Editor’s Note: We are pleased to welcome author Craig Johnson to our Northwest Highway location in Dallas on Wednesday, May 17 at 7p.m. to discuss his new novella, The Highwayman. We hope to see you there! In the meantime, we asked Craig to share some of his favorite books with us as part of our Books Authors Read blog series – enjoy!
When asked to make a list of my top-ten books, I thought Westerns, and then I thought I better thin the herd a bit and decided to limit my list to modern Westerns with 20th century environs. That cut it quite a bit, but then I thought I’d narrow things down even more by only including authors I’ve actually met. Now some of these folks I’ve only met once, while others are downright friends. So, here we go…
The Last Picture Show by Larry McMurtry
I met Mr. McMurtry when he was given the True West Magazine life achievement award and stood aside, not wanting to bother him. After a while I noticed him standing around by himself at the buffet table and figured I might as well go over and say something nice. “I think The Last Picture Show is one of the finest novels ever written.”
He clutched my arm. “Thank you, but don’t leave.”
“I just don’t want to have to talk about Lonesome Dove for a while.”
The Blessing Way by Tony Hillerman
I met Tony after winning the Tony Hillerman/Cowboys & Indians Magazine short story award, which I entered just because my wife wanted to meet him. I remember walking into the restaurant and shaking the great man’s hand and him saying, “Are you the one who wrote The Cold Dish? That was the best book I read last year.”
I told him. “You and I are going to get along.” And we did…
No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy
I got friended on Facebook a while ago by a guy who claimed to be Cormac McCarthy. It seemed legit after I looked at his page, but I sent him a message just to make sure and lo and behold, it really was Cormac McCarthy.
Winter in the Blood by James Welch
I was working on a ranch in Montana and happened to be in the Butte library when there was an event with Mr. Welch with maybe twelve people attending. The author was warm, gracious and extraordinarily talented. That evening I became a life-long fan.
The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint by Brady Udall
I met Brady Udall at the Tucson Festival of Books–I am a fan boy–and uttered a line I never thought I’d hear coming out of my mouth: “You don’t write fast enough.”
Ride With Me, Mariah Montana by Ivan Doig
When I used to do my 5,000-mile motorcycle tour through the northwest, one of my favorite stops was Seattle, where I could sit down and drink a beer with Ivan and his wife Carol, a woman I adore, who could drink us both under the table. Ivan is gone now, but Carol can still outdrink me….
The Motel Life by Willy Vlautin
I was a presenter at the American Festival in Paris a couple of years ago and saw a flannel-shirted individual standing by himself, so I went over and introduced myself. I asked the young fellow what he wrote and he told me, “Just a collection of short stories about two brothers living in a motel.”
“You’re Willy Vlautin? You wrote The Motel Life?”
As it turns out, he’s also the lead singer for a band I love, Richmond Fontaine.
Perma Red by Debra Magpie Earling
I was fortunate enough to meet Debra at the Nature of Words conference in Oregon. We were talking, and she said to me that you can tell the age of a rancher by the wrinkles in the back of his neck. I dipped my head forward and she took a look at mine and said I had room for a few more.
The Meadow by James Galvin
I was just an up and coming author at the Wyoming Book Festival when I got to meet Mr. Galvin, and I remember him turning to me and saying, “It’s a great place to write, isn’t it?”
Where Rivers Change Directions by Mark Spragg
I met Mark at a book event in Red Lodge, Montana. Afterward we sat in the Front Street Bar where he gave me some of the best writing advice I’ve ever gotten. “You don’t ever want to open up one of your books and think, ah—a great man wrote this.”
Craig Johnson is the New York Times bestselling author of the Walt Longmire mystery novels, which are the basis for Longmire, the hit Netflix original drama, now filming its 6th season. The books have won multiple awards: Le Prix du Polar Nouvel Observateur/Bibliobs, the Wyoming Historical Association Book of the Year, Le Prix 813, the Western Writers of America Spur Award, the Mountains & Plains Book of the Year, the SNCF Prix du Polar, Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year, The Watson Award, Library Journal Best Mystery of the Year, the Rocky and the Will Rogers Award for Fiction. Spirit of Steamboat was selected by the Wyoming State Library as the inaugural One Book Wyoming. Johnson lives in Ucross, Wyoming, population twenty-five.