Spirit Of Steamboat – Craig Johnson


Spirit of Steamboat is a small novella with the characters from the Walt Longmire series. If you have never read a western/mystery crime novel, I highly recommend these. The TV series on A/E is really good and the books are even better.

   In Spirit of Steamboat the cast of characters that usually permeate a Longmire novel are not really a part of the story. This one centers around Walt and his old boss and friend; Lucian Connolly.

   …Finally, she spoke. “I’m Japanese, not Chinese.”    He sipped the Pappy Van Winkle’s and studied her. “And I’m confused; if you don’t mind my asking, just who the hell are you anyway?”    With her black hair shrouding her face, she could have been one of Henry Standing Bear’s many unofficial nieces as she moved a few of the chess pieces with the tips of her fingers. With her head still down, she carefully set the glass on the coaster beside the board and took a quick breath to steady herself. “You don’t remember me, either.”    The old sheriff craned his neck to look up at me and then back to her. “You’ll have to forgive me, young lady, but my memory isn’t quite what it used to be. Perhaps if you were to give me a clue?”    Her face came up, and the glow from the blinking lights challenged the reflection from the tumbler and planed the scar again as if lightning had struck across her forehead.    Her perfect lips moved, and the whistle returned in her breath. “Steamboat.”…

   It is Christmas Eve, 1988 and the newly elected Sheriff Walt Longmire is waiting at the small airport in Durant, Montana for the medical helicopter to arrive. There had been an accident and the only survivor was a small girl with severe smoke inhalation and burns over fifthteen per cent of her body. Her only chance at survival was to get her to the pediatric hospital in Denver. Only is winter in Montana with snowstorms up to forty-nine miles a hour. At the airport Walt learns that no one will take off in this weather. No plane or medevac helicopter could possibly make the trip. No pilots would try. There is one plane though. An old retired WWII transport called Steamboat. And there is one man who can fly her. Walt’s old boss, Lucian Connolly. Lucian flew old military transports like Steamboat as he aided in bombing Japan during the war. Lucian, the only one who could help save the life of a dying, burned little Japanese girl.

   The story is told as a memory so you know from the beginning what the outcome is going to be. But the result of that winter’s flight is not what is important. What is important is the flight itself and how it changed the lives of all those who were a part of it. Walt. Lucian. And one little dying girl.

   For those of us who only know Lucian as the bitter old man stuck in a retirement home, this novella is a revelation. It also holds treats for the fans of Walt Longmire. One of which is a phone conversation between himself and his wife. The wife whose death is felt in all the novels written about him.      This is a terrific addition to the Walt Longmire history arc and should be appreciated by all.



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