“Walt’s Women” – 52 Pickup, #28

Question #28, 11/20/18

Michael Crutchley:
“Is there a reason that almost all of the female characters in the books are so strong willed?”

Hi Michael,

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.

—Craig Johnson

2 thoughts on ““Walt’s Women” – 52 Pickup, #28

  1. I have read here and there many comments and reviews of the books and the television program, and yes, it seems that the female audience does not get along with Vic. But we are not to blame. I don’t think her language has anything to do with the fact that some of us women can’t relate to her as a woman and as a character. Vic is a negative character. She has a few positive traits. She is often described as an intelligent professional law enforcement agent, and yet her abilities rarely contribute to the narrative. It is curious that being the main female character in the books, she adds neither to the action nor to Walt’s life. After being together for several years, the man remains depressed, undecided and dangerously old. So, she’s not doing any good in that department either. The women in Walt’s world are very vivid, very bright and positive (even the most tormented); but not Vic. Henry is also a positive presence, a force that illuminates every scene he is in. But it’s the opposite of Vic. Around her, everything is difficult and controversial. She is sarcastic but not funny. She never laughs or cries; She has no positive feelings or emotions. She has no joy in her life. Nothing is at ease when she is near. And she has been doing the same routine from the beginning so after a while you just get tired of her. I just finished to read “Dry Bones” and it’s shocking how they talk (3 books later, finally) about the loss of their child and her response is a cynical joke about who the child’s real father was. Honestly, I don’t think any woman in the whole world can overcome such a tragedy, much less make bad jokes about it. Since I read “The Serpent’s Tooth”, I have wondered why the author chose to hurt her in that specific way. It is curious that being the only woman in Walt’s circle young enough to get pregnant and have a child (with the exception of Cady, but she does not count), the author chose to take away her ability to be a mother, eliminating this possible outcome in the future, all with the throwing of one stone. And I say that it’s curious because this, having a child, is the ultimate female power. I know She is a constant threat to Walt, but Why did the author strip her of this power? Just saying. Anyway, after being with the man for five years or so there She is, without family, without friends (except two aging men), without a career, without prospects, without children, without love. At home, We have a small circle of friends and we meet to read and comment on the books and the program, and we always agreed that Vic is actually a man who lives in a woman’s body. I have the feeling that this is why TV Vic moved away from Books Vic. I think she would not have been a success otherwise. I think that, as a character, if it disappears completely from the pages, She won’t be missed. As a woman, she is not strong or intelligent. She’s just sad.


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