Western Writers: 2019 National Book Festival

Western Writers: 2019 National Book Festival


>>Good morning everyone,
how are you? I’m Roswell Encina, the
Chief Communications Officer for the Library of Congress. And on behalf of the Librarian
of Congress, Carla Hayden, and the remarkable staff
of the Library of Congress, we welcome you to
the 2019 Library of Congress National
Book Festival. I know there are a lot
of stages out there that you could start your
day at, but we’re very happy that you’re here at the
Genre of Fiction Stage. Now, the festival
has grown so much in the nearly two decades its
started in 2001, when it started with nearly tens of thousands
of people on the National Mall, when it was launched by
then-First Lady, Laura Bush, it has grown into what we’ve
called our Little Beyonce of Book Festivals, with more
than 200,000 people coming here to the national, to the
Washington Convention Center. We thank you for your
genuine love for reading. We know the feeling when
you’re completely overwhelmed by beautifully-written
text, when you have to savor each word, or you have
to read out loud each sentence. I know this happens
to me all the time. So all day, we have more
than 140 authors here at the National Book Festival. We’re glad you are
kicking it off here again at the Genre Fiction Stage,
where we will be presenting more than a dozen authors
until 8:00 tonight. All our award winners,
and best-selling authors, including our first
panel of authors. We appreciate all
of you being here. To kick it off, we’re
going out west as we hear and honor four brilliant
authors. We have Spur Award winner,
and Billington Award Winner, Paul Andrew Hutton, who
will be discussing his book, The Apache Wars, The Hunt
for Geronimo, the Apache Kid, and The Captive Boy, who
started The Longest War in American History. Spur Award winner,
Craig Johnson, who will be discussing
his book, Death of Winter. Spur Award winner,
Anne Hillerman, who will be discussing
her book, The Tale Teller, The Lee Pornichi
[assumed spelling] and Manuel Lito [assumed
spelling] novel, and Western Writers of America
winner, Johnny D. Boggs, who will be talking about his
book, The Kansas City Cowboys. Thank you again for being here. And welcome, again to Johnny
D. Boggs, Anne Hillerman, Paul Andrew Hutton
and Craig Johnson. [ Applause ]>>Thank you so much. We are delighted to be here,
and we want to thank the Library of Congress, and we want to
thank the National Book Festival for bringing us out from the
provinces, all the way back here to the center of power
[laughter], world power, I guess, and we’re
absolutely thrilled to be here. I’m going to moderate the panel,
and I’ll try to then leave about 10-15 minutes for
questions at the end, if that works for everyone. I wanted to tell
you a little bit about the organization we’re all
in, which is the Western Writers of America, which is now
in its seventh decade. And is one of the earliest and most important writing
organizations in America. Our President, Nancy Plain,
is here, and right here in the very front row, stand
up, wave– there she is. [ Applause ]>>And Nancy has copies of
our magazine, The Roundup, which we are happy to
give to you for free, at the end of the
session, she said. She hauled all those
over here [chuckles]. Western women are
strong, to say the least. Our roots go back. Before I introduce the
panel, let me tell you, give you a little talk
about western writing. Our roots go back to of course
Fenimore Cooper, who gave birth to the Western novel in
1823, with The Pioneers, writing of course about the
Wild West of upstate New York. He followed that, with of
course the immortal The Last of the Mohicans,
three years later. And the western story was picked
up, then, by almanac writers, dime novel writers, playwrights,
doing plays like Neck of the Woods, and Lion of the
West, about Davy Crockett. And the West became
an integral part, especially with the election
of Andrew Jackson as President, an integral part
of American Life. And was seen as sort of a– not
a replacement, but a follow-up to the founding fathers. And an idea that Americans
could achieve anything through determination and
hard work, and individualism. In 1893, Frederick Jackson
Turner, a young professor at the University of Wisconsin,
gave a paper in Chicago, at the American Historical
Association Meeting. No one went, because
everyone was in Chicago to see Buffalo Bill’s Wild
West show, which was playing across the street
at the World’s Fair. But Turner gave a little talk
called The Frontier Thesis. And that actually
founded my field, the academic field
of Western History. Turner said that
American exceptionalism, not that we were
better than others, although he believed that,
but that we were different from others, different
especially from Europe, came from the frontier
environment and the frontier experience. In 1902, that talented
Harvard dude, Owen Wister, made the cowboy into the
quintessential American hero. He had a little help
from Buffalo Bill, from Teddy Roosevelt, who
became the cowboy President, even though he was of course from New York and
went to Harvard. And artists like
Frederick Remington. And a year later, a year after
Owen Wister’s The Virginian, was published about a
Wyoming cowboy in 1902, Edwin S. Porter released
his little film, The Great Train Robbery. The first American
film to tell a story and off we went to the races. The stunning, soon a new
industry had been created in Westerns. Western films made up one-third
of all the Hollywood product in the first 60 years
of the film industry. The stunning commercial success
of authors like Max Brand, and Zane Gray, inspired
a host of lesser talents who filled the pulp
magazine trade. But there was also Stephen
Crane, and Ernest Haycox, Eugene Manlove Rhoads,
Walter Van Tilburg Clark, Dorothy Johnson, Marie Sandos,
Willa Cather, John Nygard, A.B. Guthrie, a string of
novelists who added immeasurably to the American canon. And this was the great
