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Craig Johnson: 'Longmire' short stories now Christmas tradition

Craig Johnson's latest Walt Longmire short story will be emailed to fans on Christmas morning. Photo by Adam Jahiel, courtesy of Viking/Penguin
1 of 2 | Craig Johnson's latest Walt Longmire short story will be emailed to fans on Christmas morning. Photo by Adam Jahiel, courtesy of Viking/Penguin

NEW YORK, Dec. 23 (UPI) -- Craig Johnson says it is rewarding to know that his annual short story releases about Sheriff Walt Longmire have become a part of so many people's Christmas traditions.

Recidivism, Johnson's 20th such tale, is set to hit readers' email boxes first thing Monday morning.

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Johnson also read the story in person at several live events in Montana and Wyoming this month.

The custom started after Johnson published the short story, "Old Indian Trick," in Cowboys & Indians magazine.

"Nothing is more useless to an author than a singular short story that has already been published. There's nowhere to go with it. Nothing you can do with it," the author told UPI in a recent phone interview.

"I decided, 'You know what? I'll just send this out to everybody for Christmas, like a gift, I'll just give it to everybody,'" Johnson said.

"That's when I discovered the next year how much trouble I'd made for myself because people were writing, saying, 'When do we get the Walt Longmire Christmas story this year?'" he said with a laugh. "So, I had to jump on that really quick and it kind of became a tradition."

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Johnson said he actually loves crafting the yarns because the time and space limits force him to work out different kinds of plots and exercise other parts of his brain.

"Just because a story isn't 350, 400 pages long doesn't mean it's not a good little story," he said, adding that he scours news headlines throughout the year for inspiration.

Sometimes he will read an article and think: "Oh, my gosh, that's an incredible story. That's a Walt Longmire short story, that's what that is."

Many fans look for the tales first thing Christmas morning and then jump on social media to share what they think of them and even where and with whom they read them.

"It's wonderful to have that kind of response," he said, adding he enjoys knowing the stories entertain people, give them breaks from their everyday troubles and make them feel like they are part of a community. "That's really the best kind of success of all."

Every few years, he collects the short stories into anthologies, such as Wait for Signs and Christmas in Absaroka County.

"I think I'm only one short story away from having another anthology," he said. "So, we'll have another collection of short stories coming out, too."

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Johnson's best-selling Longmire mystery novels inspired the TV series, Longmire, which ran from 2012 to 2017 and remains popular in reruns.

Robert Taylor played the titular lawman. It co-starred Katee Sackhoff, Lou Diamond Phillips, A. Martinez and Zahn McClarnon.

Longmire Days, a festival celebrating the novels and TV show, is held every summer in Wyoming.

The next book, First Frost, goes on sale May 28. It's billed as the 20th of the Walt Longmire mysteries.

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