Subtexts An Obvious Fact by Craig Johnson
Heavy metal heroes
Eastern Wyoming during the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is a place for lovers of all kinds of internal combustion engines. Western mystery writer Craig Johnson sets An Obvious Fact (Viking), his 12th book in the Longmire series, there. Many New Mexicans are familiar with the locally filmed Longmire TV series, first distributed through A&E and beginning a run on Netflix this September.
The Sturgis rally spills over the South Dakota state line into the small town of Hulett, Wyoming, where most of the action of this book takes place. Motorcycle rallies and colorful characters go hand in hand, and one of this novel’s is Lola Wojciechowski, who, with her gold-colored Cadillac, is a troublemaker — to put it mildly. Sheriff Walt Longmire spends the duration of the event trying to find out who ran her son and his motorcycle off the road.
The other characters include Longmire’s friend Henry Standing Bear, the sheriff’s dog, his Philadelphia-raised assistant, drunken bikers, law enforcement agents, a suspicious resident of the local country club, and many people who aren’t who they seem to be. The best characters, however, are not flesh and blood but steel: a corpuscle-red Indian motorcycle, a modified dirt bike, and Henry’s Baltic blue 1959 Thunderbird, named after Lola. One of the heroes of the story is an orange rental car that always pulls through after the worst abuse. The comic relief of the novel is Pequod, an enormous bright white Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle that came to the town’s police department as military surplus. A good — if complicated — plot, humorous dialogue, and fast-paced action make this a worthwhile read. The author includes motorcycle races and car chases, bound to play well on a future TV installment.
Johnson’s characters are all well described; the landscape, less so. The action takes place in a generic small town and along unremarkable country roads. This is good for New Mexico’s film industry, however, as the town of Hulett could just as well be Logan or Corona. The empty countryside could be Union or Harding counties — all the better for filming here in the state. — Robin Martin
The best characters are not flesh and blood but steel: a corpuscle-red Indian motorcycle, a modified dirt bike, and Henry’s Baltic blue 1959 Thunderbird.