age of print of course, and the Western thrived. Not only in print, but on film. And so in 1953, three writers,
who had noticed the sort of shift from pulps to paperback
fiction, with the creation of the pocketbook
during World War II, created a new organization. It was called The Western
Writers of America. And they quickly moved
into television writing, because television of course
took off dramatically right at that very same time,
and it’s hard to believe, with only three networks, but there were 40 prime time
television shows by 1959. Just, prime time
Western television shows. So it was Westerns,
Westerns, and Westerns. You couldn’t get
enough Westerns. And of course, television
killed, you know, the Western– the Western book business. It was rescued briefly
by Louis L’amour, who had incredible success, and
still, of course, out-sells many of our modern authors, on the
paperback racks of airports. But we’ve seen in recent
years, as genre fiction like L’amour wrote died
out, we’ve seen the rise of again serious
Western fiction and not that L’amour wasn’t serious,
in books by Larry McMurtry, of course, Lonesome Dove,
and its incredible success, Stephen Ambrose, with his
success of Undaunted Courage, S.C. Gwynne, Empire
of the Summer Moon. On it goes. Just, so many authors writing
great fiction and non-fiction and the success of Lonesome
Dove, and Dances With Wolves, helped to bring back
the Western film. The Western Writers of
America has sort of adapted to these changes in the
field, and we’re proud that we’re not simply
Louis L’amour, Max Brand, Zane Gray genre fiction anymore. That we have moved out. But our stories are
always human stories. Stories about the west. Stories about the land,
stories about people. A place of harshness and beauty
and incredible diversity. A place that shaped the
American psyche and continues to fire the world’s imagination. The Western story is
indeed the story of America. Well, the authors here today
all celebrate that story. And let me, even though
they need no introduction, let me introduce them to you. Ann Hillerman of Santa
Fe, in the middle, is of course an award winning
author, in our business, we say Spur Award
winning author, because the Western Writers of
America gives the Spur Award for the, for in several
categories for writing. And Anne won that for her debut
novel, Spiderwoman’s Daughter, which followed the further
adventures of the character that her father, Tony Hillerman
had created and made famous, Jim Che, Joe Leaphorn,
and she has, of course, followed up with
a series of novels that have become New
York Times best sellers, and established quite
a name for herself, separate from her
father’s great record. The fifth novel in that
series, The Tale Teller, released in April 2019, brings legendary Lieutenant Joe
Leaphorn back into the world of her very successful books. Equally successful
is Craig Johnson. Wyoming Cowboy. Who lives in the town of
Ucross, Wyoming, population 35. All of us from the west
here, I’m from New Mexico, and of course so is
Anne, and so is Johnny, but all of us are
just kind of amazed that there are so many people. We haven’t seen this many
people in our [laughter]– how do you folks get around? This is amazing [laughter].>>I don’t– there are as many
people in one given mile of I-95 as there are in all of
Wyoming, I’m pretty sure about that [laughter].>>Oh yeah, oh yeah [laughter]. Well, in New Mexico, we think
we have urban sprawl compared to Wyoming [laughter]. When you’ve got more prong
horns than you’ve got people, it’s a pretty interesting place. Of course Craig is famous for
his Longmire Series of novels which have been brought to
television, now on Netflix, and incredibly successful,
and of course, he is also a Spur
Award winning novelist, the latest in the
series is Land of Wolves. Johnny D. Boggs, of Santa Fe,
is a prolific writer of novels, of juvenile fiction, of short
stories, of non-fiction. He is an 8-time winner
of the Western Writers of America Spur Award,
which is a record, no one has won that many. And many of us who toil in the vineyards are kind
of bitter about that. [ Laughter ]>>But we brought him
here anyway [laughs], because we like his hat. By the way, you’ll notice that my colleagues are
all dressed Western, and I am a college professor, so I have worn my
college professor outfit. I teach at the University
of New Mexico, let me get that plug
in [cheers]. Yeah. You’ve never heard
of our football team, I know [laughter], and
you never will [laughter]. Johnny’s latest book
is an unusual Western about a baseball team, and it’s
called the Kansas City Cowboys. At first, I want to
ask the panelists about how they see themselves
fitting into the Western as a genre, and how
that genre is changed, and how they have
adapted to those changes which have been really
dramatic over the last 20 years. Craig, can we start with you?>>Whew, where do we fit in?>>Okay, I’ve got
easier questions if–>>No, no [laughter], I’m
going to give it a try. Just going to give a little
run up to it, that’s all. For me, like, I guess the big
question I always get asked is like, you know, where did you
come up with the ideas of like, you know, doing a series
of books about the Sheriff of the least populated county
and the last populated state in America, and I’ve got to
be honest, where that came from was I actually ran into
two detectives for the Division of Criminal Investigation
there in Wyoming, where we have one crime
lab, in the entire state, down in Cheyenne, and it’s
in an old grocery store, and I ran to these two guys, I got on the Powder River
one time, I said, “How long– ” because this was whenever the
CSI thing, craze, was really, I mean every other, you know,
you talk about the 40 Westerns that were on television, it was
like every other show was CSI: Hoboken, or CSI,
you know, whatever. Like, and so, I asked these two
guys, these two detectives there in Wyoming, I said how
