Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Hell Is Empty by guest blogger Steven Head

Here's your Monday post a few days early. (Thanks Steve. How did you know I was taking Monday off, and didn't have a post ready to go? Spooky! I'll send your box of books out next week. Watch for it!)

It is June which means warm temperatures are back AND Craig Johnson should have a new book out. Over the weekend I picked up and finished Hell Is Empty, the seventh in the Walt Longmire series. Reading this book reminded me of a roller coaster ride, but without that long slow climb to the first summit. The opening chapter crackles with danger and in short order it delivers, not letting up until the final chapter.

Hell Is Empty builds upon an episode in the first book, The Cold Dish, where an exhausted Walt manages to carry two wounded men down a mountain during a snow storm. What makes the task memorable is the Indian spirits that cajole and support Walt during that process. In the new book one of the prisoners (Raynaud Shade) Walt is transferring also hears the voices from 'the other side'. Shade is aware Walt has his own connection with the spirit world, issuing taunts and reports of what the voices have told him of their shared future.

Dante's Inferno also plays a role in this book. Introduced as a reading assignment taken on by one of Walt's deputies, the paperback Italian-English translation and specific Inferno rings become plot elements in the story. The other supporting player in this drama is Virgil Old Buffalo, a character introduced in book 4, Another Man's Moccasins. Virgil is a giant of a man wearing a full bear skin, head and all, who comes along at just the right time to help Walt.

Hopefully this is enough of a teaser to prompt you to pick this book up, although if you have not read any of the earlier books they are equally entertaining. Johnson is a skilled story teller who creates characters that ring true. Perhaps that is why FX television has commissioned a pilot for a series based upon the Walt Longmire character. The latest report from Craig spoke of location filming in New Mexico, so keep an eye out for this series.

This weekend I will be traveling to one of Craig's book signings where I hope to learn about the story behind the latest offering, what is coming next, and a report on the television series. Craig will be appearing in Milwaukee at Next Chapter on June 13 at 7pm and again in Madison at Booked for Murder on June 14 at 6pm. I recommend the trip. He is as entertaining in person as in print. Craig's website is if you need more information.