About six months ago, Mr. Scoots and I were looking for a new show to binge on Netflix. We tried Daredevil (we really wanted to like it, but just didn’t), we tried Bloodline (I’m sure it gets good, but we were just way too bored), and then we tried Longmire. And Longmire’s the one we stuck with.
No, we aren’t exactly the Longmire demographic. I’d like to think we are still a bit younger than most of the audience. But still. There was just something about it that felt comfortable and we knew after 2 episodes that we were in it for the long haul (horrible Graham from Buffy notwithstanding).
Longmire is about Sheriff Walt Longmire in fictional Absaroka County, Wyoming. Walt is a widow, still grieving the sudden (mysterious!?!?) death of his wife. He has sheriff-y adventures with his deputies Vic and Ferg (I’m not talking about Branch); his daughter, Cady; his receptionist, Ruby; former sheriff and all-around nut job, Lucian; and his best pal of all time, Henry Standing Bear. The scenery is beautiful, the stories are mostly compelling, and the guest stars are mostly excellent. (seriously. Why isn’t Gerald McRaney in everything?)
When we finally finished the end of season 4, I decided to go ahead and pick up one of the many (many) Longmire books by Craig Johnson, just to see how they stack up against the show.
Verdict: I think they are better than the show for the most part.
Here’s what I like better about the books:
- Walt just isn’t so mopey. Yes, he grieves for his wife, but in general, he’s a jovial, interesting guy that people seem to like. He loves his job and his daughter and his friends. He honors his job and is willing to risk his life for it. He honors the way of the Cheyenne people and has a great respect for their rituals and beliefs. And he has a secret major crush on Vic. Walt has nice relationships with most of the town — Dorothy at the cafe, doctors at the hospital, judges and lawyers, etc. Most people seem glad to talk to him and happy to help out with a case if they can. TV Walt just isn’t as friendly.
- Vic curses with abandon. I’d like to see Katee Sackhoff say some of the flowery profanity that comes out of book-Vic’s mouth. We know more about Vic’s family life, and about why she became a cop. None of the crazy Witness Protection stuff from the show.
- So far, I like Walt’s deputies better than the ones on the show. Sancho and Double Tough are a huge improvement on Branch, for sure. The verdict is still out on Ferg. I think I like TV Ferg better.
- Lucian is a completely unhinged crazy person. With one leg. Just imagine what Peter Weller could do with this role if they would let him.
- Cady is actually a good lawyer.
Here’s what I like better about the show:
- Henry. I don’t know if its the way he’s portrayed by Lou Diamond Philipps or not. But I just prefer this looser version of Henry.
- Mattias. This character doesn’t exist (yet?) in the books, but you can’t not appreciate Zahn McClarnon.
Here’s what both the book and the show do well:
- Both are pretty honest about what life is like in modern-day Wyoming, both on and off the reservation. Poverty, drug use, and racism are not topics that are shied away from.
The first book, The Cold Dish, is about a terrible rape of a mentally-challenged girl from the reservation by some local teenagers. The boys are suddenly showing up dead — murdered one at a time. This was an episode of the show, but the killer was completely different on TV. As an introduction to a series, it worked. We got to know almost every main character (except for Cady), and started to understand how Walt goes about his job.
[As an aside, I thought I had finished this book in 2015, but saw it on my nightstand the other day, with a bookmark still in it. I hadn’t read the epilogue yet! Hooray for 2016!]
The second book, Death Without Company, jumped right into the action. Taking place just days after the end of The Cold Dish, Walt and his team are thrown into another high-stakes case, the possible murder of an elderly Basque woman with strong ties to one of the main characters.
I’m disappointed that this one hasn’t been turned into an episode yet. I’d love to see Peter Weller’s ascot-wearing Lucian* take law into his own hands and attempt to bring wrong-doers to justice while highly intoxicated.
Yes, I plan on reading as many of these mysteries as I can get from the library. I like the comfortable feeling that characters from an ongoing series of books can give you. I’m glad I discovered these, especially as I’m all caught up with Sue Grafton and almost caught up with Ian Rankin these days. Walt can fill the holes that the absence of Kinsey Millhone and John Rebus will undoubtedly leave in my literary life.
* Please keep in mind that although Peter Weller’s Lucian mostly looks like this now:
I prefer to think of him as he was in his salad days, when I first saw Buckaroo Banzai: