Sub­texts An Ob­vi­ous Fact by Craig John­son

Pasatiempo - - CONTENTS -

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.

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