Question #31, 12/11/19
From Elise Dawson:
Walt seems to be able to handle himself physically in any situation, anywhere. Marine Corps boot camp, Sheriff & Police combat training. But the reference to Picador agility in the Depth of Winter amazed me. Has he always been adroit in a fight without starting one?
“We sleep soundly in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm.” —L.K. Dallas
Well, as to Walt’s Picador agility, he gets skewered like a campfire marshmallow, so I’m not so sure he was all that amazing… All kidding aside, you’re right, he’s pretty much at the top of his game in Depth Of Winter, simply because he has no choice. He is determined to get Cady back no matter what the cost, and his abilities are tested perhaps like they’ve never been before or maybe never will again.
People ask me how much of me is Walt, and I always respond that it’s not much. Walt is just one of those guys who are blessed with a hand-eye coordination, strength, and speed that you rarely see and when you do, it is impressive. Walt’s big, 6’5” and a good 250 pounds (a lot of which he loses in Mexico), and that gives him another advantage. Rancher’s son, USC national champion offensive tackle, Marine Corps Investigator, and lifetime sheriff all add up to a frightening amount of experience and training.
Walt doesn’t like any form of confrontation all that much but in his job, it’s something he has to deal with and deal with it on a professional basis, so he can’t just be some barroom brawler—he enforces the law and is bound by it. In Depth Of Winter he’s pretty much on his own by choice in that he doesn’t think he’s going to survive, which can be a powerful weapon in itself.
I guess when I look at it I don’t think the physical feats are all that amazing excluding the fights and the final battle with Bidarte. I generally use myself as a guideline to what Walt can do and at 6’ and 200 pounds I’m approaching Walt’s size but certainly not his athletic ability, but then I’m also a bit younger which I think evens things out.
The climbing in the book is pretty straight forward—he even has the assistance of a tree in the one climb–and in the big fight with Culpepper he pretty much gets the hell beat out of him before fate takes a hand. Then there’s final battle with Bidarte where he can’t possibly compete with the man’s speed and agility so he devises a plan, even at the cost of being stabbed—it’s a gamble, but he knows that is he gets his hands on the man the fight is a draw at worst.
I’ve worked with and been around men like Walt and can assure you that they can do some pretty amazing things when called upon. I still think Walt’s greatest ability is his brain. When he finally overcomes Culpepper and has him in the basement vault of the bank and Culpepper tells him that he won’t beat him because it’s not in his nature, Walt simply finds another way to get the information from him.
No need to worry that the novels are going to become some kind of Arnold Schwarzenegger movie, but on the other hand, I don’t think I want to write books where Walt sits at his desk and plays pinochle… I guess I was surprised that people were taken aback by the violence of the book, but to write a cozy about the drug cartels on Mexico would’ve been ludicrous.
A lot of us think that when the moment arrives we’ll rise to the occasion, but without the benefits of training, experience and expertise it’s likely you’d fail. Walt has all three, and that makes him a formidable combatant and one of those rough men that stand ready in the night.
I know I’d want him on my side.