“Mr. Craig, What was Walt like as a boy?”
Studious at first, I think; otherwise, how could he have ended up the way he is? I think he was a very serious child, a reader. People sometimes ask me what Walt’s superpower is, and I say it’s simple—he reads. He reads everything, and he remembers it. It’s interesting, in the next novel, Land Of Wolves, we get a glimpse of Walt’s relationship with his father, which is something new. We’ve seen excerpts from Walt as a child with his mother all the way back to The Cold Dish, but this is the first time we get to see him interact with his father, which is pretty telling.
It’s a scene from my own childhood where Walt is reading, sitting on a creekside while his father fishes. My own father was something of a fishing fanatic, and I’m only now overcoming a lifelong case of PTFD–Post-Traumatic-Fishing-Disorder. Anyway, I got bored easily and usually took a book, which led to some pretty broad topics in conversation, most of them starting with where I got the book, was it signed and that it better return to my father’s library unharmed.
Walt was a big kid and athletically adept and very sure of himself, but there’s also a humanity in him, an ability to respond to the young, the old, the damaged, and I think that must’ve come from his mother. I think he genuinely cares about people, and there’s a strong sense of right and wrong, an innate justice that permeates his thoughts.
A bomb went off in him in his teenage years, which is often the case with teenagers, and I think he was more than a little rebellious, leading to his first interactions with both Henry and Sheriff Lucian Connally, which is something I’ll explore in another novella that has the working title Robert Taylor’s Saddle, the old Robert Taylor. Then there’s the confrontational relationship with his grandfather that we have yet to get the details of, but that’s another story for another novel…
I think the unsettled quality Walt had at that point was quelled when he went away to college in Southern California. People sometimes ask me why he went to the University of Southern California, and I always say, “It was the sixties, where did you want him to go—Lincoln, Nebraska?” The biggest reason I chose that particular university is because I was looking for a powerhouse team that played for a national championship and USC fit the bill. I have this image of Walt cruising the beaches in a clapped-out convertible before he graduated, lost his deferment, and got shipped off to Vietnam and the craziness there.
I think he was looking for structure among the madness, so he pinned on a star as one of the first Marine Investigators. It stuck, and I think he accidentally found what it was he was supposed to be doing all along.
Kind of like how I became a writer.
See you on the trail,