Saturday, May 16, 2015

Dry Bones by Craig Johnson

It is not only kids who are interested in dinosaurs, especially when evidence of the largest Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton ever discovered intact is located on the land of an Indian rancher in Wyoming. Johnson helpfully puts the Acknowledgments for this novel right up front so we can see the degree to which his fiction parallels the actual case of the largest T. rex skeleton ever found, Tyrannosaurus SUE, discovered just over the border in South Dakota. The actual case and the fictional case both become worldwide sensations.

The fact of the dinosaur led me back to this series of novels by Craig Johnson, basis for the long-running TV series called Longmire playing on A&E. Johnson continually surprises me with what he chooses to highlight. In his hands there is an inexhaustible well of stories from which to draw life in Wyoming for us. Johnson bridges the continental divide and makes life in Wyoming vivid to city folk who barely remember that there is country outside their city limits. Better yet, Johnson brings us the mysticism of ordinary life among America’s indigenous population by including unexplained visions and voices that keep his head turned to face danger.

This novel really began for me when Henry Standing Bear made his appearance. He somehow brings with him a calm center that reveals justice. Lots of things happen to ‘the old dinosaur’ that is Longmire. He acquires scars like most folks get haircuts. His emotions sometimes carry away his humor. But Henry Standing Bear, with his careful language (no contractives) and considered responses, is a safe place for me. I suppose his spirit would make a good ghost, were he to be hurt.

But there is time to go before that unthinkable thing. This novel, like others before it, give hints to what is coming, and we are anxious to know how it will turn out. If I had advice for a genre writer, I would point them to the Longmire books and say: study this.

Craig Johnson has to be the hardest working genre writer out there: just look at the promotion schedule for his new book printed below. Every day, a new city. Along with overseeing the TV series and producing short stories and novellas for the season, every year Johnson continues to surprise us with a new installment in the unexpected adventures of Longmire, Vic, Henry Standing Bear, and now Cady and Lola. Reading their adventures is like greeting an old friend.

Which is why, when one of them gets hurt badly, or worse, we need to remind ourselves that this is fiction, and characters are at the disposal of fiction. That happened in this novel to me. I was hurt more than I should be, perhaps, when one of the characters suffers a devastating loss. Somehow it reminded that me that crime novels are about crime and maltreatment when suddenly the jokey manner and friendly folk seem at odds with the subject.

Humor may be a way through the thicket that is life. The wisdom in the novels remain: we learn the value of kindness, fairness, and love, whether between friends, family, or the populace at large. If evil can’t be beat, it can be doubled back on and laid very low…lower than happiness in the order of things.

This story is not so much about dinosaurs as about the response of humans to the possibility untold wealth as a result of dinosaurs. Pity. We already know about greed. What we have still to learn is tied up with the dinosaur.

Events for Craig Johnson’s DRY BONES Tour:

Tuesday, May 12, 12Noon Tome on the Range Las Vegas, NM
Tuesday, May 12, 6PM Collected Works Santa Fe, NM
Wednesday, May 13, 7PM Tattered Cover (Colfax) Denver, CO
Thursday, May 14, 7PM Old Firehouse Bks/Midtown Arts Fort Collins, CO
Friday, May 15, 5:30PM Sunriver Bks & Music/ SHARC Sunriver, OR
Saturday, May 16, 2PM Powell’s (Cedar Hills Crossing) Portland, OR
Sunday, May 17, 2PM Sunrise Mountain Library Phoenix, AZ
Monday, May 18, 12Noon Clues Unlimited Tucson, AZ
Monday, May 18, 7PM Poisoned Pen Phoenix, AZ
Tuesday, May 19, 7PM Book Passage (Corte Madera) San Francisco, CA
Wednesday, May 20, 7:30PM Book Shop Santa Cruz Santa Cruz, CA
Thursday, May 21, 7PM Book People Austin, TX
Friday, May 22, 6:30PM Murder by the Book Houston, TX
Saturday, May 23, 3PM Barnes & Noble Lincoln Park Dallas, TX
Sunday, May 24, 2PM Mechanicsburg Mystery Bks Philadelphia, PA
Tuesday, May 26, 7PM Chester County Books Philadelphia, PA
Wednesday, May 27, 7PM Left Bank Books St. Louis, MO
Thursday, May 28, 7PM BookSmart/ Circle Cinema Tulsa, OK
Friday, May 29, 7PM Books & Co. Dayton, OH
Saturday, May 30, 11AM McIntyre’s Fine Books Pittsboro, NC
Sunday, May 31, 3PM Quail Ridge Bookstore Raleigh, NC
Monday, June 1, 6PM Watermark Books Wichita, KS
Tuesday, June 2, 7PM Once Upon a Crime Minneapolis, MN
Wednesday, June 3, 7PM Mystery to Me / Hotel Red Madison, WI
Friday, June 5, 7PM Anderson’s Bookshop Chicago, IL
Sunday, June 7th, Time TK Printers Row Lit Festival Chicago, IL
Monday, June 8th, 7PM Barnes & Noble Billings, MT

Events for Craig Johnson’s Outlaw Motorcycle Tour:

Sunday, June 14, 2PM Red Lodge Book Red Lodge MT
Sunday, June 14, 4PM Red Lodge Library Red Lodge MT
Monday, June 15, 12 PM Elk River Book Livingston, MT
Monday, June 15, 7PM Country Bookshelf Bozeman MT
Tuesday, June 16, 7PM Fact & Fiction Missoula MT
Wednesday, June 17, 7PM Polson Public Library Polson MT
Thursday, June 18, 7PM Auntie's Bookstore Spokane WA
Saturday, June 20, 12 PM Seattle Mystery Bookstore Seattle WA
Sunday, June 21, 4PM Paulina Springs Books Sisters, OR
Sunday, June 21, 6PM Paulina Springs Books Redmond OR
Monday, June 22, 12PM Burns Public Library Burns OR
Tuesday, June 23, 7PM Betty's Books Baker City OR
Wednesday, June 24, 7PM Rediscovered Books Boise ID
Thursday, June 25, 6PM Haley Public Library Haley ID
Friday, -June 26, 4PM Dubois Public Library Dubois WY
Saturday, June 27, Time TK Mtn Spirit Habitat Groundbreaking Cody WY

You can buy this book here: Shop Indie Bookstores

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