About Me

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Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Longmire T.V. Series on the A & E Network

Monday night I watched an episode of Longmire. It is a television series on the A & E Network based on the Sheriff Walt Longmire series of mysteries by Craig Johnson which are set in Absaroka County of Wyoming. It is one of my favorite contemporary mystery series. On Sunday I had posted a review of As the Crow Flies by Craig Johnson. It is the 8th book in the series.  

In watching a T.V. series for which I have read a book or books I find myself comparing the film version against the books. I try to simply view the series on its own merits but it never happens that way.

My copy of As the Crow Flies had a sticker referring to the “hit” T.V. series. As with all blurbs I automatically think it is hyperbole until proven to the contrary.

I have not often found American T.V. series or movies cast actors who fit my images of the primary characters. Thus my perceptions of Longmire are initially skewed.

I was happy with A & E chosing Robert Taylor to be Sheriff Longmire. He is big enough and weathered enough to be the Sheriff. While Taylor seems a touch young to play a character who served in the American Army in Vietnam his personality on the show is the understated Western American of the books. He is articulate but not given to speeches. I would never have guessed Taylor grew up in Australia.

Deputy Victoria Moretti, played by Katee Sackhoff, has the right size and spirit for the role but I would not know she is a transplant from Philadelphia to rural Wyoming. Her uniform is worn more casually than I would expect from the book. Her language has been cleaned up from print to screen.

Walt’s best friend, Henry Standing Bear, is played by Lou Diamond Phillips. In last night’s episode his participation in the story was marginal. Of all the characters he was not my image of Henry. He does not the heft and size of Henry in the books. Fortunately, while one-half of his family background is Filipino he is one quarter Cherokee. I think it is important that the producers chose an actor with an Indian heritage to play the major role of Henry.

While I wish they had filmed in Wyoming rather than New Mexico the landscape was given an appropriate emphasis in the show. I remain puzzled about the producers not going to the area where the series is set to film the episodes.

The episode dealt with the investigation of the death of a Basque sheepherder. In the book, Death Without Company, there is a death involving a Basque sheepherding family but the T.V. episode did not follow the book’s plot.

The investigation was a team effort with the Sheriff leading his Department.

The episode had a nice pace unlike the frantic action of most American crime shows I have sampled in recent years. I was grateful the body count was low and the emphasis was on solving the crime.

There was less time spent on the personal relationships of the characters than in the books. I think the constraints of a one hour show, significantly shortened by an abundance of commercials, makes it harder to develop characters. I was favourably reminded of British series I have watched which do not have a thrill a minute approach.

I will be watching again next week. I believe my preoccupation with comparing book and television series has been satisfied and I can just watch the series. It is worth viewing.

12 comments:

  1. Bill - Oh, I'm glad to hear you thought this was a good show. So often (at least to me) shows don't live up to the books. Or perhaps that's just because I'm a purist. Glad to hear this one was worth watching.

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  2. I haven't read any of the books on which the series is based but I too like the series Bill - and agree it seems not to be following too many of the conventions of the US cop shows, though we've only had 4 episodes of the first series aired here so far.

    I'd actually thought this series of books might be a bit 'blokey' for me (based really on my thought it contained a lot of hunting - not sure where I got that impression) but I am interested now in tracking down some of the books.

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  3. Margot: Thanks for the comment. The series gives me hope that there is still room on American T.V. for series that tell good stories.

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  4. Bernadette: Thanks for the comment. I cannot recall any actual hunting in the books. C.J. Box's series, also set in Wyoming with Game Warden, Joe Pickett, does have lots of hunting. Sheriff Walt is more likely to head down to the senior citizen's home for a game of chess with former Sheriff, Lucian.

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  5. Bill, I agree with you. Films and television series based on novels rarely live up to my image of the principal characters. I see this happening often in superhero films. However, I don't allow the films or serials to colour my view of the books. I have heard much about Craig Johnson though I haven't read his novels. I also enjoyed reading your review of AS THE CROW FLIES in the previous post. There are some interesting elements in the story, particularly the contemporary Western American Indian reservation and the new Tribal Police Chief, Lolo Long. The cover of the book is attractive too. The idiomatic title of the book reminded me of British author Jeffrey Archer who wrote a similarly titled novel some two decades ago. The stories are completely different.

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  6. Prashant: Thanks for the comment. Few American TV series based on books have impressed me. Spenser with Robert Uhrich was an example of a TV series that I found average.

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  7. Great review of the TV show, Bill. I would have been later in seeing it but my husband saw it and pointed me to it. (He liked your review also.) My husband and my son were early fans of this TV show, it took me a while to warm up to it. I think it is the problem of comparing the characters.

    I do like the show. The only character that grates for me is Deputy Victoria Moretti; she seems completely different here but still a strong female role, which is good. As with most TV shows based on a series, I eventually just view them as two separate things and enjoy each for their own characteristics.

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  8. TracyK: Thanks for the comment. I appreciate your thoughts.

    I watched another episode tonight and enjoyed it more than the first episode. I was no longer caught up in comparisons.

    I hope it has a long run.

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  9. Good of you to draw attention to what I believe is a fine contemporary Western series. I teach a college-level course on the Western genre and write about it at www.westernsreboot.com - you may interested in a recent post that analyzed the 4th (June 17th) episode:

    http://westernsreboot.com/2013/06/19/longmire-cattle-rustling-in-the-21st-century/

    Thanks!
    Chad
    www.westernsreboot.com

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  10. Chad: Thanks for the comment.

    I watched the episode and enjoyed your post.

    From watching two episodes I find the books far subtler in plot and character development. Unless T.V. is willing to stretch a story over 2-3 hours it is limited in telling a complex plot. Overall Longmire does it better than most series.

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  11. Longmire is on the top 10 cable TV shows in the New York Times. It's one of only a few dramas listed.

    It's A&E's most popular scripted show, so that answers why they renewed the program.

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  12. Kathy D.: Thanks for the comment and the information. As stated in an earlier comment Longmire gives me alittle hope that solid mystery plots can still form a series on American T.V.

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