Monday, May 16, 2016

The Highwayman - Craig Johnson

First line: "There is a canyon in the heart of Wyoming carved by a river called Wind and a narrow, opposing, two-lane highway that follows its every curve like a lover."

The next full-length Walt Longmire novel doesn't come out until September, so for those like me who are impatient for their Absaroka County fix, The Highwayman is here to appease. Craig Johnson's second novella is a ghost story of sorts set in the Wind River Canyon.

Wyoming Highway Patrolman Rosey Wayman has recently been assigned to the night shift in Wind River Canyon. The canyon, coupled with two tunnels, makes radio reception tricky in her beat, but Rosey starts hearing 10-78 calls at 12:34 a.m. 10-78 calls--officer needs assistance--at the exact time Bobby Womack, a former patrolman, met his death in that same canyon nearly fifty years earlier. In fact, the calls seem to be coming from Bobby.

In addition to the calls, Rosey finds two rare silver dollars believed to be from a cache stolen just before Bobby Womack died. There were rumors he was in on the theft. The rumors were never confirmed by they tainted Womack's legacy nonetheless.

Rosey's supervisor pulls patrol with her a couple of times to try to hear the radio calls, but there's only silence when he's present. So Walt and Henry head over to Wind River Canyon to spend a few nights with the young officer. If they can't discover anything, Walt has to talk Rosey into seeing someone for psychiatric help.

Walt's adventures will never be as easy as a trip to the shrink, and The Highwayman proves that once again. This little gem of a read is all that makes the Walt Longmire series wonderful packed neatly into 190 pages. The breath-taking Wyoming setting, painted in Craig Johnson's stunning wide strokes of beauty and danger co-existing on the same palette, provides a fitting backdrop for the ghostly plot. A handful of new and delightfully entertaining characters step into the roles since Walt is on the road for these exploits. All would be welcome additions to the series if they happen to show up again in the future.

And of course, a book could not carry the Walt Longmire name without crackling dialogue full of wickedly smart humor and touching insights into human nature. Walt, himself, is a gem in this genre, and it's a special treat to be able to visit with him two times this year. While I understand the appeal of the television series and am beyond tickled that it has introduced many people to this sterling series, no screen version can even begin to compare to the world that comes alive on Craig Johnson's pages. It's as rare as the Hot Lips Morgan silver dollars and will make you feel just as rich to possess it in your imagination.

The Highwayman is available tomorrow in hardcover from Viking Penguin (ISBN: 9780735220898) and as an unabridged audiobook, narrated by the unparalleled George Guidall, from Recorded Books (9781501928529). You can find a copy at your favorite independent bookstore or at any of these online retailers:

Alibris Amazon Audible
Book Depository iTunes Kobo


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