Wait For Signs review: Short Longmires

wait for signs review Craig Johnson

Craig Johnson will appear at Mechanicsburg Mystery Bookstore, 6:30 p.m., Oct. 24, 2014, as part of his national tour for “Wait for Signs.”

There’s something to be said, as H.L. Mencken said, for competence in anything from adultery to zoology. It’s easy to appreciate brilliance and genius. But we have a hard time honoring works with more modest goals, such as entertaining the reader.

So it’s not meant to be snarky when I say that the dozen stories about Wyoming sheriff Walt Longmire in “Wait for Signs” are competent. This collection by Craig Johnson, beautifully designed and printed, make the perfect gift for his fans, even a welcome surprise coming so soon after publication of “Any Other Name.”

The stories are not just amusing in the telling. They dip into Longmire’s life, showing his capacity for patience and humor on the job, such as rescuing an old woman who’s waiting for Jesus to show up in a restaurant parking lot, or investigating the disappearance of a horse during a rodeo. Some are about moments in his life that reveal aspects of his character or his relationships. “Slick-Tongued Devil,” for example, tells the story of the death of his wife, paired with the visit of a Bible salesman, and how the events are intertwined.

For fans of the series, I can cut to the chase and say these stories go down as smooth as a shot of good whiskey. These stories are in turn mournful, elegiac, sweet on its characters and, in the case of “Messenger,” funny in that “oh-no-you-didn’t-go-there” way, involving a bear family, a ranger, an outhouse and Cheetoes).

For the rest of you, these stories are best described as episodes in a lawman’s life. There are small mysteries that mean a lot to the people involved, but no challenge is issued to solve them yourself. You’re just along for the ride, spending time with mostly good people and maybe being lured into staying awhile.

In fact, the only fault I have with the book is that the stories can be started on Christmas Day and finished long before New Years. But, then, that’s what the novels are for.

Craig Johnson “Wait for Signs” 2014 book tour

Oct. 26: Texas Book Festival, Austin, Texas
Oct. 27: Books Inc. Alameda, San Francisco
Oct. 28: Once Upon a Time, Los Angeles
Oct. 29: Tattered Cover, Denver
Oct. 30: Old Firehouse Books, Fort Collins
Nov. 1: Poisoned Pen, Phoenix
Nov. 1: Scottsdale Public Library, Phoenix
Nov. 2: Barnes & Noble, Billings, Mont.
Nov. 5: Barnes & Noble, Cheyenne, Wyo.
Nov. 7: New England Crime Bake, Boston
Nov. 10: Powell’s, Portland, Ore.
Nov. 11: Sunriver Books, Bend, Ore.