“Wait for Signs – Twelve Longmire Stories” by Craig Johnson

Penguin Books, $14, 183 pp.

Craig Johnson discusses, signs “Wait for Signs” at 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 31 at the Albuquerque Main Library, Fifth and Copper NW.

By David Steinberg

Do you know who Walt Longmire is?

Well, you probably know him as the Wyoming sheriff in a batch of best-selling crime novels or in the hit TV drama series “Longmire.” The series is currently in Season Four on Netflix.

There’s another side to Sheriff Longmire in “Wait for Signs,” a collection of 12 short stories: Longmire is off duty.

Author Craig Johnson layers the stories with humor, straight talking, and in most of them an element of mystery. They’re quick reads and they’re enjoyable.

“Old Indian Trick” is the first story in the collection and is also the first short story Johnson ever wrote. He wrote it for a contest sponsored by the Tony Hillerman and Cowboys and Indians magazine.

“I wrote it in about an hour. My wife read it and said you won’t win anything with this. I rewrote it. It got better. OK, it’s done. I fired it off to the magazine,” Johnson said.

He considered the writing of it as an exercise but a few months later Johnson’s wife got a call from Anne Hillerman and she asked if Johnson was coming to the Hillerman Conference.

“I think it was 2006. I hadn’t planned on attending but Anne said only that something good is going to happen. She never did say I had won,” he said.

The short story did win the prize that year. It’s about an Indian friend of Longmire’s who identifies the robber of the Blue Cow Cafe by using common sense.

Here are some of the other stories in the collection.

In “Ministerial Aid,” Longmire pays close attention to the faces in vintage photos to help solve a string of building fires from more than half a century ago.

In “Several Stations,” the sheriff fills in as the Ghost of Christmas Future in a community theater production of “A Christmas Carol.” He’s got a small speaking part, and he recalls his lines when he later helps a driver, his wife and baby trying to get home on Christmas Eve.

And in “High Holidays,” Longmire sees through several guys masquerading as Hasidic Jews, hauling a trailer and not paying for gas they just bought. He stops them, wonders why are they driving on the Sabbath, which also happens to be Rosh Hashanah? What exactly is in the trailer? Longmire tells them they might have gotten off if they hadn’t purchased a ham sandwich and a bag of pork rinds.

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