long does it take you guys to get DNA evidence? You know? Because it seems
like they get it in two minutes on these TV shows, right? And so they looked at each
other, and the one looks at me and says “Is this a
high profile case?” I said, well, let’s
pretend like it is. He goes, “About six months”
[laughter] and I was like okay! So! That’s not particularly
honest, then, what they’re doing in these TV shows, and in
these books and everything. A little bit of Adeas’ Mecca,
and he goes, yeah, yeah, it’s not very real at all. And so I thought, well, if you
did something that, you know, went in the opposite direction– and I’d done a lot of
ride-alongs, and spent time with a lot of these sheriffs
in Wyoming and Montana, and it seemed like if
I tried to do something that was more character
and place-based, you know, that was going to be more fun. You know, because I don’t–
I’m not complete lead-eyed. I don’t like, hate,
you know, technology. Even though I’ve got
a Wyoming sheriff who doesn’t know how
to use a cell phone. But for me, like,
it’s always going to be much more interesting
to have character and place. You know? Because I can,
I can read about that. You know, for days. Like, and never get bored. You know? I really love the
characters, I really love, you know, the location. That’s always going to give me a
lot more to work with like that. And I think that kind of
became the hallmark, I think, for the series, and
for me as a writer.>>And I think that is
really sort of characteristic of novels about the West.>>Mm-hmm.>>I mean, I know when my
dad started his series, back in 1970, it was
really revolutionary because it was the first
time that major readers who weren’t just in the
Southwest were attracted to a Native American
detective, who was spending lots of time just driving in
his car, and thinking, and talking about the beautiful
country he was driving through. So, when I decided to
continue the series, I mean, I was blessed with sort of that
Western tradition of characters who stand on their own. I mean, half the cell phones
don’t work in New Mexico anyway, because there’s an
argent of towers, and there’s too many mountains,
so I wasn’t troubled with having to integrate a lot
of technology. But I was really delighted
to be able to write about wonderful characters who
care, not only about the law, but at a deeper sense
about what justice is.>>Mm-hmm.>>And who also are really part of the landscape
in which they live. I know for the Navajo people,
and for your characters, too, the landscape is really sacred. And it has kind of
formed who they are, and they’re most comfortable
living in this kind of beautiful empty country. And I think that has
always been sort of part of the Western novel tradition. So that’s my two cents.>>Johnny, you actually
write genre fiction. Sometimes.>>Well, uh, yeah.>>Along with many other things.>>It’s called a mortgage.>>Eight Spur Awards.>>So you ask me
to write anything and I’ll probably do it. But I think you know, I’m
originally from South Carolina, and I moved out west as
a newspaper journalist. And you just meet all these
interesting and kind of stubborn and very independent people,
and I’ve always thought it was– if you grow up watching
Gunsmoke, you have this idea
of what the west is. Then when you actually
live out there and you realize it’s
incredibly diverse, and it could be a really
hard place to live. And you learn about the
land, and you can really kind of appreciate the
land as a character. And it’s a great character. But it can turn on you
really fast, and you’ve got to be respectful and aware
of that, all the time.>>Well, let’s talk
a little about that. I was thinking, Craig, when
you’re talking about DNA, like when Marshall Dillon was
on television, on Gunsmoke. The idea of DNA evidence was
that he would get off his horse, and see how fresh the tracks
were [laughs], I wasn’t going to say tracks, but I– was
trying to think about how to talk about, but the
horse’s behind [laughter], as it moved along…>>Road apples! Road apples.>>Road apples thank you
very much see [laughter], up in Wyoming, they know
these things [laughter]. That was DNA evidence
then [laughter]. Well, landscape really is,
you all mentioned landscape. And landscape is always
a major character. And you think about the
great western films, certainly John Ford, I mean
landscape is an integral part of the story, and it’s
integral to all of your stories, really integral to
all of your stories. Craig, how does landscape
work for you? And you work with a kind
of very different landscape than Ann does, for instance.>>Oh yeah, I mean, you know,
that’s, it’s interesting. Like, but there is
a, I was thinking about what Johnny was
saying, about like Gunsmoke. Gunsmoke. Because I made
the remark last night, like, that you know, John Ford
kind of made everybody think that the entire West looks
like Monument valley, like, I mean the entire West does
not look like Monument Valley, or parts of it that do,
but I don’t know, for me, the big thing is that
it’s not only a social and technological frontier, it
kind of goes a little bit back to also what Johnny
was saying too, I mean, like that’s an interesting
place to write about because things
can go wrong so quickly. Like, that. And there’s nothing
that’s more limited. I mean, we all kind of like, go
through our lives with this idea that technology is the answer
for everything, and then, you know, I can always tell
whenever somebody is not from, you know, the West, or not from
Wyoming, and they come up to me and go, “Why doesn’t
Walt carry a cell phone,” and I’m always like, you’ve
never been to Wyoming, have you? Okay, you know, because unless
you’re going to take selfies with the prong-horned
antelope, it’s really not going to be much use [laughter],
you know, so for me, that’s– it’s always going to be,
there’s that great quote by Studs Turkle, where
he said, you know, “nothing ever happened nowhere,”
you know, and you always have to be aware I think, you
know, certainly, you know, whenever you’re writing
Westerns, just exactly what kind of an environ you’re
talking about. I mean, you know,
where I live, like, literally my town has 25
people in it, you know, in the Big Horn Mountains,
they’re about the size of Rhode Island, for gosh sakes. And there isn’t a
ranching family that I know that hasn’t had at least one
family member, one ancestor or somebody who wandered
off to go feed some cows, or went to go check some fence,
and never came back, you know? That just kind of
disappeared like that. And so every once in a
while, it’s kind of nice to remind ourselves, you know,
that’s a big world out there, and you know, we’re just a
very, very small part of it.>>You know, when you read your
novels, Craig, it would seem that the homicide rate would
be why everyone disappears up there [laughter]–>>Now, now, you have to
draw a comparison here, now, are you talking about the TV
show, where they kill like, I don’t know, two or
three people a week or [laughter] are you
talking about my books? What I did was, very quickly, I
kind of came to the conclusion that this is going to
be ludicrous, you know, or I thought, man, Absaroka
County is Murder capital U.S.A [laughter], like, so what I did
was, and this kind of seemed to make sense to me,
because have you ever noticed in these mystery novels,
always these protagonists, they’re always solving cases
and breaking all these cases, and nobody ever notices,
you know? They just continue doing
their quiet little job, wherever they’re doing it,
like, and so after the first, you know, couple of books,
I decided, you know what? I’m going to have to like,
widen Walt’s jurisdiction and have him going out, you
know, into other counties, you know, and other states. I would take him up into
Montana over into South Dakota, I even took him all the
way back to Philadelphia, for goodness sake, like, and
it gave me the opportunity to write one of my
favorite lines. Walt was in Fairmont Park, watching the fountains
spray water into the air, and his statement was, “Like
the humidity needed any help” [laughter] and if one more
person called him Tex, you know, in Philadelphia, like he was
going to strangle somebody like that, but yeah, I mean,
you know, you’ve got to kind of spread it out a little
bit at that point in time, I thought okay, you
know, and people would. I mean, if you have a
sheriff, you know in a state that has only 23, 24 counties,
like then if you had a guy who was breaking those
cases, he would get invited. There would be other
sheriffs that would say, hey, I’ve got a little problem
over here, how about coming and helping me out with this? You know, the Hollywood version
is always hey, that’s our turf, that’s our jurisdiction. And generally that’s not the
way law enforcement works. You know, generally, everybody
is in the fox hole, like that, you know, and if you’ve got
somebody who can help you, then they’d try and help you. And I witnessed that,
but actually with the Wyoming sheriff, like
in Johnson County, who was going to go and do an investigation
out on the Powder River, and he, you know, he was talking to the
sheriff over in Campbell County. And I was listening very
carefully to the conversation to see how he was
going to approach this. And he said yeah, I’d like to
come over and ask a few people in that town a couple
of questions, and stuff, and like there was a long pause,
and he knew I was listening, and he covered up the receiver,
and he goes, “He says he’ll pay for my gas,” and so [laughter]–>>Well, Anne benefits from
the fact that she lives in my state, New Mexico. And our homicide rate really
is astonishing so [laughter], so it’s not quite all fictional. And your landscape really is
Monument Valley, essentially.>>Yeah, it really is.>>And right next door to it–>>In fact, in my second book, I was able to invent a movie
company that’s actually working in Monument Valley. And after– I had never
written a novel before I wrote Spiderwoman’s Daughter, so,
I was pretty full of myself after that first novel came out. I thought, well now, I’ve
got this down, and I’m going to have my two main characters
solving a crime together, right? Every– people love that model. But my main character
did not love that model. So I worked on that
Monument Valley book, which I thought was going to be so brilliant, for
about two months. And I could even– I could
barely read it myself, it was so [laughter] awful. And finally it dawned
on me, as beautiful as Monument Valley was, that
the woman who I had raised up from a sidekick to being a
main crime solver was done being a sidekick. And she needed her own story. And I always thought it was
just kind of a writer’s myth that your characters talked to
you, and you know, tell you. But when your characters don’t
talk to you, then you are in trouble [laughter]. So, anyway, I figured out,
I gave her her own story, and I was able to write
about Monument Valley, and movie companies, and I have
to say it’s wonderful to live where you get to do research
which involves long road trips, and just kind of being out,
under the beautiful blue sky, and enjoying that country
and then like, Paul does, doing the research for
the background of it. So you have a little something to say while your
characters are trying to figure out what to do next. So yeah, I love Monument Valley. And I’m glad the West
doesn’t all look like it. Because there are, there are
so many other settings, too, that are wonderful
to write about.>>Of course, in the
Hollywood movies, everything is Southern
California, no matter where you are. Dodge City, Kansas. Tombstone. It’s Southern California. Johnny, Landscape is an
integral part of your stories. And kind of informs them
in the same way that Craig and Anne’s stories use it.>>Right, yeah. And I’m not– I’ve not set
any particular time period, or any particular setting. So, I’ll move all
over, from Montana, to pre-revolutionary
war South Carolina. Which was the West,
at that time. And the back country. And you learn, I mean, I
