In case you haven’t yet noticed, we at Longmire Book Club are the lucky recipients of regular revelations from the creator of Longmire himself.
Question #11 –
“I’ve read where a few characters have been inspired by real people in your life. Care to expand your enlightenment on their actual names? Where did Walt Longmire come from? Martha? Cady, the greatest legal mind? How did you come up with Henry Standing Bear? Vic Moretti? The Ferg? How does an author give names to their heroes and foes etc?”
Hi Sue, names are a tricky business, and you can kill a character (no pun intended) by giving them the wrong handle. I took my lead from Charles Dickens who had an amazing knack with names; generally you could be barely introduced to one of his characters and already glean everything you needed to know from the sound of their names—Scrooge, Uriah Heep, Fagin, The Artful Dodger, Fezziwig… I could go on forever. So, when it came time to fit a proper name to my sheriff protagonist I took a safe route with the first name, Walter, which came from my grandfather, and started thinking about what made my fictitious character tick. Obviously, one of the things that have had a long-term effect on Walt’s life is the death of his wife and with his on-going battle with depression; I thought I should use a name that would transmit the conflicts that Walt faces everyday. He’d been depressed for five years… Hence the name Longmire, long mire.
The next one was easy–Martha was my grandmother’s name.
Cady, Walt’s daughter was a little different. Years ago, my wife opened a store, The Bucking Buffalo Supply Company over on the Main Street of Sheridan, Wyoming, in an historic, stone, two-story building and if you stand on the corner of Main and Alger you can look up and on the parapet is the name of the building, CADY (by the way, the store is now on Main Street in Buffalo). The moniker “Greatest Legal Mind of Our Time” comes from me teasing our daughter, who is a lawyer back in Philadelphia… And the more you know about my personal life the less you’re going to be impressed with my writing talent.
Henry Standing Bear was easy in that I had a native friend in Chicago with that name and traced it back to the Ponca Chief who successfully argued in US District Court in 1879 that natives were “persons within the meaning of the law” and should be afforded the same rights as whites. He was an incredible man, and I thought he might just be the kind of ancestor Henry would have had.
Vic is a bit of an embarrassment… Her first name needed to be ambiguous so that we weren’t quite sure if she was male or female and the last, I’m ashamed to say simply came from the Italian beer, Moretti.
The Ferg was another easy one, a fishing buddy of my father’s whose first name Adam Bartley and I have decided to not relate until a later date. The name Archie that the screenwriters gave him on the TV show Longmire, is incorrect.
It can sometimes be tough coming up with the right name for characters, but the sources are everywhere, and when you do come up with the right one you know it almost instantly—and that’s truly satisfying.
— Craig Johnson.