS: There is a lot of focus on Walt and Henry’s friendship. What do they provide each other, aside from back up?

CJ: It’s the backbone of the series ever since The Cold Dish when I had to have two individuals who represented their different cultures. I think the bond and most important the easy banter between the two characters is what I enjoy the most. This was a departure in the sense that we learn a little more about Henry’s personal past and that provides a few conflicts between the two men, but even with all the hurdles they face, there’s a camaraderie and a true friendship that never fails.

“Literally a half million bikers in a town of 396 with only one police officer? I figured that was something in which Walt, Henry and most important Vic should be involved.”

MPS: As someone who has been in those western states during the Sturgis rally, you captured it well. What was the key to conveying it?

CJ: I’ve been there! I mean Sturgis is bad enough but I happened to be in Hulett, Wyoming during Ham & Jam–literally a half million bikers in a town of 396 with only one police officer? I figured that was something in which Walt, Henry and most important Vic should be involved. It’s a circus, and I think you just have to submit yourself to that if you’re going to represent it accurately and not surrender to the stereotypes.

MPS: You did something many authors don’t, by giving Walt a dim view of something you love, motorcycles. Is there a challenge to that?

CJ: I grew up riding bikes and have four of them today, but my wife takes a dark view of such activity, so it was pretty easy to get a perspective from the other side of the coin. Walt’s very solid, and I just couldn’t see him being a fan of donor-cycles.

“There are a lot of comparisons that can be drawn between Walt and Sherlock Holmes and this seemed like a good opportunity…”

MPS: You have both Henry and Vic demonstrate their skills in contest with motorcycle and marksmanship respectively. Any reason Walt doesn’t get to play?

CJ: Walt’s the narrator, the voice of the books and in the tradition of the West, he’s understates his own abilities. Henry and Vic are a bit more extroverted, and Walt doesn’t mind being in the background until there is a dire need–then he kind of wades in with a vengeance.

MPS: Why did this become the best story for all the Sherlock Holmes references?

CJ: I always like to have a literary underpinning to my novels, and other than The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, biker literature is pretty woebegone so I decided to use a crime fiction source. There are a lot of comparisons that can be drawn between Walt and Sherlock Holmes and this seemed like a good opportunity, besides, it gives Henry the opportunity to annoy the shit out of Walt by referencing a detective who might be better than he is.

Craig will be with us on Tuesday, September 13th, at 7 PM, the same day as the book’s release, so come by BookPeople for a chance to be one of the first to get a signed copy! Can’t make it to the event? Pre-order signed, personalized copies!

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