watched, I watched the movie, The Patriot, remember that? With Mel Gibson, who
we really don’t want to mention ever again,
but [laughter] and I was watching it, and
it’s set in South Carolina, based on actual history,
and I said, “Where are the mosquitoes?” [laughter]. I’m there, they’re the
size of ravens [laughter], you’ve got to get that. And years ago I got
invited on a cattle drive, and I was doing a magazine
story, and they ask me, hey, you want to come up and it
was for a ranching family and they said, well,
we’re doing our cattle– spring cattle drive. Do you want to come
up and ride with us? Asking our Western writer if he
wants to go on a cattle drive? Yeah, sure! And it was like a four-day trip
in Arizona, and when I got home, I had to replace my glasses,
because the dust scratched them so much, you know, that’s
a $300 pair of glasses for a $200 story [laughter]. But you learn about
the character. And I always thought
the best fiction is when the setting is
part of the character, whether it’s Raymond Chandler’s
Los Angeles, or Dickens, London, places like that, where you
can really get a feel for that, and it really does shape
who your characters are, and where they belong.>>Three hundred
dollar pair of glasses, I guess…I guess all those
Spur Awards, you don’t go to like the chain stores, you go
to Walmart to get your glasses, like college professors have to. Is that how it works [laughter]?>>Apparently you
haven’t bought glasses in a long time [laughter].>>Native peoples form an
integral part of the West, and of course, certainly
of all the writers that we have here
including myself, and dealing with native
stories, Indian stories, and we call it Indian country, Indian people call
themselves Indians. Usually they call themselves
what they are, Navajos, Apaches, Shoshones, Arapahoe. But both of your
stories and many of Johnny’s novels are
all set in Indian country, and of course, your
stories are just– integrally dealing with
native people all the time. You have to have a certain
sensitivity, but also, I mean, you’re writing novels,
so you’ve got to– you’ve got to have drama,
you’ve got to have a story, and how do you deal with
that sort of touchy problem?>>Well, I think first of
all, you’ve got to give credit where credit is due,
like that, you know, and a lot of people
forget that Anne’s dad, like when he first
started writing his series of books, that was 1968. That was not a period in time when it was cool
to be Indian, okay? I mean, things have
changed, a lot. Like since 1968. But for him to start a
series of books like that, that had two native
protagonists, who were the detectives,
and the best thing I– the best description I ever
heard was Wes Doody was one time doing a speech about
Tony’s books, you know, and he’d actually appeared, I
think it was in the PBS version of Tony’s books, and he said,
you know what was so great, was as an Indian,
reading these books, and there were two Tonto’s and
the Lone Ranger never showed up. [ Laughter ]>>And I don’t know, for
me, like, that kind of– that story kind of touches
on your response, you know, kind of touches on one of my
favorite aspects of it, is that, I don’t think there’s ever
been a group of individuals that has ever been more
maligned as the Native American, as not having a sense of humor. I mean, really, it’s like
one of the easiest ways to demean a group of people is by saying they don’t
have the high functions of humor, for goodness sake. And like, I’m always
laughing about that, because that ain’t the
Indians that I know. And I do say Indians. I don’t say Native Americans, because my Cheyenne buddies
make fun of me when I try and be politically correct, when
I try and say Native American, they always look at me
and “Where were you born?” And I’m like, I was
born in America! So you would be a
Native American too, then, wouldn’t you? [ Laughter ]>>But you know, it’s– you
know, the folks that I know, like they work on about 17
different layers of irony and if you’re not aware of that
irony, you get to be the butt of that irony, like, so for
me, it’s like, you know, it’s just a big question
of like, you know, making sure that these people
are not just, you know, they’re not just
backdrop, you know? They’re not just– they’re
a set dressing, like that. They’re human beings. They’re very complex
human beings. A very complex culture. And whenever you’re approaching
it, you know, from the outside of that culture, I mean,
these people are my neighbors. These are my friends. You know, practically
some of them family. And so I have to be
very careful, like, when I’m dealing with them. I’m sure that, you know,
that Ann feels the same way.>>Yeah, yeah. Well, one precedent,
that my dad said, when he started the series,
that I have now broken, was that the bad guy was
always a non-native person. One time he had, I think, a
Cherokee, who was the bad guy. But if you were reading,
if you–>>Or as my friend
Marcus Redthunder refers to it, “Generichy.”>>[Laughter] Yeah, yeah. Yeah, so readers kind of
caught on to that pretty quick, and they would limit
the suspects for who could be the bad guy. So I, in the book
that just came out, I actually had a Navajo
being the bad guy. And I had good reaction from
my Navajo readers, saying, “You know, we always loved your
dad’s books, but we thought that was a little too
predictable, so it’s kind of nice to see the whole, to see that you’re
telling the whole story.” Another thing, and
I know you deal with this in your books, too. And I’m sure Johnny has, are
all of the social problems that plague Indian country.>>Right.>>You know, the alcoholism,
domestic violence, the poverty, the– and all of the
contingent cloud around that. So, when you’re writing, I
mean, I’m writing novels. I’m not writing social
commentary. But those, it’s kind of– nice
to be able to use a little bit of that, to tell the whole
story of the contemporary west, which is the devastation
