Wednesday, June 27, 2007

"Kindness Goes Unpunished"

Craig Johnson is the author of three Walt Longmire mysteries: The Cold Dish, Death Without Company, and Kindness Goes Unpunished.

He applied the "page 69 test" to Kindness Goes Unpunished and reported the following, beginning with the text from page 69:
As Henry and I walked toward the escalators, he put a hand out and pulled the towel away from my nose. He tilted my head back and looked up my nostrils. “So, what does the other guy look like?”

“I punched him in the fist with my nose, but I think he’ll live.” I pinched the towel over my face and leaned against the escalator’s moving, rubber railing, glad that something else was providing the locomotion. I looked back up at Henry. “I didn’t kill him.”

The wide face nodded, inscrutable to the end. “Good.”

As we were riding down, two men were riding up. The one in the front was silver-haired and was sharply dressed in a charcoal suit with a maroon tie and a black trench coat; behind him was a man with a tightly cropped haircut and a suit, tie and overcoat all the same shade of dark tan. It was difficult to see where the clothes began and the man stopped. They stared at us as we rode closer; by the time we passed each other, I could see that the first man’s designer glasses had small, red dots on the frames that emphasized his large brown eyes. The second man smiled a very becoming smile, and I noticed the bulge of a shoulder holster at his left armpit. “Foul ball?”

I rolled my eyes and nodded. “Yep.”

We quickly made our way from the ballpark and walked toward Broad and the subway. Henry didn’t say anything, which gave me plenty of time to think, mostly about whether I believed Devon Conliffe.

At some level, just about everybody lies to you when you’re a cop, whether they have a reason to or not; some little portion of the truth that they feel would be best omitted in their dealings with you. The only good thing about it is that you start being able to tell when people are doing it, and I was sure that Devon was. The kid obviously had a lot of emotional and mental issues to deal with, but I was having a hard time working up any empathy;

As a whole, I’d say that page 69 in Kindness Goes Unpunished is representative of the rest of the book The series is about Walt Longmire, who is the sheriff of Absaroka County, Wyoming, and is written in first-person, so it’s Walt’s perspective on things. He has tagged along to Philadelphia with his closest friend, Henry Standing Bear, who is there for an exhibition of Indian photographs. He uses Henry’s trip as an excuse to visit his daughter, Cady, and meet her soon-to-be fiancĂ©, Devon Conliffe. But things go wrong. Page 69 is indicative of that.

Walt has been described as tough but tender and I think that’s a fair description and is shown on this page in his actions and thoughts. If I’m going to be inside somebody’s head for three-hundred pages, then there better be something compelling to his nature. I think Walt has a breadth of voice that’s refreshing — a concern for society and a sense of humor that keeps him going and is an integral part of the men’s friendship — actually, is an integral part of Walt’s relationship with everyone. The books are character driven. Not to say that there aren’t strong plots, but it’s the people who keep readers wanting more. The descriptions of the two men who are coming up the escalator are an indication of this strength.

As far as skimming the page and reading on? Sure, I’d want to read more. Why is Walt’s nose broken? Are the two guys on the escalator cops or bad guys? How do they compare with Walt in demeanor? Why does Walt lie about the foul ball? How does he feel about lying, especially concerning this investigation? What’s happened that causes Walt to fight with Devon? Lots of questions, and I’d want the answers.

Kindness Goes Unpunished is mostly about community and family, an homage to father/daughter love played out in the troubling landscape of crime fiction, and even though Walt’s daughter Cady isn’t mentioned on this page, her presence is there. I’m actually surprised at how much page 69 is representative of the novel…
Read more about Kindness Goes Unpunished at Johnson's website, including an excerpt.

Visit the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue