52 Pickup, #32
If you haven’t yet read “Depth Of Winter”, there are some spoilers ahead, so you may just want to mark this post for later…
Question 32, 12/17/18
“Here’s a question about Depth of Winter:
As the story opens, Walt has already connected with some individuals willing to help him. How do you imagine that happened? They certainly are unusual.”
I think the triggering mechanism at the beginning of Depth Of Winter is Border Patrol Agent Buck Guzman, who for me is one of the most entertaining characters I’ve ever summoned up—think a scrupulously challenged Walt Longmire. At the beginning of the book Walt’s already in Mexico and the ball is rolling when we get there, which is what I had in mind with the momentum from the previous novel The Western Star. There’s an outrageous cavalcade of characters that Walt meets but he has to have some kind of connection to get him not only across the border but in touch with these people. One clue is when Walt returns and is detained by the Border Patrol and FBI Agent McGroder who makes the statement, “It’s that madman Guzman, I should’ve never introduced the two of you.”
Guzman is an essential catalyst for the story and a raucous counterpoint to Walt. I think it goes without saying that Buck is responsible for the meeting between Walt and The Seer in the Club Kentucky even though The Seer pretends to not know this connection when he mentions Guzman, but then he’s a character that can play both ends against the middle. Was I making a statement about the difficulties of a lesser developed country adjacent to a superpower with The Seer’s Thalidomide crippling and blindness? Of course, but also the ability of people to overcome their disabilities and supersede them to become something special. Alonzo with his ridiculous car, Isidro the tongue-less Apache sniper, Bianca the skin witch and Martinez the doctor who kills… I guess I was making statements with all of them, kind of dipping my brush into a more vibrant portion of the palate. Not that Wyoming doesn’t have its own, more outrageous characters, which is the reason I love living here and writing about the place, but Mexico is different, so the book and characters had to be, too.
I really wanted this novel to hit the ground running and I could’ve had Walt assemble a crack team of individuals to head into Mexico with, but isn’t that predictable with movies and books like The Professionals, The Wild Bunch, The Magnificent Seven, Sicario and countless others? I just feel that kind of story has been told to death, so I opted out and went with a band of misfits, each carrying a socio-economic message of their own.
Guzman wants to go to Mexico with Walt so bad he can taste it, but he knows he can’t go on the level of confrontation Walt’s facing. When we finally meet him in the hotel in El Paso he’s already bigger than life and hopefully lives up to that promise by getting Walt out of there and confronting the pursuing FBI agents… Naked? As in scrupulous as Buck might be, he’s not immoral, witness the story he tells about the little girl he found in the desert who had been killed by the snake. I can’t help but think that if Walt had been the product of a more ruthless environment like the Mexican/American Border, he might have a more flexible moral code.
I even brought Guzman back at the end because Vic needed an associate in getting Walt out of the hospital in Juarez, and Buck fit the bill. There’s a disturbance there where the Mexican Feds are drawn away and suddenly there’s Guzman running down the alley in a hospital gown—well, we can only guess where that disturbance came from…
All the best,