52 Pickup 2.0, #32, 8/4/2020
Donna Lynn Blankenship- “Now that the books have become a huge success, do you regret making Walt an older gentleman? (Unlike the middle-aged Walt in the TV Series). Aren’t you afraid you’ll have to cut the book series short?”
Interestingly enough, everybody’s been trying to make Walt younger since he came into existence. When Warner Brothers first started developing Longmire with A&E, the execs thought they should make Walt younger so that the show would draw a younger demographic. I waited with bated breath for the producers to get back to me, hoping this wouldn’t be the case. Finally, I got a call from Greer Shephard and asked her how casting was going and she said, “You know, it’s kind of hard to take a world-weary thirty-year-old seriously…”
One of the principle character traits for Walt is the experience he brings to bear and understanding that I think can only come with time. Sure, I had to make certain allowances, but I feel they were acceptable. There’s a part in the next book, Next To Last Stand, where Ruby asks Walt if he was over in Sheridan County running and shooting, and he responds, “No, more like detecting and analyzing…” Which Ruby states is more age appropriate. I think if Walt were in what we call the prime of his life, he might not be so attractive a character. The old saying is that we like people for their virtues, but we love them for their faults. Not that age is a fault, but it provides a world view that I think is essential to whom Walt is.
I knew that with the things I was going to have Walt do, he and Henry both needed a military background and to me, that meant Vietnam. I could’ve used one of the Middle Eastern conflicts, but once again I think that would’ve made them too young.
Another reason is the metaphorical link to Lucian Connally, since Walt is now approaching the age where Lucian was when he took over as sheriff of Absaroka County. This develops a number of dramatic conflicts for Walt which I’ve had in play since first starting the series over fifteen years ago.
Every once in a while a reader will contact me and want to track down Walt’s exact age and argue over whether he’s still able to do the job, but inevitably they forget that the Longmire books are written in a cyclical manner, which means it takes four novels to make one Walt year, therefore Walt, after sixteen years is only three and a half years older than we first met him. I figure if Walt is sheriff for at least five more years then that would be twenty more books… Does this make it difficult when I need to place current events within the novels, sure but that’s not something I try and push too hard with the books in an attempt to keep them hopefully timeless. I like dealing with social problems in the books but not getting so specific that they become dated.
Kind of like Walt.
Another problem would be my own chronological age. I find it a lot easier to assume Walt’s voice as I get older–I suppose because I understand him more and more. There’s that wonderful quote from Mark Twain, “When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.”
Funny how that is.
See you on the trail,