"I started to climb into the driver's seat but stopped when he called out to me again. 'Hey youngster, I didn't catch your name.'
I paused for only a second, continuing to look down the valley at the small town. 'I didn't throw it.'"
"By the time I got there, I discovered that Dog's idea of 'stay' was
disinterestedly springing a few western cottontails from the brush. He wandered back in my direction when I called him, marking each stand of sage as he came, and finally rested his muscled behind on my foot. I ruffled his ears, my hand stretching a full octave across his massive head. I peeled some fur back to look at the bullet furrow across his thick skull. 'Is that your idea of stay?' He smiled up at me, revealing rows of teeth that shone in the evening moonlight."
Another characteristic of the Walt Longmire novels I admire is Johnson's ability to find exactly the right balance. Every book is meticulously packed with adventure, mystery, intimacy, friendship and humor. What the Longmire novels lack in eye-rolling moments or "Oh-come-on" moments, they more than make up for in "I-know-that-feeling" moments. And if you haven't discovered the feeling in your own life experiences, you walk away from the books convinced you now have. Craig Johnson will often tell the stories of people asking for the phone numbers of Vic or Walt. And it's this perfect balance in his writing that creates the mirage. Certainly these people MUST exist. They are simply too real not to exist.
THE DARK HORSE is what Craig Johnson calls his "high plains noir" novel. I call it another astonishing work that blurs the genre lines. Part literary, part crime fiction, part western, all exemplary.
As I've done with the previous four Walt Longmire books, I listened to the audio book in addition to reading the print version. And once again it was read by my favorite narrator, George Guidall. George not only creates a voice that is perfect for the veteran sheriff, he also nails the nuances Johnson layers throughout the novel. He enhances the humor, Vic's and Henry's sarcasm, and especially the sentimentality. Guidall's pitch, tone and pacing are equally responsible for bringing these books to life. As I believe every crime fiction fan should experience a James Lee Burke novel narrated by Mark Hammer, I also believe every crime fiction fan should experience a Craig Johnson novel narrated by George Guidall. And you have not fully lived until you hear George Guidall sing "Ruby" or "Cattle Call" as Walt Longmire.
THE DARK HORSE is available from Viking Penguin in hardcover (ISBN: 978-0-670-02087-4). A trade paper version will be available in May of 2010. The audio book is published by Recorded Books.