caused by broken families, and boarding schools, and the
whole disrespectful behavior that the American government
had toward native people. But again, I don’t
want to get too heavy. And what you’re saying
about humor is really good. In the book that I just
finished, I have my– there’s a dog involved,
and the dog is adopted by the Navajo family and so
they say what are you going to call the dog? And they’re calling the
dog “come here” in Navajo. [ Laughter ]>>It’s too much to work
with, there was like, I was telling Marcus, like,
and I guess in the Crow, in the Crow tribe, like a
son-in-law is not allowed to talk to his mother-in-law. And so we went over to
visit some people like that, and so the mother was talking
to the dog, and saying “I have to go to the clinic later
today, so if you know anybody that is going into town
[laughter], make sure, at 2:00 they can give
me a ride into town,” and then the grandson is, the son-in-law is
talking to the dog, too. He’s like, “Well, I’m going
to have the car ready to go around 2:00” and I’m so dying
to write that scene [laughter], I just– it’s taking
the enamel off my teeth, I swear [laughter].>>One more sign
of the superiority of native culture [laughter].>>Absolutely.>>Not allowed to talk
to your mother-in-law.>>Wipe the problem out before
it happens I guess [laughter].>>Never thought I’d be
doing mother-in-law jokes at a book festival
but [laughter], boom! Johnny, baseball is the theme,
to kind of change gears, baseball is the theme of two
of your novels, including, including your latest,
and I happen to know you are a
baseball fanatic. So you have managed
to weave that in. But there is a historical basis.>>There is. And the Kansas City Cowboys is about a 16-year-old phenomenal
pitcher who really wants to be a real working cowboy,
and he winds up playing for the Kansas City
Cowboys, which in 1886, was the western-most national
league team in baseball, and the myth is that they
were expelled from the league after one season for
hooliganism [laughter].>>Uh oh.>>So, I just wanted to take
some various themes of baseball and western fiction, and
kind of merge them into one, where the cancan becomes
a pitcher’s wind-up, and the love interest is, instead of the rancher’s
daughter, it’s the daughter of the owner of the
baseball team, and just kind of mix it up, and kind
of turn both baseball and the Western tropes
on their ears. And we’ll see actually
how that works. And there’s a little bit of– I
mean, someone kind of said, man! There is a lot of profanity
in that, in your novel. And I was like, you have
never managed a team of 13-year-old boys [laughter].>>Well, Johnny, we’re
certainly all hoping that this innovative
novel does not win you a Nightspur [laughter]. And you’ve also done, I don’t–
I don’t believe this is unusual, but it certainly is different
from your other books, you’ve done a picture book. A photography book, Tony Hillerman’s
Country, and how was that? And of course, you
worked with your husband, who is a renowned photographer?>>That book, when
I did that book, my background was journalism. And I was totally happy
doing non-fiction books. So when I did that book,
partly in honor of my dad, and partly for my own
curiosity, a lot of the places that he wrote about
in the Navajo world, I had never been to. So, my husband and I spent
a couple years driving here and there, talking to people,
taking thousands of photos. And then, interestingly,
when dad died, at first I was really
missing him. Well, I’m still missing him. But I was profoundly
missing him. But because of this book,
I got a lot of invitations to do free– and I’d
never done any talks, to do free talks at
little libraries. And whenever I would do those
talks, people, you know, I would say does anybody
have any questions, and there always would be
questions if there were going to be any more books in that
series, and no, there weren’t. My dad really took care of
business before he left us. And after I heard that maybe
100 times, it dawned on me that besides missing my dad, I was really missing
those stories too. And having done that non-fiction
book, and re-read all of my dad’s books, his
voice, and the voices of the characters, was
really strongly in my head. And all of the wonderful people
I had met doing the research for that book then
became resources to me as I was doing more
research for my first novel. So I mean, life is
just so fascinating. And it gives us such gifts. And I really saw the, doing that
book as a gift from the universe to help me, then, make
the bridge to putting on my big girl boots
and writing fiction. So thank you for
asking me that question. That book– I feel like
that book is my first baby. I love that book.>>Well, of course we all know that non-fiction writing
is the most important kind of writing [laughter]. The book is The Apache Wars,
crown-level [laughter]. Feeling pretty well. Yeah. We all dream. And I certainly did
with The Apache Wars, but it hasn’t quite worked
out, although it almost did. We all dream of going
to Hollywood, big movie, television series made about
our book, and you kind of hinted at this already Craig, but
how has the television series impacted the way you
are writing your series? Or has it at all?>>Oh, it hasn’t really
impacted the writing, that much, simply because I add like,
I guess it was 7 books in the Walt Longmire Series out, that like before the
television show started. But it has, like, you know, it
sometimes does have an affect in your life, like that. Because there was one time
we were going on tour, like, we were driving up to Billings,
Montana, and I got to jump on a plane, and my wife was with
me, and she knows that traveling with me is like traveling
with a trained bear. As long as the bear
stays fed, we’re okay. But if the bear gets hungry,
things can kind of go sideways. So we stop at this little café
outside Red Lodge, Montana. And we’re having lunch, and
the, you know, I go over, and I’m paying for lunch,
