Saturday, May 21, 2016

The Highwayman by Craig Johnson

Longmire. Need I say more? Thanks to Jen Forbus, I've been a fan of Craig Johnson's writings for years. I'm particularly fond of his novellas and short stories. Every word is precisely chosen to set the tone, the atmosphere, to build a character. The Highwayman is a ghost story set away from Walt Longmire's Absaroka County. But Johnson does include two important characters from his novels. Walt Longmire's narration of the story is beautifully supported by Henry Standing Bear's knowledge of tribal legends.

Rosey Wayman left Longmire's area to take an assignment with the Highway Patrol division in the Wind River Canyon area of Wyoming. But, Rosey needs help. At 12:34 a.m., she receives a radio transmission that only she hears. It calls her unit number, 3, and says 10-78, which means officer needs assistance. And, she swears it's the voice of Bobby Womack, the first Arapaho trooper, who died in a fiery accident over thirty years earlier. Despite his own experiences with the unexplained, Walt is skeptical. But, Henry knows the Shoshone and Arapaho stories of "the Highwayman", a figure who wears a coat with the name Womack on it, a figure who helps stranded motorists. He doesn't know the story of the stolen 1888-O Hot Lips Morgan silver dollars, the story that destroyed Bobby Womack's reputation. Rosey has a story about those silver dollars, and, before it's over, Walt has a story or two about them as well.

I can't say more without ruining an excellent ghost story. Instead, I'll mention again how skilled Craig Johnson is as a storyteller. His descriptions of the Wind River Canyon, the tunnels that cut through it, take the reader to the treacherous terrain. And, he carefully puts the stories of the Shoshone, the Arapaho, and the Cheyenne in the words of Henry Standing Bear, a man with dignity, dry humor, an insightful knowledge, and strength. The friendship between Walt and Henry says a great deal about both men.

The Highwayman is the latest offering to readers. It's respectful of the characters, the land, and the legends of the region. It reflects the love Craig Johnson has for the characters he's created, and the land and people in Wyoming. As always, he shows a respect for the men and women who serve the people.

Walt, as an investigator, has to have answers. And, he does get some answers, but Johnson never completely lets Longmire off the hook. The Highwayman is another haunting, unexplained, novella from a gifted storyteller.

Craig Johnson's website is

The Highwayman by Craig Johnson. Viking. 2016. ISBN 9780735220898 (hardcover), 190p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library book


Jeffrey Meyerson said...

Excellent! I didn't realize there was a new book with Walt and Henry. It went right on my "hold" list at the library.

Lesa said...

It was excellent, too, Jeffrey. Craig has a new book due out in October, too. But, I'm a big fan of his novellas.

Reine said...

I love Craig Johnson. He is gooood.

Lesa said...

I agree, Reine. I love him as a writer, and as a storyteller.

Kaye Barley said...

In my stack! Reading soon - he is OUTSTANDING! And, he'll be in Boone next April. Craig Johnson in Boone - I can hardly stand it.

Kevin R. Tipple said...

Got to read this by way of the local library. My review runs this Tuesday.

Lesa said...

Looking forward to your review, Kevin!

Kevin R. Tipple said...

Pales in comparison to yours as usual.