52 Pick-up 2, #3, 1/28/20
Virginia Rawak Bruce: “More back story on Henry? Family, education, something beyond football and military?”
The fun thing about being a storyteller is knowing that like a croupier, you don’t have to deal all your cards out at once. Part of the enjoyment of telling what is hopefully a good story is metering out the goods a little at a time—kind of like a talented stripper. Another one of the joys of writing an ensemble-oriented series is the ability to have an ebb and flow with the characters, letting different members of the cast take the lead and be the focus in novels. There are some characters that are more dominant in the greater scheme such as Vic, Lucian, or Henry. I always know that when these guys take the stage, they’re going to take control, or hijack, the narrative to an extent.
Henry is one of those characters for sure. When I wrote the character based on my friend Marcus Red Thunder back in the first Walt Longmire novel, The Cold Dish—I knew I was onto something. I needed two individuals to be emblematic of the two main cultures of the high plains, native and non-native. Walt fit the bill for mainstream society, but I needed a character who would represent the Northern Cheyenne, who I knew were going to play a large part in the book. You have to remember that The Cold Dish was intended to be a stand-alone novel and not the beginning of a series, so I was lucky to stumble onto not only a character but an ensemble that could carry the additional weight of the subsequent books. No character does that with more ease than the Bear.
It’s funny, you mentioned having heard enough about Henry’s military and football experiences, but it’s the more personal aspects of his relationship with the original Lola and the potential son that he might’ve had in An Obvious Fact that are the most recent revelations… There will be more, but I prefer to meter out the Cheyenne Nation’s story, hopefully to the end of the series. Readers have requested a Henry stand-alone, and I’ve even written about half of a novella called Indian Quarter, but I don’t know when I’ll finish it. I think the strength of support characters like Henry, Vic, and Lucian is their ability to walk on and take center stage, but not for the entirety because that could get tiresome. I heard a Shakespeare expert once explain why the Bard killed off Mercutio in Rome & Juliet and he said it was because Mercutio would’ve killed the play. Those kinds of characters, by their nature, suck the air out of the room, and I always like to leave a little for Walt.
I do have plans for what I refer to as Walt and Henry’s ‘missing years’, the period between Vietnam and when they eventually returned to Wyoming/Montana. We know that Walt was on Johnston Atoll and Alaska and that Henry was in France. Obviously, there’s a story to go along with the Bear’s experiences in France, and I’m looking forward to writing them.
In the final analysis, it’s always going to be about the story I’ve decided to tell, and which characters can help me convey the message I’m trying to illustrate. Henry will always figure into that ensemble, and whether I ever get the entire story of his life out will be a riddle. Personally, I hope not. I’m hoping that there will still be a few questions about these characters for me to puzzle over when I finish the very last novel—after all, they’re mysteries…
See you on the trail,