and when I’m not wearing one of these, I’m wearing one of those Absaroka County
Sheriff’s Department ballcaps that we have. And they’ve got like an
emblem on the front, you know, and mine is kind of
weathered down and everything, and if you didn’t know
there was no 24th County in Wyoming [laughter], if you didn’t know there
was no Absaroka County, they look pretty real, right? Like, so I’ve got that one
on, and I’m writing the check for lunch, and the woman
behind the counter goes, “Where’d you get that hat?” And she said it real
aggressive-like, and I thought, oh no! She thinks I’m a real
Sheriff’s Deputy, and you know, somebody has dined and ditched,
and now I’m going to have to go chase somebody down
a main street of Red Lodge, and so I pointed at my head, and
I go, “It’s not a real county,” and she goes, “The
hell it’s not! It’s Walt Longmire’s County!” [ Laughter and Applause ]>>So I felt like I’d
been smacked, you know, [laughter] so I– I
looked at her, and I go, well I’m Craig Johnson,
and she goes, “So?” [ Laughter ]>>And I said, “Well, I’m the
guy that writes the books,” and she goes, “What books?” And [laughter], and that’s when
that little voice in the back of my head said you should
just get out of here, you know? [ Laughter ]>>You should just
salvage whatever, you know, remnants of you that you’ve got,
that just– get out of here. But my pride wouldn’t let
me do it, and I said, “Well, the books that the TV show is
based on,” and she looks at me, and I’ll never forget
her response, she’s like, “there are books?” So Dole-Viking-Penguin,
I was like, that’s going to be our motto from
now, on everywhere I go, “Yes, there are books!” [Laughter]>>Very good [laughter]. I guess when the
legend becomes fact, we really do write legends.>>Wear the ballcap [laughter].>>Well, I guess it’s a gift
that Hollywood didn’t pick up my book [laughter].>>You’d look good in a
ballcap, Paul [laughter].>>You know, in fact, in
the West, you’re going to see a lot more ballcaps. And you’re going to see
cowboy hats, it really is– most cowboys, you know, some post-docs have a hat
on, for the most part. You know, the West, is–
many Western novels, the best Western
novels, obviously, the panelist’s novels, have
a kind of dark undercurrent in the story of the West. Always carries this
dark undercurrent. But ultimately, the West is
also incredibly optimistic. And how do you– you know,
this is something I’m wrestling with in the new book I’m
writing, which is a big history of the Western movement,
from the Revolution to 1900. And how do you deal with both
the darkness, the tragedy; the horror, but then
also, the joy, the beauty, and the optimism that is
ultimately the Western story?>>Well, one of the gifts of
writing in the mystery genre is that you have the box in
which your story has to lie. And part of that box is that whatever awful thing has
happened, your characters figure out what it was, and if they
don’t make things right, at least they find the bad
guy, and take care of that, and then your characters go
on to solve another crime. And I think that in itself
is kind of optimistic. And I think in a world where
there are so many loose ends, and so many things that kind of leave us saying
what happens next? The sort of optimism of the
mystery genre is that, yeah, the book is done, the story is
done, in the next book I’ll get to see these characters again. So I think that’s kind of part
of why writing, and that kind of goes with the West. I mean, I think the West often
was a place where people came to reinvent themselves. Things weren’t going quite
right, and so you came out, maybe you were the ornery
daughter who didn’t want to go to finishing school or whatever,
so you came out to the West, you set up your own place, and
you made something of yourself. And I think that kind of thread
of optimism is really something that sustains our books. We love those kinds of
characters, who, you know, kind of land on their
feet no matter what sort of things are thrown at them. And you get into the dark stuff,
but part of the skill, I think, of writing those mysteries
is working that out, so that by the end of
the story, all is well. Or at least it’s better
than when the story started.>>I actually went West
to reinvent myself, truly, and then had to do it like
two more times in the West, but [laughter] we have about 10
more minutes, and so I wondered if you have any questions
from the audience, there are microphones, there
if you would go to them, to ask your questions. I’m a college professor. If no one gets up, I’ll
call on you [laughter]. Yes, sir?>>Good morning. Mr. Johnson, I was
wondering, was there any pick of Indian you had in
mind for the character of Henry Standing Bear?>>Oh yeah, yeah. I mean, you know, one
of my favorite quotes on writing is the one from
Wallace Stegner, where he talks about the greatest piece of fiction ever written is the
disclaimer at the beginning of every book that says nobody in this book is based
off anybody alive or dead [laughter],
what a crock that is. I mean, you know, anybody ever
approaches this job knows that’s what you do, like, you
know, you’ve got to, you know, find people. And it’s just– makes
your life a lot easier. Like, the other thing is, it
is kind of a nice, you know, catch guard like that, you
know, for the native characters. I mean, I can go down the list
of all the native characters that are in my books, and
give you the exact equivalency of like, who it is,
like that, I mean, Lonnie Little Bird is Charles’
little old man, and obviously, you know, Dina Menoncamp
is a good friend of ours, Mandy Smoker-Baradas
[assumed spelling], and then Henry is this
good friend of mine, Marcus Red Thunder, like that, who is just an amazing
individual, you know, his spirituality, like
that, and his sense of humor is just astounding. And I just, you know,
you’d be a fool, you know, to not take those people and
put them in your books, like, and then of course, change the
names to protect the guilty, but other than that,
