"A delightful collection of western short stories spiced with suspense and poignantly funny humour"
Reviewed by Audrey Lawrence
Posted November 2, 2014
I am a person who always loves signs: pennies on the
street, birds in the sky, and now, a wonderful collection
twelve short stories called WAIT FOR SIGNS just in time
the upcoming twelve days of Christmas season! Even
they are twelve stories featuring one of my most favourite
characters, Walt Longmire - the sharply observant and
perspicaciously canny Sheriff of Absaroka County, Wyoming.
In the Acknowledgements section, New York Times
author Craig Johnson tells how this collections of
delightful short stories came into being: some of the
stories that Johnson had previously shared with his fans
through his newsletter and others were tidbits of tales
were not full books in themselves but helped to fill in
between other previously written books. All good!
All the stories have a bit of the droll tongue in cheek
humour that will bring a smile to your face and all can be
thoroughly enjoyed whether this is the first time you are
fortunate to enjoy a Longmire book or whether you have
a fair pile of them or seen the TV series LONGMIRE. There
is humour in the titles (Thankstaking), nestled in the
story, sometimes poignantly and sometimes with a nice "got
ya" moment. My personal favourites are "Old Indian Trick"
and "High Holidays". To tell you more would only be as
cruel as tearing of the wrapping on each of the wonderful
stories whose endings, like ribbons on a package, just
perfectly give that final tough -- the "ah ha" moment!
Having read many of Johnson's books in the series, I
and love Walt Longmire as a character and his penchant for
arcane bits of knowledge. Whether drunk or sober, on or
duty, Walt retains his sense of decency, humbleness, his
loyalty to those he loves, his job as protector and to
those in need, even if not expressed the way people want
to be. His friendship with Henry Standing Bear is
Both are quick witted and sharp observers, and open to
listening and learning from each other. I also appreciate
Johnson's masterful skill in effectively portraying Native
Americans and their concerns in a very authentic manner
I wish other authors could emulate. Johnson's books are
set in the vastness and beauty of Wyoming and deal with
issues of conflict, crime, family and the heart. While
western in tone, they hold stong appeal for anyone who
likes a good story.
If you are looking for that special book gift to give to
someone special or for yourself, WAIT FOR SIGNS is the
perfect treat for the season! Many of the stories have a
Christmas theme, yet there are other that do no, so it can
be read and treasured at any time of the year. Similar to
the short novella, SPIRIT OF STEAMBOAT, written by Johnson
last year, these stories can be re-read over again as a
favourite every year. Once I started reading, I just
not stop until the satisfying and funny conclusion of the
last story in WAIT FOR SIGNS entitled "Petunia, Bandit
of the Bighorns!" If you are not already a fan of Craig
Johnson before you read WAIT FOR SIGNS, you will be even
before finishing all twelve stories. So, WAIT FOR SIGNS
Twelve Longmire short stories available for the first
time in a single volume—featuring an introduction by Lou
Diamond Phillips of A&E’s Longmire
Ten years ago, Craig Johnson wrote his first short story,
the Hillerman Award–winning “Old Indian Trick.” This was one
of the earliest appearances of the sheriff who would go on
to star in Johnson’s bestselling, award-winning novels and
the A&E hit series Longmire. Each Christmas Eve
thereafter, fans rejoiced when Johnson sent out a new short
story featuring an episode in Walt’s life that doesn’t
appear in the novels; over the years, many have asked why
they can’t buy the stories in book form.
Wait for Signs collects those beloved stories—and one
entirely new story, “Petunia, Bandit Queen of the
Bighorns”—for the very first time in a single volume,
regular trade hardcover. With glimpses of Walt’s past from
the incident in “Ministerial Aide,” when the sheriff is
mistaken for a deity, to the hilarious “Messenger,” where
the majority of the action takes place in a Port-A-Potty,
Wait for Signs is a necessary addition to any Longmire
fan’s shelf and a wonderful way to introduce new readers to
the fictional world of Absaroka County, Wyoming.
