A good man on the High Plains colors Longmire series

Hailing from tiny Wyoming town of Ucross, Craig Johnson is immersed in the culture and traditions of the wide open American West.

The New York Times bestselling author of the Longmire mysteries has penned 18 novels in the series. Those stories, revolving around the exploits of old-school lawman Walt Longmire, became the basis for the hit Netflix original series “Longmire.” The series became one of Netflix’s top-10 shows, a status it has retained even six years after production on the show stopped.

His most recent book, “Hell and Back,” wipes Longmire of his memories as he wakes up on a dusty street, covered in blood and with one bullet fired from the gun on his hip. The novel comes out Sept. 6.

On being drawn towards writing

“I come from a family of storytellers, and I was the worst storyteller in our family. I thought to myself, maybe if you wrote them down, they’d be a way of telling stories without the pressure of doing them live.”

On the challenges of figuring out what he’d write about

“You’ve got to find something to write about, something that is worthwhile, something that will hold your attention and something you’ll be excited about. I kept looking for an idea, and then thought that crime fiction would be a really good structure to work with, because it always has a good beginning, middle and end.”

Coming up with Walt Longmire

“This was about 20 years ago, everything was very noir. It was very gritty and dirty — alcoholic detectives burying bodies in their backyard. I thought, what if you had a guy, who even though he’s not perfect, even though he has all kinds of faults, is really a good guy, trying to do the right thing. And what if you yanked crime fiction out of the alleyways of these cities and did it on the high plains, in the least populated county in the least populated state. Wouldn’t that give you a clear slate to write about?”

What it was like getting started

“It was scary at first. I wrote that first book, and lightning did strike. I got picked up by a big powerful agent in New York, and getting passed to the president of Penguin (Publishing Group.) She looked at me and said, ‘We really like these characters, we really like this world. We think people are going to want more of these books. We think you should seriously consider writing more of these, of making this a series.’”

His reaction to that suggestion

“With all of the knowledge, of not having even one book published yet, told the president of Penguin that I didn’t think that was a good idea, that I had some other ideas I wanted to bounce off them. thank God, she looked at me and said, ‘Maybe you should go back to your ranch in Wyoming and think about this.’ And I did have to think about it. You’d think it would be a no-brainer, but as an artist, it’s a little intimidating.”

The experience of writing “Hell and Back”

“It’s very, very different from all of the Longmire books. There are a lot of authors and a lot of books out there that follow a formula, and there a lot of people who are very happy and very comfortable basically reading the same book again and again. But there are also readers that I cast my lot with, who are looking for something different every time, so you have to change it up and make it exciting.”

On touring the country and meeting fans

“It’s a lot of fun. What we do, basically, as writers, is sit in our rooms and type about our imaginary friends. That doesn’t necessarily mean that we have good social skills to put on a good show. I have to laugh, because whenever I’m out, people say, ‘You look like you’re having so much fun, you’re having such a good time.’ I don’t think you can fake that.”