Question #28, 11/20/18
“Is there a reason that almost all of the female characters in the books are so strong willed?”
Do you know any other kind?
It’s sometimes difficult to remember since he appears to be operating relatively well as of late, but at the beginning of the series, Walt Longmire was something of a train wreck. When I was constructing the first book in the series, The Cold Dish, my narrator was attempting to get over the death of his wife and was clinically depressed. I guess it was a calculated risk making the protagonist disheartened in that book in that the reader might get depressed as well, but Walt fought back from the beginning with a trademark humor and compassion for others which helped to pull him out of that morass and begin his life again. I think Henry Standing Bear was essential to that transition, but there’s only so much male friends can do without it becoming awkward—enter what I refer to as ‘the pride of lionesses’.
I basically broke up all Walt’s needs and divvied them up among all the women in Walt’s life, giving them specific tasks for keeping my poor hero alive. Ruby is responsible for the day to day structure of Walt’s life, leaving him the Post-It’s on his door facing every morning so that no matter what level of performance he might be experiencing, he can still act like a sheriff. Dorothy down at the Busy Bee Café is responsible for Walt keeping fed because if he were left to his own devices he’d run out of pot-pies at the jail and starve. She’s also useful as a social conduit to the community, giving Walt the information that helps him do his job. Then there’s Cady who is this disembodied voice on the answering machine, but is still, even though distant, an emotional life-line that keeps Walt connected to this world through his love and responsibility for her. Then there’s Vic.
Vic is kind of the counterpoint to Walt in the construction of the choral group of voices that make up the novels, a profane, eastern songbird that’s fierce as a tiger and loyal as the Swiss. Because of her language, a lot of people (surprisingly female) don’t care for the character, but she’s indispensable to Walt’s world in so many ways. The obvious one is that of a foil to keep the books from becoming more “Mayberry” than I really wanted. The TV producers saw Vic as essential in providing a more modern, edgier aspect to the show. The other is as a romantic interest—which I’ll get into with next week’s question.
There have been certain things I might’ve underestimated in the appeal of Walt, whether it be his literary bent or iconic individualism, but the one I might’ve not understood the strength of the most was the appeal of a wounded man. Male readers respond to that aspect of Walt, but that facet of his character really resonates with female readers. I’ve got a theory that if the females of our species didn’t have the nurturing empathy that they do, we wouldn’t be roaming the Earth in the numbers we do today.
I think it’s in The Cold Dish that Walt makes the statement, “There are few things men need more than female support, and nothing they dismiss more readily.”
The Cheyenne say you can judge a man by the strength of his enemies, and I think you can judge a man’s happiness by how many women he has in his life. I’ve got a wife, two daughters, and a granddaughter, so I’m a pretty happy man, and I think Walt’s working on it.