Longmire author discusses new book with Spokane audience at Northwest Passages book club

A six-pack of Rainier beer was presented to author Craig Johnson before the talk began to a packed house at the Bing Crosby Theater on Saturday.

Johnson, the author of the Longmire book series, told The Spokesman-Review’s Northwest Passages book club audience that back in his cowboy days, Rainier beer was trying to break into the coffee market. Montana and his home state of Wyoming.

“You could buy a six-pack for $1.50,” the author recalled, sporting a cowboy hat and boots. “It’s become my favorite beer.”

And so it was only natural that beer would become the signature drink of Johnson’s grizzled sheriff, Sheriff Walt Longmire of fictional Absaroka County, Wyoming.

Sheriff Longmire returned on September 6 with the release of Johnson’s 18th book in the now Netflix book series. “Hell and Back” charted at No. 8 on the New York Times Bestseller List this week for hardcover fiction.

Johnson’s appearance at the Northwest Passages event is her second since 2018, following the release of “Depth of Winter.”

Johnson, who is touring the country promoting “Hell and Back,” said this latest episode takes on a more supernatural twist.

The sheriff wakes up in the middle of a road with two silver dollars placed over his eyes. He doesn’t know who he is or how he got there, but he’s covered in blood and missing a bullet from his handgun.

The sky above him is a “strange dark yellow” and there is the smell of something burning in the distance. Everyone the Sheriff meets will be familiar to longtime fans of the Longmire series, as they are all characters from previous books who have died.

“Inside his hat is the name ‘Walt Longmire.’ That’s the only thing he has to do,” Johnson told the audience on Saturday.

That, and the difference between good and bad.

“He still has that moral compass,” Johnson said.

Like “Hell and Back,” the previous book also touched on supernatural forces through Native American mythology. Native American mysticism has been present in all the books, the author said in a previous interview. In “Daughter of the Morning Star,” Johnson also explored the high rates of missing and murdered Native American women and girls.

This book is not the first time Johnson has tackled hot issues in contemporary American and Western life.

In “Hell and Back,” Johnson explores the history of Native American boarding schools, which made headlines last year in the United States and Canada. An investigation by the Department of the Interior found that more than 500 Native American children died in boarding schools across the United States between 1819 and 1969.

“I tend to label what I write as socially responsible crime writing. One of my least favorite phrases is ‘page turner’. I don’t work all year on a book just so that you can flip through it,” Johnson said. “It’s really important to me to have a social commentary to say.”

Comments are closed.