So you can read my books

Friday, June 27, 2014


“Hell is empty, and all the devils are here!”
- Shakespeare, THE TEMPEST
Keith Wynn  (Optimistic Existentialist)
Wrote an interesting post Friday, telling about his favorite book of all time and asking what was ours?
His was MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY by the way.
And no, mine is not HELL IS EMPTY (a Walt Longmire novel) though it is one of the better novels I have read in a long time.
Also it shares a motif with what could be my favorite novel of all time:


"A dazzling tour de force."--Poul Anderson on Inferno

"A fast, amusing and vivid book, by a writing team noted for intelligence and imagination."--Roger Zelazny on Inferno
Both HELL IS EMPTY and INFERNO incorporate Dante's Inferno in their work.
First, INFERNO --
After his sudden, needless death, science fiction writer Allen Carpentier finds himself along the shores of Hell, with a strange guide who wishes only to be known as Benito,
a Hell visited once before by Dante Alighieri.
This Hell has changed some, and Carpentier visits some places Dante missed, but where Dante mocked the denizens of Hell, and meekly followed as he was led,
Carpentier shows pity and mercy to those he meets, and he's determined to take control of the situation he finds himself in.
As a science fiction author, he refuses to believe he is in the literal Hell and tries to match his new reality to his old mind-set. 
We're treated to a delightful cast of characters, some from history

(such as Billy the Kid and the man who ordered the raid on Dresden), and others from an imagined future world.
  This is an unusual book:

easy to read, with a compelling story line. But it requires you to examine yourself and your actions in life.

Above all it discusses the big moral issues:

what is right or wrong, and how these things vary with circumstance and motivation.

I've forgotten how many times I've re-read this.  For over a decade, it was not in print.  Get it while it still is.
This is a masterwork from the pen of two great authors, and it is not to be missed.
Now, onto HELL IS EMPTY -


Harsh?  Not so much.  The prisoner in question is a brilliant sociopath who murders children for fun and adults to sell their body parts.

What begins as a harrowing chase to recapture convicts at large becomes an exercise in survival, the voices of Indian spirits swirling within the snow flurries

as Sheriff Walt Longmire climbs ever higher up Wyoming's Big Horn Mountains where child-killer and sociopath Raynaud Shade,

a Crow-adopted Canadian Indian, has engineered an escape into the wilderness with four fellow convicts, an entourage of FBI agents.


"I’d never given up on anything in my life when I was alive. I hadn’t always won, I hadn’t always been right, but I’d never given up. Not till now. Now that I was dead."

Virgil White Buffalo:

“Life is like that.” He flipped through a few more limp pages of Dante's INFERNO.

“You collect things as you go—the things you think are important—

and soon they weigh you down until you realize that these things you cared so much about mean nothing at all.

Our natures are our natures.” He grunted. “And they are all we are left with.”


“We must always love something. In those matters seemingly removed from love, the feeling is secretly to be found, and man cannot possibly live for a moment without it.”


I applied the simple rule that allowed me to make stupid decisions in these types of situations: If I was down there, would I want someone coming after me? Yep.


Along the way, Walt runs in to Virgil White Buffalo, a Crow lost soul he first met in ANOTHER MAN'S MOCCASINS. 
His talks with the Crow are both existential and amusing. At one point, each of them try to convince the other is dead.

Depressingly for Walt, Virgil White Buffalo makes a better case than Walt.

The great thing about Craig Johnson's novels is that each one is different.

Walt begins the novel ignoring his own deeply spiritual side, then not knowing what to think,

and settles finally on something he can't really prove even though he knows it is true.

That in and of itself is hard for some folks to grasp,

 but I think that's one of the things that makes Walt so real and Johnson such a genuine storyteller.

Johnson's writing and dialogue are effective and peppered with wry humor.

Walt, in a particularly perilous moment, thinks "I couldn't die--I had too many women who would kill me."

Just when you think you know where the plot is going,

Johnson changes direction and, sometimes, your perceptions of events.

Do you have a favorite book? 
What is it?



  1. I have lots of favourite books. Books I have reread so often I can quote great slabs of them. The Summer Book by Tove Jansson is right up there, but if I am being honest they change with my mood, and what is happening in my world.
    Speaking of which - good luck for your next surgery next week. I will be thinking of you.

  2. 'Oliver Twist' was a story I loved because the ending surprised me. I wanted to know about the poverty and child workers of that era.

    After reading all the Fitzgerald books, I could go back and reread two of them anytime: Tender is the Night, and The Last Tycoon. Beautiful language.

    It's hard to pick just one. . .

  3. Elephant's Child:
    Like you, the books that call out to me change with my mood. And thanks for the well wishes on my surgery. :-)

    Odd -- when I was very young GREAT EXPECTATIONS appealed to me. I even made the essence of Victor's legend a bit like Pip's.

    Both of those novels are wonderful. THE LAST TYCOON is sad because it gives intimations of what Fitzgerald was growing into as a great writer. :-(

  4. I don't know how all you authors of fiction do it - how your creative juices flow in these ways. And to go to such dark places with so much eloquence, while shedding light along the way...I am awestruck.

    I wrote on Optimistic's blog that my favorite book is Brave New World by Huxley. I have a number of them, but I love the creativity in the piece, including the names of the characters.

    I hope you're well, Roland. Thinking of you.

  5. I was recently introduced to Longmire thanks to Netflix; I've enjoyed the first two seasons enough to want to check out the books. Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis might be my all-time favorite. It's a reworking of the Cupid/Psyche myth.

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  7. Robyn:
    It is the same for poets like yourself: grief, loneliness, loss are the catalysts for your most beautiful verses.

    Isn't it funny what different sorts of books we have as favorites?

    Heading towards the 3rd and another cancer surgery -- have to work until then to make the money to pay for it! Whew!

    Some of the books may seem to contain the same murder as portrayed in the series, but the murderer is always different than the TV episode.

    Johnson does a different format for each of his Longmire novels so that each is fresh and absorbing. I think you will like the books.

    THE COLD DISH is the first in the series and introduces you to Walt's world of friends and enemies.

    Wasn't UNTIL WE HAVE FACES an intriguing book?