She was waiting on the bench outside the Conoco service
station / museum / post office in Garryowen, Montana, and
the only parts of her clothing that were showing beneath the
heavy blanket she'd wrapped around herself were black combat
boots cuffed with a pair of mismatched green socks. When I
first saw her, it was close to eleven at night, and if you'd
tapped the frozen Mail Pouch thermometer above her head, it
would've told you that it was twelve degrees below zero.
The Little Big Horn country is a beautiful swale echoing the
shape of the Bighorn Mountains and the rolling hills of the
Mission Buttes, a place of change that defies definition.
Just when you think you know it, it teaches you a
lesson-just ask George Armstrong Custer and the Seventh Cavalry.
I was making the airport run to pick up Cady, who had missed
her connection from Philadelphia in Denver and was now
scheduled to come into Billings just before midnight. The
Greatest Legal Mind of Our Time had been extraordinarily
upset but calmed down when rd told her we'd stay in town
that night and do some Christmas shopping the next day
before heading back home. I hadn't told her we were staying
at the Dude Rancher Lodge. A pet-friendly motor hotel that
was assembled back in '49 out of salvaged bricks from the
old St. Vincent's Hospital, the Dude Rancher was a Longmire
family tradition. I loved the cozy feeling of the weeping
mortar courtyard, the kitschy ranch brand carpets, and the
delicious home-cooked meals in the Stirrup Coffee Shop.
Cady, my hi-tech, sophisticated, urban-dwelling daughter,
hated the place.
In my rush to head north, I hadn't gassed up in
Wyomingluckily, the Conoco had after-hours credit card
pumps. As I was putting gas into my truck with the motor
running, I noticed her stand up and trail out to where I
stood, the old packing blanket billowing out from around her
Looking at the stars on the doors and then at me, she paused
at the other side of the truck bed, her eyes ticktocking.
She studied my hat, snap-button shirt, the shiny brass name
tag, and the other trappings of authority just visible under
my sheepskin coat.
I buttoned it the rest of the way up and looked at her, ex
pecting Crow, maybe Northern Cheyenne, but from the limited
view afforded by the condensation of her breath and the
cowllike hood of the blanket, I could see that her skin was
pale and her hair dark but not black, surrounding a wide
face and full lips that snared and released between the
"Hey." She cleared her throat and shifted something in her
hands, still keeping the majority of her body wrapped. "I
thought you were supposed to shut the engine offbefore you
do that." She glanced at the writing on the side of my
truck. "Where's Absaroka County?"
I clicked the small keeper on the pump handle, pulled my
glove back on, and rested my elbow on the top of the bed as
the tank filled. "Wyoming."
"Oh." She nodded but didn't say anything more.
About five nine, she was tall, and her eyes moved rapidly,
taking in the vehicle and then me; she had the look of
someone whose only interaction with the police was being
rousted-she feigned indifference with a touch of defiance
and maybe was just a little crazy. "Cold, huh?"
I was beginning to wonder how long it was going to take her
and thought about how much nerve she'd had to work up to
approach my truck; I must've been the only vehicle that had
stopped there in hours. I waited. The two-way radio blared
an indiscernible call inside the cab, the pump turned off,
and I removed the nozzle, returning it to the plastic
cradle. I hit the button to request a receipt, because I
didn't trust gas pumps any more than I trusted those robot
amputees over in Deadwood.
I found the words the way I always did in the presence of
women. 'Tve got a heater in this truck."
She snarled a quick laugh, strained and high. "I figured."
I stood there for a moment more and then started for the
cab-now she was going to have to ask. As I pulled the door
handle, she started to reach out a hand from the folds of
the blanket but then let it drop. I paused for a second more
and then slid in and shut the door behind me, snapped on my
seat belt, and pulled the three-quarter-ton down into gear.
She backed away and retreated to the bench as I wheeled
around the pumps and stopped at the road. I sat there for a
moment, where I looked at myself and my partner in the
rearview mirror, then shook my head, turned around, and
circled back in front of her. She looked up again as I
rolled the window down on the passenger-side door and raised
my voice to be heard above the engine. "Do you want a ride?"
From WAIT FOR SIGNS by Craig Johnson. Reprinted by
arrangement with Viking, a member of Penguin Group (USA)
LLC, A Penguin Random House Company. Copyright © Craig
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