you know, it’s too much of an opportunity like that, so. Yes ma’am.>>Good morning. I have a son-in-law who is
Kiowa, which I’d never heard of that try until my son-in-law
popped along, and you, Mr. Johnson, wrote some Kiowa
natives into your story, and I didn’t realize there was
a presence outside of Oklahoma. Are there a lot of
Kiowa, up there?>>Not so much, but they do–
the fun thing about our job is, like, of course, like, we
get to, like, lay on the sofa by the woodburning stove and
read, and then when my wife says “Are you going to do anything?” I can say, “I’m working
here, I’m doing research,” [laughter], okay, you know? And Anne probably has the same
situation there, Johnny has too, like, but it may not look– I think your dad is pretty
famous for that, right? He had a fairly famous quote
about that, it was like, it was almost absolutely
impossible to discern exactly when I am and when I am not
working, like [laughter], that’s a talent, I think. I guess, it’s a real
talent to have.>>Definitely, definitely.>>And we need another season
of Longmire on Netflix–>>Hey!>>Is that going to happen?>>Tell Warner Brothers,
and Netflix, and get onto them there,
like, let them know.>>And your son-in-law does
speak to you [laughter]. Yes?>>I know we’re in the Genre
Fiction Room, but I wonder if the panel would
comment on the idea that the Western ethos actually
informs a much wider group of fiction and non-fiction,
and I’m thinking about anything from the 7th Samurai becoming
the Magnificent Seven, and Elmore Leonard starting
as a Western writer, then becoming the foremost
crime writer of his generation. Would you agree that the Western
genre is really a much bigger influence on fiction
and non-fiction?>>That sounds like you Johnny.>>That sounds like
me, yeah, yeah. And 7th Samurai is
a much better movie than The Magnificent Seven.>>Both versions.>>Both, absolutely. Especially all the
sequels, but yeah, I mean, you think about how
much western mythology and western culture has spread
all over the world, I mean, you know, you wear a
cowboy hat, and oh yeah, yeah, you’re from the West. And when one of our Presidents
says, you know, “Wanted Dead or Alive,” and things like that, and wanted dead or
alive is a myth. I mean, yeah, you can’t
do that in the West or anywhere else [laughter],
I mean, you know, wanted dead or alive is illegal [laughter], I mean…trials come
first [laughter]. Convictions come first
[laughter], and then maybe, yeah, you can kill somebody. But that’s all kind of
hyperbole, and crazy, and when you start researching,
you realize, wait a minute, all this stuff is not right. But I think the West is iconic. And it’s something that
is known worldwide, and even if it is Monument
Valley, in Kansas [laughter], we understand what
we’re talking about and we certainly love
all things Western, and I think the whole world
loves everything Western.>>Johnny, don’t
spoil the beauty of a thing with fact [laughter]. I was, just personal
story to that point, I was the historical consultant
on the Western epic, Cowboys and Aliens [laughter]. [ Laughter, Applause
and Cheering ]>>It’s why those aliens
look so good [laughter]. I went down to Roswell,
I got to see [laughter]. Well, anyway, and
the integral part of the story is a Wanted poster,
with a picture of a hero on it. Well, and I had to inform John
Favro, the Director, well John, there were no such
Wanted posters. There was no printing technology
to put a picture on a poster at the time period
your Western is set. And he said, “That’s too bad.” [ Laughter ]>>Yes, sir, one more question?>>Powder River. Mr. Johnson, I was wondering– love the books, but obviously
a Wyoming Cowboy fan, and I have always wondered
why Walt would go to USC to play his college football?>>Why did Walt go to USC
to play football [laughter], it was the sixties,
I guess [laughs]. I just– I don’t know. I mean, Walt was like,
you know, because, I mean, one of the things, you know,
that the TV people asked me like that was, they
said, you know, why is Walt as big as he is? Because, you know, in the
books, Walt is like 6 foot 5, and weighs you know, 257
pounds, and you know, he was an offensive
lineman, you know, for USC, Marine Investigator, all
of these things, like, but the biggest thing was I knew
what I was going to do to him. I knew that, you know, I was
going to beat him up, you know, horribly, like that, you know,
at least in every other book. Like, so I thought, okay, he
better have some longevity, he’d better be of
a pretty good size. Like that, and so, he was
actually, you know, probably one of the best, you know,
offensive linemen, you know, in the 1960s coming out of
high school and like that, and so one of the real
powerhouse teams at that point in time was USC, like that. And so, I thought
okay, you know, he’s been in Wyoming all
the way through high school, like it’s time for him to go
ahead and get out of there, like, I thought, you
know it’s the 60s, probably southern California, probably looked pretty
good to him like that. And so I’ve got this image
in the back of my head that is going to come
to fruition maybe in one of the later books, because
after his experiences in Vietnam, the Provost Marshall
for the Marine Corps kind of ships him off to Johnston
Atoll, to get rid of him which is this rock in the
middle of the Pacific ocean, and like that, and so Walt
actually surfed a little bit, in the 1960s like that, and so
whenever he got out of Vietnam, he kind of went back to
a little bit of surfing at the Johnston Atoll, and so
it just makes for, you know, I guess more layers for
that character like that. And then, of course, with the
predominant wind that they have down there in Laramie, I
didn’t want Walt to have that constant kind of
lean to him like that, you know [laughter], I figured
I’d ship him off somewhere else, like that, you know?>>Thank you so much for coming. Thank the authors. [ Applause ]

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